Several of our new neighbors are grandparents (like us) who moved to our community to be nearer their adult children and grandchildren.
I asked one couple how they and their adult children were handling this closer proximity. (They live just a few blocks from their two sons and their families.)
“Great!” they replied.
Now this is something, I thought. Usually families co-exist better when separated by distance. How is it that this family is faring so well?
Our new friends explained that the ‘conversation’ or better, the process, started several years earlier with periodic weekend visits to their then newlywed children. Stays of three – four days followed. When one of their kids had a child, the new mother asked her grandmother-in-law to spend a few weeks with her and the new baby to help out.
From time to time conversations would center on ‘what-if’s.’ ‘What if’ we lived closer to you? ‘What if’ we even lived in your city? Fortunately our friends’ jobs allowed them to pick up and move easily.
One son, however, initially worried that moving closer might result in their parents becoming a “burden on them.” Our friends thought that their son meant that he and his wife would have to be their parents’ caregivers. On the contrary, their son meant a social burden. He was concerned that he and his wife would feel obliged to keep their parents entertained and make sure they were occupied with things to do. Our friends quickly disabused their children of that. They told them they looked forward to making new friends on their own and establishing their own social life.
Open, candid conversations like that – over a period of a few years – increased everyone’s comfort zone and made the eventual move much easier.
What impressed me most is that their relatively painless relocation resulted from an open and candid relationship between parents and children thoughout the family’s formative years.