It was E’s birthday this weekend and grandparents, aunts and uncles descended on the house for a party. It was lovely though rather full on for her, though she did very well not to be completely overwhelmed.
It’s so great to see my family (and S’s family) – both lots live three hours drive away and we’re all so busy with work and other commitments that we don’t get to meet up very often. As such, it’s clear that they like to make up for not being around by showering us with gifts. For example, S’s parents arrived bearing two bottles of champagne, two punnets of strawberries, five bunches of asparagus, four pheasants, a tea towel, chocolates, several second hand books, a rechargeable electric screwdriver, a notebook and some tarragon hollandaise sauce. Plus birthday presents for E.
I do always find that the time flies by when they visit, especially en masse, but even more when it comes to my family visiting. My mum and sister live near each other and as such are always in and out of each other’s houses, pop to the shops together, go out together and so on. It’s the day to day bits and bobs I miss the most – when they visit I try to pack as much in as possible so that they get to see great things to do up in the frozen north but it does then become an action-packed visit. It would be so much better to be able to spread things out or even just pop round for a cup of tea.
I realise that we aren’t alone in this dilemma. There are plenty of people who live far from their families. Yet lots of folk (health visitors, doctors, nursery staff) assume that we have a strong support network close by. The expectations or culture doesn’t seem to have altered, even if many people’s lives have.
And of course, the other thing is, that having them visit highlights just how used I am to doing things myself (or with S). It still surprises me when people offer to help when they see me out and about with E, be they friends or strangers. I was delighted the other day when the chap in Caffe Nero carried my Americano to my table as I was carrying E. Obviously he carried it – I couldn’t have managed it but I was delighted just the same. (I filled out my comment card and mentioned it in my feedback – still trying to win an ipad.) I have the mentality that I’m her mother, there’s just me and her dad and so we just better get on with it. Having other people around, especially people like my mum and sister who are natural ‘hands-on’ types, I forget that sometimes I don’t have to do it all.
The extended family is making a comeback, according to vague research by an estate agent (I’ve just been Googling.) People are finding it an easy way to combine looking after ageing parents and children, saving money on travel and childcare, and who knows what else. It does make sense. E still gets a bit nervous when she first sees her Grandpa because she doesn’t know who he is yet. Obviously it would be great if this wasn’t the case (though I’m sure it will be easier as she gets older).
When I was growing up, my grandparents all lived an hour’s drive away. My mum didn’t drive so we had to rely on my dad being available to do the trip once a month or so. I think my mum managed with a good network of friends (and a babysitting circle) but I don’t know if that’s the same. It’s a good substitute.
On the other hand, I shouldn’t moan too much. My best friend is about to give birth and she’s on the other side of the planet. Her parents are going to be around for the birth and first few weeks but I can’t imagine how she’ll feel when they leave.
It’s odd isn’t it? You spend so much time when you’re younger wanting to be independent and move away and then when you get to a certain age and situation, all you want is to be with your family again. I do enjoy living where I do, and I am ambiguous about moving back down South, even if we could afford to, but still. Teleportation may be my only answer.