I don't know when it started, but at some point I began to hate change. Change used to be exciting and I would look forward to the next new chapter that was just waiting to be written. But, somewhere along the way I began to love the story I was creating and starting new began to look less and less appealing.
I guess that's what they mean by putting down roots. And, I loved the roots that I was putting down. But, you can't control what chapters others write, and lately we've been saying a lot of goodbyes. Goodbye to a beloved step-grandma, to teachers and schools, to neighbors we adored, to numerous classmates who aren't returning in the fall, to grandparents who moved further away, and, most recently – to family we saw many times a week and were a huge part of the roots we had put down.
For years we have known there was a chance my sister and her family would be relocated at some point for her husband's work. We even spoke of it sometimes and said how awful that would be if it happened. But, I always assumed it would be a temporary move or that they might end up in Portland or Vancouver, both of which are far away, but easily drivable. I never even considered that they would move clear across the country for 5 years, maybe more. I'm not going to lie, this last month has been really hard on all of us. We've cried rivers of tears in the days and weeks leading up to saying goodbye to my beloved sister and her little family.
I did a family photo shoot we've been putting off for years that finally couldn't be put off any longer. We framed maps signed by our whole family that the boys could hang in their new home so they would always know how much we are thinking of them.
We created lists of things that needed to be done before the move and helped prepare the kids. We said goodbye to favorite local spots that we grew up going to together and now enjoy taking our families to.
We said goodbye to the home they created down the street from ours and took one last photo shoot in the rooms with the murals we loving painted before my nephews arrival. And, then we had to say goodbye to each other, which was obviously the hardest part. The younger kids didn't understand that the goodbye was different than the hundreds of goodbyes before where we would see each other in just a few days. This goodbye would have to last us months, not hours.
The older kids got it and that was really rough seeing their faces knowing that they realize that months pass slowly and it would be months before we were all together again. But, what really made me sad was the little ones not getting that this goodbye was big as they tried to make plans for the next day, the next week, and then trying for "soon?"It's been over a week and a half now since our goodbye and at times we're all okay, but the hardest part has been helping the kids through everything. The realization that Skype is going to be a big part of how they keep in touch for the next 5+ years, and that they can't fly back for every birthday, wedding, or big event.
Don't get me wrong, I love that we live in an age where video chat, texting, Facebook, and emails can help us keep in touch outside our many phone calls. But technology just can't replace our few times a week walks where we would talk about anything and everything or the trips we would take with our families so we could explore together. And, while Skype is great for the little kids and much more natural than phone calls because you can see what they are trying to show you and talk about, it is also really hard to watch someone cry knowing you can't hug them. When my nephew sees us in our living room and the first thing out of his mouth is "can I come over to your house?" it's hard not to get choked up as you respond. But, it does make me feel closer just seeing them talk and show off new tricks they learn. First steps and other milestones will definitely be easier with technology, but technology will never replace a good hug or being able to play together. I know this is a grieving process of sorts just like any other big change you weren't expecting, and it will get easier with time, but I am sad that this distance will eventually become the norm. Instead of cousins growing up like siblings, they will instead be growing up like cousins. I mourn for the plans we had made for them and the hopes that we had for their joint childhoods.
Yes, I know it could be worse and we are extremely lucky that we all got to enjoy years of closeness before the move. I'm grateful for the time our kids had together when they were young, and I'm thankful that the cousins will still keep in touch because it's important to all of us that they do. And, although airfare back and forth for a family is crazy expensive, hopefully they will come visit once or twice a year and maybe we might even be able to make it out to them someday. I really hope we can make that happen because 5 years in the life of little kids is a really, really long time. But, for right now this change is still really hard on everyone, especially the kids. It will get easier, but that makes me sad, too.
How do your children keep in touch with far away relatives? Any advice for how to help kids cope and deal with the distance?