The Village People

The Next Family

By: Amy Forstadt

They say it takes a village. I say, screw the village, bring on the grandparents. I’ve just returned from almost two weeks of vacation to Chicago and Michigan, which featured seeing tons of old friends, sleeping in AND naps, reading books in a hammock, delicious food that I didn’t cook, clean up after, or pay for, more free babysitting than I could handle, shoe shopping, boat rides, wine, endless games of Quiddler, more wine, u-pick berry stands by the side of the road, blue skies with puffy white clouds, bunnies, daisies, and a kitten. The whole thing was like a freakin’ greeting card come to life.

Except when you open a greeting card, a big glob of guilt usually doesn’t fall out and land in your lap. It’s always so great to see my parents and my mother-in-law, and it’s always so hard to leave. We’ve been in Los Angeles almost ten years, and saying goodbye is wrenching after every visit. (Okay, maybe not so much after we visit in the cold winter months.) I can’t help thinking about people who live near their parents and how great that must be. Not only for the free babysitting, not only to enjoy my parents’ and in-law’s budding relationship with their grandson, but for Benjie’s sake too. This is really the first time I realized how much a regular relationship with his grandparents would benefit Benjie himself. Before this, I’d been mostly thinking about me (have I mentioned the free babysitting?) and the older-generation clucking and kvelling over time spent with the newest member of the family. Seeing how Benjie related to all his grandparents, though, and how much he enjoyed it, really gave me pause. Am I depriving him by living so far away?

Then again, maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. Having distant grandparents really makes seeing them an occasion. It’s never anything you take for granted, and the time spent together will probably be more memorable for him as an adult. When he thinks of things like summer vacations and Christmas trees, he’ll automatically think of grandma’s soft kisses and homemade cookies, and grandpa’s big hugs and enthusiasm for Lego architecture. And that’s not the worst thing that can happen to a kid, right? I mean, right? Sort of right? Somebody help me here. Mom? Tell me it’s okay.

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