Growing up, I saw my extended family constantly. Both of my Grandmas (and their close friend, Mary O’Keefe) took my brother and me to and from school daily. My family made it a priority to see each other every weekend – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – and still do. They packed the stands of mine and my brother’s baseball, football, and softball games every season. There was no end to their involvement in our lives, and their loyalty to my upbringing was significant to who I am today.
To many other families, this may seem enviable, atypical, or even crazy. As a kid, it was my normal – so I never really got to evaluate if it was my ideal. Now I have two kiddos, and while we live with their one “Kuncle”, the rest of our family is 1,363 miles away from them most days. And it breaks my heart when I come home and am reminded of the stark contrast between the way we are raising our children and the way I was raised.
But I don’t want to trail off onto the topic of how I was raised vs. how I want our kids to be raised because there’s no benefit to comparing the two – there are pro’s and con’s to both and circumstances are different. I want to talk about the lingering resentment that is the fact that when I’m back in Boston, I don’t call my family enough – particularly my Dad.
It’s funny, from the outside looking in, you would not know that I’d consider myself close to my Dad. But if you knew him, and you knew me, you’d see that we are both incredibly emotional and sensitive people with similar wiring and passions. And as a result, there is a very real part of me that can relate to his pain in being so far away from me. He is living one of my worst nightmares – living far away from my kid(s) and (not yet existent) grandchildren.
So why don’t I call him? I love my Dad, I miss my Dad, and I want him in my life so much. Honestly, it’s a mixed bag of cowardice and not wanting to compromise (which are admittedly, crappy reasons to not call him).
I hate reminding him and me that we are so far apart. Somehow illogically, to me, a phone call is my way of saying “I’m alive and well, and I’m choosing to not be near you”. A phone call feels like I’m condoning my own lifestyle that I don’t even feel particularly secure in many days. A phone call is a reminder that we could be in each other’s lives more and aren’t – by choice. I don’t have to live in Boston and raise my kids here, but I am – and maybe the conversation of ‘why’ isn’t one that I’m willing to relinquish control of. Because if that conversation happened, would it even make a difference?
Which leads me to the next reason I don’t think I call him – I’m afraid that it’s not even worth it. A lot of our family FaceTime’s us, and even that frustrates me. I wish I could soak in all the benefits of knowing my kids and my family can be face-to-face within minutes, but the idea that their interactions are limited to a screen often frustrates me. I recognize that when my Mom had her kids in Florida, with her immediate family in Chicago, the most she could do was send pictures of us if her family wanted to ‘see’ us. But now, I feel ungrateful for these technological advancements – they let us all bask in the inbetween without fully investing in the people presently with us or forcing us to live closer together.
Which leads me to my last reason, I don’t call my Dad because I wish I were taking him to his appointments and fishing with him on weekends instead. And because I’m not, I don’t answer my phone or run to respond to a text message, because I want to be present with the people who are right here in front of me. I’ve felt relationally drained since having Isaac, and know that I am not being the friend or mother or spouse or ____ that I want to be, and could be more easily before. When I’m on my phone, I feel like I’m making the decision to not invest as much into my local relationships (which aren’t necessarily more important). Before kids, the balance of local and distant relationships was easier, and now that I’ve had children, the pressure to maintain both has increased. Part of me knows that this isn’t sustainable, but part of me knows that these phone calls are the lifeblood that connects our children and our families, so we continue to do them.
The scariest part for me is that we are now the ones to set a precedent for our children on the importance of family. So I’m going to try to call more and not worry as much about the fact that I’m not doing more – namely, moving back to Florida. Trust me, as I am now confronted with giant ice blocks outside, and a quiet home, I miss you all too.