Never in a million years did I ever think I would be the one child of my parents to leave home and live away from the small town I grew up in. I was never the one to spend the night at friends houses, go on trips without my parents, or even go away to college. Other than a Young Life trip to Colorado during which I cried every day to come home my senior year of high school, I never left home until I was 25 (and even then I cried).
In my 20’s I moved to North Carolina, then to Chicago, and then Cincinnati where I met my now husband, then began doing travel therapy…which took me all over the country. No matter where I was, a little piece of me always missed home. The small town charm, the shores of Lake Michigan, the brick roads downtown, the farm fields, the fresh fruit trees, my parents garden, my mom’s home cooking, and having a beer with my dad on the back deck. I missed the family dinners and birthday get-togethers, the smell of Lily Of the Valley’s, and getting stuck behind tractors. I still get some of my best nights sleep in my childhood bedroom.
I got married back home and while on our honeymoon in Hawaii I accepted a full time position in Columbus where I was working as a contract therapist. I loved my job and could not pass up this opportunity. While it was still closer than where we once lived in Key West, it was still a drive to get back home, but tolerable.
In 2013 I got pregnant with our first born. My parents had yet to have any grandchildren, and I was over the moon that I was the first to provide them with this blessing. We had my parents down to visit to share our news. A day I will remember forever. What I was not prepared for, was being pregnant and having my first baby away from her grandparents.
In November of 2013, I became a mom and my parents became grandparents. I will never forget my mom trying to get to Riverside Hospital during rush hour traffic to be there for the birth of her first grandchild. That day, not only did our family dynamic change, but so did my relationship with my parents. Sometimes it takes something like the birth of your own child to fully understand the relentless love that you knew growing up. The reason why you never wanted to leave home.
After our first born we had 2 more children. Over the course of the last 7.5 years I have called home on many occasions for guidance on multiple things…like how thick is too thick for that cereal you feed your babies or what is this rash?!
Raising my children away from my parents has been one of the toughest things I have ever done. Technology makes it easier. The pictures and FaceTime’s. However, the one thing that beats calling home these days, is going home. Taking my kids to grandma and grandpa’s has been one of the biggest joys of my life to date.
There is no doubt in my mind that my parents is one of our children’s favorite places to be. Surprising my kids with last minute trips to Michigan, sending them there on school breaks or for a few days in the summer, hearing them ask how many sleeps until they get to go to grandma and grandpa’s, and watching them pack their suitcases with 15 pairs of pajamas and no underwear…it has been simply awesome.
You see, there is always a little green grass on any side of the fence. You just have to look for it. For me, raising children away from my parents and siblings has been hard, however, without it, we would not have all the fun memories we have today.
When my kids go to my parents, there are pretty much no rules within reason. They stay up late, run around barefoot, play in the dirt, climb trees, have slumber parties in the living room, make pancakes that are 7 different colors, pick flowers, plant gardens, spend the night with their aunts and uncles, make fires, have (ice cream) sandwiches for dinner, eat endless amounts of snacks, and take so many shopping trips to Meijer we joke about having to get a Uhaul to bring them home.
My home has become their happy place. All of these special memories we would not have if we were capable of popping over to grandma and grandpa’s every day. I like that these things are not our norm, that these are the things that were reserved for my parents to share with their grandchildren.
As for me, I still miss home, sometimes so much I get a little misty eyed. I still hate leaving when we visit, but mostly because I hate taking my kids away from their favorite place.
Finding the bright side to living away from home has given me a new perspective about the relationship grandparents have with their grandchildren and that a love can thrive even over miles and hours apart. Being able to witness the love between my children and my parents has given me such a full heart and has made me eternally grateful that my parents not only created a home that I would always want to return to, even at 38, but also, the most precious place for me to visit with my children.