Have you ever had an experience that you kept playing back in your mind, over and over again? I’ve been fortunate enough to have had two of these experiences within two months and they both involved my family. ODC and I had the pleasure of hosting my family for Easter. My Dad, his wife, my brother, my SIL, and my 4 nieces and my nephew all drove down to Georgia from Delaware and Maryland to spend a few days with us. A few weeks ago, we were on an ‘Award Tour ‘ up the east coast, stopping in NC, Delaware, Philly, Maryland, and DC to celebrate my nieces graduation from high school and visit our friends and family.
These two experiences have left me longing for the physical closeness and support of my family. We, like many families before us, made a decision to pursue an opportunity that took us hundreds of miles away from our families. As a military brat, I can remember traveling to Philadelphia for the holidays and my mom being in tears as we left to return home. My dad would always give her that “don’t start that again” look, but now I know why she cried.
I lost my mom in 2008, about 2 years after we moved to Georgia, after living less than 2 hours from her and about 15 minutes away from dad and his wife. It was easy to take the girls down Pennsylvania avenue, into Maryland to my dad’s for the weekend, or at times my mom would drive down from Delaware and spend an extended weekend with us in DC. Our life has been going at 180 mph over the past few years since moving to Georgia; job losses, homeschooling, caring for a terminally ill parent, death, pregnancy, caring for 4 children, and the list goes on. Spending time around my family made me realize the peace that comes with having support and the non-stop play for the girls that comes along with cousins!
Looking around at my some of my friends, and even some of my family, I see glimpses of familial ties that make me a little green with envy. One of my dearest and best friends relocated her family from California to Maryland. Shortly after, her inlaws packed up and purchased a home less than a mile away. I have a few friends who have a parent or parents that live in the home with them and their families. My brother, his wife, and their three children live with my sister-in-law’s parents. Recently, my sister and her children moved in with my dad and his wife.
Over the years our family has attempted to ‘create’ our own village by hosting people in our home during their times of transition. Independence is something that is pushed heavily by our society, when the reality is that we need to be interdependent. The pendelum will continue to swing and we should ebb and flow to support the needs of our loved ones. We could benefit from looking at other cultures and observing how the idea of ‘multigenerational living’ has been the norm and is a very successful family model. In Japan, it is said that even if parents/grandparents don’t live in the home, they should live close enough to bring over a bowl of hot soup.
Is this family paradigm easy? No, but it’s because our culture is rooted in selfishness. Clear communication and boundaries, regular family meetings, shared responsibilities, and a willingness to look beyond your own needs are key components to make this work.
I miss my family and as we continue to deal with growing children and aging parents, I have started to see the tremendous value in being in close proximity to them. But for now, our home is in Georgia and we are more than willing to open it to anyone in our family who wants to come here *hint, hint*.
Do you live close to or with your extended family? Why or why not?