Paradise and Parenting: When Family is Far Away

When you change countries, you come to understand many things about your country of birth that you weren’t conscious of when you were actually living there. For example, I realized that I wasn’t taking enough time for myself as I could have, because I thought the whole point of living was working for stuff I didn’t need.

I came to understand that the road rage I was experiencing was NOT because of the other drivers being so incompetent (I mean, mostly not), but from the stress from trying to keep up with an unattainable standard of living.

And, after one full winter with no actual snow, I realized that I didn’t have arthritis OR bursitis OR chronic dissatisfaction as I had previously suspected. I was just really, really cold.

But, one of the most important things I came to know was this: you never fully appreciate easy access to your family until it’s gone. Most significantly, it’s the ability to call the grandparents to come and take your kids for ice cream when it gets to be Too Much. Like when your son asks you exactly seventy questions in one hour about The Flash.

Like when your daughter tells you she won’t put on any socks with a line on the top.

Like when you make dinner and you KNOW it’s their favorite food, except they just changed their minds and now it’s their least favorite food because the broccoli is touching it.

I can’t really spend much time complaining about it for two main reasons:

  1. My husband and I chose to live in Mexico and raise our family, far from our own immediate families
  2. My parents stay with us all winter

Yes, you heard that right. Every winter my parents lock up their cozy home in Manitoba and move in with us in Puerto Vallarta for at least three months. And, while it might sound to you all like a great deal for them (free lodging in a tropical paradise doesn’t sound much like a punishment), you might want to get a bit of context before you decide who really got the shiny, sparkly end of the stick.

Moving in with our family is like moving in with a flock of chickens. Everyone is going in a different direction, we all talk at once, and we leave our mess wherever we drop it. We are not the easiest bunch to settle in with. But my parents have done it ever since our children were born.

When the kids were tiny, my mom and dad would change them, rock them, prepare bottles, take them on long walks, and play with them for hours. When they were school age, they’d take them to the park, feed them their favorite meals (and laugh off the inevitable food touching dilemma), and play their favorite board games. They have always had a huge hand in all the daily parts of their lives.

Nowadays, they patiently wait out the moody adolescent moments in order to have casual conversations over meals, homework and the occasional outing. They show up for them when they perform in recitals or talent shows, and hang out at practices and school events for hours. They give their time and their attention so freely, so easily, to kids who have come to expect it, because it’s all they’ve known.

So sometimes it seems like our kids aren’t conscious of the sacrifice and commitment my parents have made so that my children can grow up with grandparents, because, to my kids, this is regular life.

But I know that they make sacrifices in order to be part of our lives here in Mexico. And I see the impact of all these days, hours, and minutes doing the daily, mundane tasks that we can all take for granted sometimes. Thank you to the best Nana and Papa, who have helped raise some pretty great Mexican/Canadian kids.