Most of the time that my husband and I have had children, we have lived several hours away from extended family. For a few years, we lived an hour away from some family but states away from others. In the last several years we have lived in different states from all of our extended family. There are some times and seasons where this is honestly so hard. I cannot imagine the opportunity to just invite family out to dinner or to meet up at our house without planning it weeks or months in advance. To have a family easily come to watch our sons’ ballgames, swim meets, or plays in groups would be such a joy. But since we do live in different states, we have found some ways to make it work that are fun for our boys and gives our families lots of special times with grandparents and other family members to look forward to.
We rotate seeing all the different sides of the family, whether we are going to see them, or they are coming to see us. With three different sides of the family in six different states, we just about always have a visit that we are planning or getting ready for. We try to get together with family every month or every couple of months, and our boys get SO excited when they know Mimi is about to visit or we are about to go see Mama and Papa or Granddad and Nan. Almost every time we have a break from school that is longer than a weekend we plan one of those visits. We try to see every side of the family over the summer, then see different sides throughout the school year on long weekends and breaks. We also plan fun places for us to all go together and plan experiences that we haven’t had yet as a family. Sometimes we plan vacations together too, depending on the year and our schedules. They get to have some time just to hang out and relax with family too, it just requires some planning ahead of time so we can all be together. We have tried to create a family culture of celebrating extended family. Because we don’t get to see them every week or every month, our time together seems even more precious.
Our boys also love phone calls and FaceTime, and with FaceTime, it especially feels like family is right there. Sometimes they also make cards or draw pictures for grandparents. And I also save every card from grandparents and other extended family members to remember those Christmases and birthdays.
As a child, I also grew up living a few hours or more from extended family, but that didn’t stop us from having close relationships with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I want our boys to have close relationships with family too, no matter where different sides of the family live.