Husband and I lived in California when we got married. We lived close to his mom’s house, we used to get together with her a lot and we usually kept her busy. Her world got emptier when we moved to Texas, and it was harder because traveling was not an option for her. So a few months after my kid was born, the baby and I flew from Texas to California so my mother- and sisters- in law would meet the little one, while the husband stayed home to keep working and watch the dogs.
The kid and I went a couple more times to visit grandma, however, the last trip we made was in March 2013, when we brought husband’s ashes back to California. Right after we came back, I started working as a Registered Nurse in a hospital and life as a single working mom with a kid and two dogs just got busier and busier with work and just with life in general. So going back to California to visit just didn’t happen for a few years, until this year.
I felt in my heart a huge need to bring the kid back to grandma so after a lot of praying, and after finding a really good deal on Southwest Airlines, I got roundtrip nonstop tickets for me and the kid for less than $500.00 yay! I found another good deal at the hotel where husband and I got married, and another good deal for the rental car. I told both my sisters in law about the trip and we kept it as a surprise. When grandma opened the door that night, the look on her face was completely worth it.
Since I got married to husband, my family has been traveling back and forth to California and Texas quite a few times a year plus all the times we see each other on either FaceTime or Skype, so the relationship my family has with the kid is really close. The thing is, grandma is quite old school and she doesn’t have internet. So besides calling her often, I would send her pictures of the kid just as often.
The thing that bugged me the most was that now that the kid is older and understands things a lot more, the more he needs to have a relationship with his dad’s side of the family. A phone relationship is not really enough, I mean it told him there was someone related to him, but that’s not the same. This year became a little harder for the kid since losing Nike, he also missed Zoe and his dad a lot more. Put it all together, and I knew the kid needed to see his grandma, and I knew she needed to also see him.
I believe in my heart that in our very particular situation, my kid needed to have a closer and stronger bond with his grandma and aunts. I grew up with both sets of grandparents alive and living in town. This kid has all his extended family on both sides out of the state and it’s just me and him in town. Moving back to California is not option, but visiting to keep the bond between the kid and his grandma is a must and it has to continue happening.
To me, the benefits of having an extended family nearby are just so enriching for kids and it’s not a given in our situation. Kids get an idea of their lineage through their family history. Kids get a family identity from interacting with their family members. There’s what grandparents teach their grandchildren, how their character is shaped by being part of a larger extended family. How their spiritual self gets shaped by what their grandparents also believe.
There is this large family who lives in our town and I’ve known them since I was a toddler, and they pretty much brought us in and adopted us. This has been a huge blessing for us and it has filled up a huge void the kid and I had. The bond with your relatives though, that connection to your very own blood line is something the kid really needed to have, especially now and especially to his grandma. The kid lost his dad and she lost her son, and they just needed each other, and it finally happened and it was great.
Both kid and grandma just picked it up where they left it years ago. There was nothing awkward about the visit, they just got along as great as I expected it. He sang for her, she answered every question the kid had about his dad, she pulled an optic illusions book and went through it with the kid, the kid showed her how to play games on his iPad. They talked, they hugged, it was really just quality time they had together. The kid also got to play with his aunt’s dog, and got to spend time with his uncle and cousin.
It took us a few years to go back to my kid’s other side of the family, and we finally got to it. While the kid has always know about them, he understands it better at this age. Even though the kid is missing his dad, he now feels like that space has been filled with his grandma and his aunts.
So, we’ll come back in 6 months so the kid can spend some more time with his grandma and his aunts, uncle, cousins and yes, the dog!