Our son made his first visit since we moved here in July. Excited to show him our new home, we thought about many local spots we should show him and wondered what he’d want to do while he was here. After the 12-hour drive, on top of working full-time while pursuing a master’s degree, what he was most ready for was some sleep.
We did visit. We had almost four days with our son, daughter and her boyfriend. It had been awhile since our family had such condensed time together. Yet, it was surprisingly low key. Since both kids are young adults, we expected they’d want to be busy, go out, or have lots of deep philosophical conversations about the many issues of the world. But after a breakfast together on Wednesday, one napped while the other two shopped. Everyone slept in late on Thursday but the weather was gorgeous (mid 60s and sunny), so we took a walk, threw the Frisbee and football around and joked about going for a swim. We ate a late dinner, which everyone raved about, especially the turkey which had been soaking in a brine solution overnight. And then we had the traditional food coma.
Friday, while my daughter and her boyfriend were out, we simply hung out with our son. Perhaps this was a chance to really catch up with him. We went into town to have lunch with him and show him around a little. The sun was out and we sat outside to enjoy an after-meal coffee.
“Don’t you love the warm weather?” I asked hopeful that he’d see the same attributes in the area we’d seen when we decided to move.
“It’s okay,” he said. “But it doesn’t feel like winter.”
“Yeah, that’s the point,” I said, a bit sarcastically. And suddenly I heard myself talking as if there was some competition about which place was better, where he lived or where we lived. That wasn’t my intent. I know there are many wonderful attributes about the city he lives in. It’s just that it happens to be located in the state we’ve lived our whole life. Where there are several months of cold winter and snow. I’m ready for a break from that, but he’s really not.
He likes snowboarding and even, I think, the thrill of driving in the snow. He doesn’t own a house, so he isn’t shoveling driveways and sidewalks. He also likes the comfort of the familiar, and the northern climate is what he grew up with and knows. As we talked, I realized that I wanted validation. Not from others, really. Although there are plenty of others who’ve already told us they envy our new locale. But I wanted validation from my son, which I now realize was simply to gain hope that one day we might all agree on an ideal location and not live multiple states apart.
But its much too soon for that discussion. He has many opportunities ahead of him that will lead him in any number of directions. And while I’m thrilled my daughter has relocated here with us for now, it’s only a matter of time before she must choose between opportunities that may very well take her quite some distance away.
It’s hard to prepare for that as a parent. Especially with the uncertainty of the economy right now, the certainty of higher oil prices in the future and the inevitable change in travel patterns as we’ve known them our whole lives. In my work, I promote walkable, bikeable, compact communities for the advantages of health, sustainable travel, aging in place and strengthened community. Yet I still live in a culture where families no longer stay in the same place. I’m proof of that. So I will have to trust that our children will work with us to stay connected in whatever way we are able to do that. That somehow we will see each other with reasonable frequency and that we will enjoy the beauty and many attributes of each other’s home communities, wherever they may be.