Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traveling in the Breakdown Lane

Last week's trip was good for a variety of reasons. One of which was the mental breakdown I had Thursday.

What did she say? Good because of a breakdown? Well, actually, yes.

Living far away from our families has caused me a lot of guilt and self-flagellation in the two years since peanut was born. I want peanut to have close and loving relationships with all of his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. As a result, I do my best to update our family blog, send out pictures often, send out the occasional video, mail cards decorated by peanut, encourage phone conversations with peanut when possible and, of course, we struggle with what's the "right" amount of times to make the 360+ mile trip home for visits.

When this trip presented itself because the hubby was going to be at a conference for a week, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to provide our family members one-on-one visit time with peanut. Usual visits cram as many large-scale family dinners or get togethers in as possible and I always feel that what gets lost in the festivities is any real chance for anyone to get to know our incredibly funny and engaging little guy. So I let everyone pick a day. I scheduled and planned and as a result, I ran myself ragged.

By Thursday, I was so physically exhausted from the driving and the sheer weight of dealing with a toddler's schedule in flux that I quite lost it. It wasn't my proudest moment. When my mom came home from work, I was in tears. A bowl of chicken soup and quite a few hugs from both mom and dad later, I was good. More than good. I realized that the guilt was too much for me to handle. I had to let it go. I had to realize that I was doing everything in my power to create relationships for peanut and that I can physically only do so much. Most importantly, I had to realize that I can't change it. I can't change that we live far away. I can't pretend that we don't. I can't pretend that it's easy. Sometimes, I have to realize that I just can't.

This is something that my dear hubby has been telling me for a long time. This is something that I thought I had done. But once it's truly gone, once you really, honestly let go? Wow. I physically feel lighter, freer. And with the holidays approaching, it couldn't have happened at a better time. Who needs a side of guilt with their pumpkin pie when whipped cream is a much better complement?

The strange thing is that most of my friends are also raising their children at some distance from their families. For some, it's only one or two hours away, or one or two states. For others, it's nearly a continent. We're all raising great kids who know, love and respect their families. I know there are probably families who live only a short driving distance away from each other and don't see each other often - I just assume physical proximity breeds close relationships. Not always the case, I'm sure.

So I'll continue to do what I can - peanut will continue to kiss his family night-night via pictures hanging in his room, he'll continue to produce art work for refrigerators everywhere, he'll keep "mashing" stickers on family birthday and holiday cards, we'll keep telling him funny stories about his relatives, we'll continue to involve him in the gift selection process for various occasions, and we'll make the trip up for Christmas.

And when it's too much? When we have to make a tough decision? I'll feel badly, but I won't feel guilty. That's a trip I refuse to take again.

2 comments:

Goddess in Progress said...

Well-put. I think I'm still in that delusional phase... I intellectually know I can't do it all, but I still try a little too hard. It's really a hard topic, though!

Amy Jo said...

You should totally check out Skype. It's free video phone online. We use it with my parents several times a week. Lucy, who is only 14 months, recognizes my parents instantly when they visit. It's super cool and helps a lot with the whole distance/guilt thing.