Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leaving the Children at Home Alone

Someone left a comment this week asking about how hard it was to leave the children and grandchildren in the USA when you moved to Mexico to live. It certainly wasn't the first time we have been asked that question. So let me ask you some questions.

Do you think that your adult children will never move away from you? Could a job take them from Houston (or wherever you live) to Portland or New York City or London? It happens. Son #1 and his wife were living in NYC and six weeks after the first grandchild was born, they moved even further away to London.

How often do you see them now? Our sons were established in their lives when we moved to Mexico. When the grandchildren came along they become involved in playdates, nursery school and birthday parties. Then suddenly they are playing four year old soccer and little league begins. Or they are involved in music lessons or tennis lessons. Then it is school and homework. Kids have busy schedules these days. So while living in Houston, we saw them regularly but not always weekly.

Our experience has been that we feel we spend more quality time with them now than we did when we lived in Houston. When we go back we usually stay at their houses where we see the boys 24/7, not just two or three hours for dinner. We see them doing their homework, practicing music, on the skate board, meet their friends who are in and out of the house. And the grandsons are excited to see us and show us stuff we haven't seen since the last time we were there. The daughters-in-law let me do some of the cooking which makes me feel good. There just seems to be more one-on-one time with each one at some point during a visit than we got when we lived in town.

The parents send emails from baseball tournaments telling us what is happening. In fact some of their little league games have a site where you can see the scores or even watch a webcam over home plate of the game. And trust me you have to be a grandparent to be glued to the computer monitor to watch a baseball game from a webcam. When Son #1 ran in a marathon we traced his progress on-line from some computer thingy all the runners wore. They send us almost instant photo albums of vacation pictures, ballgames, recitals/performances. We have never tried a web-cam on the computer but we do have a vonage phone so we can call and talk anytime. Now I'll have to admit to you that the grandboys are not chatty on the phone but some of my friends who have grandgirls have some nice conversations with them.

We are back in Texas with the family two or three times a year. If one of the households needed us to help because of an illness or something, there isn't any reason we couldn't be there by the next day if we could get a flight or in two days if we had to drive. And that would be the same even if we lived in Houston and had to fly to Portland or NYC or London.

Someone else asked about whether families come to see grandparents in San Miguel. The answer is yes. San Miguel is a historic colonial town with great shopping and restaurants. Your young adult children will love it but when there are grandkids, the history and shopping doesn't amuse them for long. You have to make some plans to amuse the kids, a trip to climb Bernal, horsebackriding in the country, swimming at the hot springs or the water park, Spanish lesson day camp where they will meet some other kids and make playdates. Honestly, you might get your children and grandchildren to visit more often if you had a condo on the beach in Playa del Carmen but do you want to live in Playa all year on the hopes that your kids might come down once a year.

There are just so many ways to stay in daily touch with family via the cyberworld and it is possible to go back to the USA when you need a grandbaby fix. I think it is okay to leave the "kids" at Home Alone.


Nancy said...


I feel the same way, although I do feel a little bad for my son back in the US. Since his father (my ex), his brother, and I all live in Mexico now he is stuck with all our boxes of tax records and warm clothes. But he is cheerful and generous with his guest room and we all visit him at least once a year.

We keep in touch with the Vonage phone, too, and I know they appreciate the blog as well.

I enjoyed our longer visit NOB this year for the chance to cook together and really feel the rhythm of the family.

I'm glad you posted this, it all rings true for me.

zannie said...

I have the "opposite" problem, or at least I anticipate having it. I would like to move to Mexico sometime in the next five to ten years, and I worry about my parents. My mom especially. My dad is married and I don't worry about him much in general, but I do worry some about my mom already, and I suspect that some day she may need to move in with me--and I suspect she would not want to move to Mexico to do it.

There are many pieces of the puzzle of how to move to Mexico, some of which I have a pretty good handle on. This is not one of them. I am torn between living my own life as I please and doing right by my mom.

Billie said...

Nancy, I like the way you say, rhythm of the family. That is exactly what is nice about going home and visiting in the children's homes. When we had our house in Houston, we went back and took up our life there. Now when we go back and stay with the kids, we do get to enjoy that "rhythm" even when it gets hectic.

Zannie, Oh you bring up a difficult problem. And that may be harder than leaving the kids. Those last years of a parents life can be very difficult to manage. I know some of my friends have spent a lot of time going back and forth. If one of my readers could address this issue or blog about it. Just let us know you are blogging about it so we can read along.

Cheryl said...

Billie, thank you for your blog about my recent query.
It helped me feel a little better about leaving my kids here and moving southward. I agree with you about everything you said. My kids grandparents (either side) never lived near us, and I think my kids missed that. I think that is the reason that I am getting the guilt trip from my daughter! I have made it very clear to my kids that we would welcome them anytime and they better have a great guest room or casita for us to stay in when we come to the US for extended visits. They, of course can't understand why we don't want to live at the beach! But, the beach is only 4 hours away, and it will be a nice diversion for them when they do visit.

Zannie - I feel for you about your Mom. My parents
passed away fairly young, but my MIL is still alive and I know there is NO WAY that she would ever come visit or even think of moving to Mexico. I feel it is her loss, but I am worried about the burden it will put on my husband's sister, who will inevitably be the one to care for her when the time comes. So I can understand your guilt.

Babs said...

You hit the nail on the head Billie. All so true!