I have not lived in my hometown for any length of time since I was 17 years old.
I have missed many special occasions. My family has not been able to come to things that would have meant a lot to me if they had been there.
It comes with distance. People living busy lives, hundreds of miles apart.
This past week, my 19 year-old son got a summer internship position. He is ecstatic. I am… happy. He will live about 3 hours from us. In a smallish college town in Arkansas. It’s a great opportunity.
What realization am I having ? I need to pull out the skills I have used almost all my life, with both friends and family alike.
What skill? To have happy, warm, loving relationships with people I don’t see very much. I definitely have “low maintenance relationships” in my life!
I just now need to apply these concepts to my son. Maybe a little difficult, but do-able.
So what are these “low maintenance” skills?
1) Let the time you have together be whatever it shapes up to be.
Don’t try to force things too much. “We’ve got to have the perfect weekend because it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other!”. Or the infamous – “I have to cook all his favorite things.” (Admittedly, this may be the hardest for me…).
Prioritize what’s most important but be flexible about the rest.
2) Celebrations can happen any day!
I hear about incredible Cirque du Soleil-like twists and turns that family members do to try to accommodate “making” a certain event. Okay. Once in a while, it’s truly important. If you’re receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, I get it. Or becoming an Eagle Scout. Or graduating from college. Or playing a incredible violin solo in the orchestra.
Some things happen once. And once only.
But… some families make every event important. There is nothing that can be missed.
When there are hundreds of miles between you, it is much easier to realize that holidays, birthdays, special days can be celebrated on the day that you can be together. It’s the togetherness that matters.
3) Don’t compare yourself to others.
There aren’t any TV shows where we watch mom and daughter text for an hour. That would be fairly boring.
No. We watch Modern Family or even one of those Housewives of Some City show. They are bickering and laughing with each other – together. Maybe your best friend has her daughter living two blocks down with 2 kids, and yours is in North Dakota expecting her first child. You fear you can’t even get there!
So it’s hard not to compare. To wish that our children or our parents were closer. The distance may be a choice. It may not be. But it’s a fact. So we have to deal with it and avoid bitterness. We have to make the best of what we have.
4) Make sure you don’t let too much time go by without some form of contact.
The marvelous thing about all of the technology available today is the incredible variety of communication you can have with someone. From a text or Snapchat, to a letter (remember letters?) or a Candygram, it all says that you are thinking of that person. That the distance means nothing.
Even a low maintenance relationship requires a loving touch from time to time.
And by the way, the road between Fayetteville and that said college town this summer?
It will be well-traveled.
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Photography by Deborah Strauss.