Dear Family Whisperer,
10 yrs. ago my husband and I moved to be near our 2 grandchildren. Now the children are 13 and 11. I have a good relationship with my daughter and son in law, however, their lives and the lives of the grand kids are becoming even more busy. We see them less and less. They live around the corner but no one shows up. The visits seem to only come from my efforts. My husband and I are thinking of moving to another state 2 hrs. away. My current town doesn't have much to offer and we would like to have a sense of community. I feel like something has failed or didn't work out. I don't meet people moving away for family at this stage of the game. Any thoughts?
Many grandparents lament that their children and grandchildren are "too busy." It's not just school and sports and other extra-curricular activities. As the children reach their tweens and teens, as yours have, they're starting to have their own social lives. And as much as they might love Grandma and Grandpa, you're not at the top of their priority list!
My suggestions follow, but I hope that readers (of both generations) will weigh in, too.
What were your expectations when you made the move ten years ago? How did you envision your role in your daughter's life? Seeing the kids every day? Once a week? How have things changed? It undoubtedly felt good to be needed and to be called upon to help out with toddlers. You probably loved participating in their lives and watching them grow up. But life changes as families mature.
What are your needs now? To be sure, some people at your age move closer to their adult children, but some don't -- and for a variety of reasons. Factor everything into "the mix" of your own decision, including your health, your social life, your desire for adventure and novelty, as well as your needs as a couple. Also, two hours could be a long or short distance, depending on how you feel about traveling.
Come to the table with an open heart and be honest. Do you feel guilty for even thinking about moving away? Most of us need and want time with family and time to pursue our own dreams. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Don't make them the bad guys for not being available. Rather, acknowledge that all of your lives have changed -- yours as well. Use that "good relationship" to trust that your adult children want the best for you as you want the best for them.
Include the children. They're certainly old enough, and kids are wonderfully creative when it comes to solutions. Trouble is, they're often not asked!
Tell them all how you feel, but make sure you listen to their perspective. You might find that they're just as frustrated by the lack of time and the raging busyness that seems to infect so many families today. Be compassionate. Life for Mom and Dad is not what it was when you were raising kids.
Don't get bogged down on whose "efforts" result in time together. Their lives probably are busier than yours -- that’s how it is in most three-generation families. It's okay if you initiate. Just try to involve them in the process.
It doesn’t always have to be "family time." Make a date with just one of the children -- or one of the parents. Is there an activity that one child likes to do and not the other? Is there something you could teach -- cooking, a craft? Or a skill you'd like to be taught?
Experiment. If you and your husband really believe that moving to another town is best for you, by all means investigate the possibilities and see what's out there. And in the meantime, shoot for small, regular “somethings” as a family -- a brunch, a movie, or something none of you have ever done. If it can’t be once a week, settle for once a month. If you're hardly seeing them at all, anything will be an improvement!
Hi, it’s Melinda. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Do you have a question about your family or a relationship? No topics are off limits, and it’s all anonymous. Ask via Twitter @MelindaBlau #DearFamilyWhisperer, or click on this link For everything I’ve every written, check out my website.
Follow Melinda Blau on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MelindaBlau