Over a decade ago, I moved from California to the Pacific Northwest for college. When I first set foot on campus, I had no idea that I would end up meeting someone, getting married, and starting a family here, but that’s what happened. It was unexpected — the way life often is. And while my life here is great, raising my children far away from my extended family seriously sucks.
My in-laws live close by, so my children aren’t completely devoid of extended family relationships. It’s fantastic that they have some grandparents and aunts and uncles around to take them for overnight stays and cousins to commit mischief with. It’s not a blessing I take lightly, but my heart breaks a little every time they talk about “Grandma” (my mother-in-law) instead of “Memaw” (my mom).
There is some semblance of a relationship between my children and my parents. They talk on the phone — my son’s favorite activity in the world is hanging up on my mom — and they know my mom is the lady who sends them books all the time. They know my dad does woodworking and takes pictures and has a telescope to look at stars, an activity my daughter has recently become interested in. I show them pictures of their Memaw and Pepo, and sometimes they ask questions about my parents so I get to share stories with them. But it’s not the same. It’s just the shadow of the relationship I wish my kids could have with their grandparents.
And while I have my in-laws and plenty of friends to assure me that I’m doing a great job as a mom, the words ring hollow because it’s not my own parents saying them. My mom isn’t here to watch me in action as I have dance parties with my kids or teach them their ABCs or comfort them when they’re having a rough day. My dad isn’t around to encourage me when I want to rip my hair out or give me a high five when I put a sassy 4-year-old in her place. Yes, they’re here in spirit, they’re here in me and my personality, but they’re so very far away.
Every time I talk to my folks, they tell me I’m doing a fantastic job as a mother. I’m active enough on social media, lamenting the bad and sharing pictures of the good, that they know what’s going on with us most days of the week. They get to see the results of my parenting and the fruits of my labor, but they see it on a screen or hear about it over the phone.
I’m saddened that they don’t get to personally experience all of this with me, and I, in turn, don’t get to experience them experiencing it. I don’t get to hear my mom laughing at my son’s antics or watch my dad’s eyes glaze over as he watches a show with my daughter. They don’t have stories to tell me about the afternoon they spent with my kids and those missing memories cause my heart to hurt.
I’m thankful for growing up in the age of technology because it reduces the sting of not having my parents around in person. I don’t take for granted that just 15 years ago, the relationship my children have with my parents would be even more limited. But that gratitude doesn’t make up for the fact that I so badly wish my parents had a relationship with my kids, that they could see me in action, that they could spend an afternoon with all of us, give me a hug, and then tell me that my kids are wonderful and I’m doing a wonderful job raising them.
Maybe someday we’ll all live closer. Maybe someday my kids will have a real, tangible relationship with their other set of grandparents. Until then, I’ll just go update Skype and try to retrieve the phone from my son’s hands before he can cut off my mom again.