If you had asked me back in 2009 or 2010, or anytime really between mid-2007 and May 2011, whether I lived close to my parents, I would have said yes.
Sure they were several hours away by car, but what was that when compared with the 24 hour odyssey that had been our normal when we still lived down under.
After E. was born, I noticed the distance a little more. But with Q’s relatively flexible work schedule (particularly when he wasn’t teaching on either a Friday or a Monday) and my freedom as a PhD student, it wasn’t all that difficult to find time to make the trip.
When E. started nursery school, I noticed the distance a little more. I started to notice the grandparents who picked up and dropped off or even did duty days. I started to realize just how many people I knew had parents who lived in the same city. But it was just nursery school and we had no problem taking E. out for a day or two if we were going to be away.
This year, the year that E. started real school, it hit home just how inflexible we were about to become. We still could, in theory, pull E. out of school for the occasional day (especially since neither JK nor SK is mandatory), but both Q. and I think that sets a bad precedent. Plus E. was already going to miss so much school going down under for Christmas we didn’t want to compound that.
We discussed it with both sets of grandparents. No problem, they said. We’re retired. We’re footloose and fancy free. We’ll come to you.
Except now, of course, they can’t.
In the grand scheme of things, my sisters and I do live relatively close to our parents, especially when you compare our current residences with where we’ve lived in the past. We’ve had one or even two of us out of the country more or less continuously since 2002 (with a brief gap in the late 2000s when we all lived in the same city). Now we’re all back in Canada, two of us more or less permanently settled in cities an hour apart and the third at least based in the same city as I am (although she is harder to pin down).
Yet we are all just that little bit too far from our parents to make a weekend visit manageable.
We can’t have a standing dinner date.
We can’t stop in to the hospital for an hour on our way home from work just to see how things are going.
I can’t, when this baby comes, pop round to visit in between naps and nursing.
For any of us to travel to see them requires planning, scheduling, and, most of all, time.
For me, come mid-May it is going to become well-nigh impossible for a few months. Leaving aside the planning and the scheduling and the travelling, I can’t take an unvaccinated baby into an ICU. Nor am I much of a help if I descend with two kids on my mother or my stepmother. I can’t take them into the hospital with me all day, and bringing them with me means that my schedule becomes dictated by their needs rather than by what I can do for my father or stepfather.
I used to wish we lived closer to my parents so they could help us out on a more casual basis with babysitting E., both because they so obviously adore spending time with him and because I am far less nervous about leaving him with family.
Now I wish we lived closer so I could do more to help them.
We’re still not far away, not in the grand scheme of things.
But the last six weeks has really brought home that we’re not all that close either.