Over the River and Through the Woods

Juliette, Jason, and I were in Virginia this past week, visiting my mom and stepdad. Now, I could go ahead and tell you all the details of what we did, where we went, and what we ate. (I swear I gained five pounds on this trip.) I'm told, though, that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think that this one nicely sums up the whole experience:

What I love about this photo is the unbridled joy on Jason's face. It's a sight that I got to see a lot over the past week, which was a wonderful thing. But as I look at it now, I can't help but feel a little sad as well.

I had been a bit anxious leading up to this trip about how Jason would react to his grandparents. After all, he'd only met my mom a few times, and my stepdad only once, when he was just a few weeks old. Of course, he's a pretty outgoing little guy and very adaptible, and Juliette and I would be there to give him an anchor, but still, we were going to be in a strange place, seeing people that he mostly didn't know. I wondered what I'd do if he couldn't sleep at their house, or if he decided he didn't like being there, never really coming up with any answers.

It turns out I needn't have worried. Jason took to my parents and their house right away. He fussed, of course, but mostly because we wouldn't let him climb up and down the stairs as much as he wanted. By the third night, he was asking for "Gamma" to read him his bedtime story, something he normally wants Juliette to do. And on the plane ride home, he repeated over and over, "Gappa, Ay-go. Gappa, Ay-go." (For those of you who don't speak toddler, that's "Grandpa, San Diego.")

And that gets to the reason for my present bittersweet feelings. It's always nice to come home and to resume the familiar routines of my life. I know that Jason will respond well to being back on his regular schedule. But it broke my heart a little to hear Juliette trying to explain to him that, no, Grandma and Grandpa live in Virginia, not San Diego. He never seemed to quite grasp the idea that they'd be far away, but I'm not sure whether that makes it better or worse. Jason is, like all small children, a creature of the moment, and things don't have to be out of sight for long for him to be onto the next.

This is something I've struggled with a lot over the past couple of years. San Diego is where our life is now. Our careers and wonderful friends are here, and we've begun to put down some real roots. But the closest of Jason's grandparents, aunts, and uncles lives 450 miles away--the ones we just left are on the other side of the country. It's important to me that he have a relationship with his family, but with everyone so far away, it's hard to see how that can happen, at least not in the same way that I had when I was young. Juliette keeps reassuring me that the distance might make things different, but not necessarily worse--after all, she grew up 3000 miles away from her grandparents and still managed to have a very close relationship with them. I still can't help but feel sad, not so much for Jason, but for the rest of the family for not being able to see him as often as we'd like. In the end, he'll hardly remember this part of his life, if at all, and what will stay with him will be times that come later. But I know that now is a time that will always be special in my memories, and I'm sorry that so many of the people that are important to me won't get the same time with him as I do.

While I was visiting, I helped my mom pick out and set up a new computer, and got her a Skype account while I was at it. I'm hoping that regular video chat sessions will help keep Gamma and Gappa fresh in Jason's mind. It's not the same as a trip to see them, but it's what I can do for now. My question for you is this: if you've raised kids far from your family, or if you grew up far from your parents' families, how did you deal with it? Were you able to overcome the distance?

I hope to hear from you.


Kate the Great:

Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of visiting my family back East. I had and have loving and meaningful relationships with these people even thought I only saw them once a year. Who knows, maybe it'll be the highlight of Jason's year, too, when he gets to go back and visit.


I have some of the same feelings as you. I grew up about an hour away from most of my family (grandparents, cousins, etc.) and got to see them often. I have a lot of fond memories of those times and I am a little sad that Amalea may not have the same experience as me.

But, Lorna, my sister in law, who lived across the country from her extended family, shared with me that you can have a relationship with your family, but that friends also become like family. That may sound weird coming from me, but I hope that we are like your family here. I know it's not the same, but maybe Jason and Amalea will grow up with memories of things we did together and the closeness that our families share.

Also, I think that Skype is going to make a huge difference in helping our kids feel connected to their family that is far away.

So glad you had such a nice visit. The look on Jason's face is priceless.