Like many folks living in the Bay Area, Ben and I don't have any extended families living in the Bay Area. I came to the Bay Area to attend college and decided to stay (my immediate family lived in the Los Angeles area, before moving to China permanently). Ben moved to the Bay Area to work for Google, and all of his extended family is…. Everywhere (Boston, Pittsburgh, Galveston, Copenhagen, Maryland)
I used to tell people all the time, “we have no family here.” No grandparents to pick up the kids from school (as I see many grandparents do at my kids’ new school); no place to “drop off the kids for the weekend.” If we went on a date night, that means I booked a sitter; if we went away for a weekend, a sitter stayed overnight with the boys. It always cost money, but we didn’t mind as we had an AMAZING team of sitters/nannies/helpers, whom we trust.
Given Covid and the extended “sheltering,” we haven’t been able to visit any of Ben’s relatives in YEARS. With ¾ of our family vaccinated, this past Thanksgiving, we took our first plane ride to visit Ben’s brother in Texas. His older brother + wife, and his mom + husband, also joined for the celebration.
I’m not sure if it was the fact that I didn’t cook a SINGLE thing for Thanksgiving (thanks Matt & Sam for doing all the cooking), or that our kids took to their aunts and uncles like they’ve never been apart….. Between making bread and painting with Sam, and the HOURS of playing/petting the dogs, and games of charades….. At some point my MIL said, “I LOVE MY FAMILY!” and we all heartily agreed.
I’m an immigrant from another country, separated from my extended family since I was 12. I grew up without an extended family, but my mom ran her own church (more about that later); and her own business. So between the two we had plenty of aunts & uncles to go around. I never felt like I ‘missed’ not having blood relatives around, but then again I wasn’t given a choice.
With Ben, he grew up in Maryland with his family, his aunt, and his grandmother all [relatively] nearby. When we were still dating, we spent a few of the Thanksgivings with his family/extended family. Awkward for me, but Ben always enjoyed them.
After we returned from the trip, I had some time to reflect. Though it warmed my heart that my children had a wonderful visit; ultimately I recognize these aunts/uncles will not be a part of their day-to-day life. What we do have is the school community (where our kids go to school), our former potluck/BBQ community (full of similarly-aged kids), and a bunch of other dear friends we see from time-to-time. We *still* have an amazing team of babysitters, whom we adore and trust with all our hearts.
For Ben, I know he misses the connections he had with his brothers and wishes that we could see them more often, and would love to have our boys have a stronger bond with their uncles. But unless anything changes (we move to a different state, or they move closer to CA), I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
So, we *still* have no family, no blood relations, where we live. It’s a missing hole in our lives and in our hearts, BUT, it doesn’t mean that we are not loved. In fact, the reverse is true.
We’re respected and liked by parents from L+A’s school. Though we haven’t met very many folks, everyone we’ve met has been friendly, easy to talk to, and I can see this community growing as our kids continue their journey through the school.
We’re adored by long-time friends, people that knew us before we were parents (and had a busy social life). Though we only see these friends occasionally, they are an integral part of our lives and our kids’ lives.
We’re connected to the BBQ/potluck/neighborhood/greater Mountain View community. With lots of friends in our immediate surroundings, there’s always someone for the kids to play with; or some mom who’s happy to meet up for lunch. It’s a treasure trove of resources, too. We are headed to the Niles Canyon Holiday train this weekend with 4 other families to ride an old steam train all decked out in festive lights - something we would’ve only found out from a Bay Area native.
It’ll never be the same as having a “real” extended family…. Or will it? If our friends can take L camping for the weekend; or a fellow mom can spend a couple of hours with A at a park, or Claire (boys’ favorite sitter) makes cupcakes with them once a week….. Is it that different? It’s hard to say, but this is our reality and we carry on.
So family? Or people you adopt as family (and adopts you in return)? As long as we’re surrounded by love….. I think we’ll be alright.
This holiday season, if you’re also missing someone, keep them in your hearts and wish them well. Then look around and see…… I bet you find love AND family where you are. <3
I wish you an early Happy Holidays. And no cooking!
[Photos from our most recent visit with Ben's family over Thanksgiving holiday]
We are all so different yet we are part of this family
With uncle Pete and auntie Dana
A playing charades with auntie Sam (and uncle Matt)
Ben's brothers and my sister-in-laws
One last pic with Matt & Sam before we go!
A with his favorite grandmother (hint: it's Ben's mom)
Boys making bread with their auntie Sam