February froze large swaths of the country, left us wondering what to do for fun after the Super Bowl and – gasp! – gave us a totally unnecessary reboot of “RoboCop.” In other words, not many reasons to get out of bed in the morning. February is a month that — save for Valentine’s Day & Black History Month — could be wiped off the calendar and people would barely notice. February feels like the year’s purgatory.
But not for us.
February is the month my wife, kids & I most look forward to every year. February is the month when my wife and I get to pretend that we have constant help. February is the month that we save all our energy for. That’s because during the month of February my father and stepmother spend four glorious, sun-drenched weeks in Florida at the beach, just a few miles from us. We cram a years worth of good times into 28 days.
It’s parenting nirvana and grandparent heaven. We focus on three things — family time, food and excessive, hair-raising, never-ending adventures. And isn’t that what life with little kids should be? There are endless days at the beach, train rides, movie days, park explorations, ice cream cones and games galore. Every whim is indulged; every laugh cherished.
But once February is over, melancholy sets in. Then come the thoughts. “Are we cheating our children out of a long-term relationship with their grandparents and extended family members by living hundreds of miles away from them?”
Career and opportunity led me to the Sunshine State (I always joke that I moved here 40 years earlier than I expected to) and I achieved success, met my best friend, married her and started a family. Our lives are good. I never had a moment’s regret until my kids began wondering why they couldn’t see their grandparents and cousins on a regular basis except if they first uploaded Skype. It’s a challenging question to answer.
My wife and I both grew up with family surrounding us. There were few important moments in our lives — ballgames, performances or birthdays — that weren’t shared with 20 or 30 family members. She and I never knew anything different and we reveled in it. As our kids grow up, we know that won’t be the case. For many moments, in their lives, it will just be mom, dad and a brother. The love won’t be any less intense but the amount of eyeballs watching, the amount of applause given, the amount of hugs, praise or condolence afterwards will be diminished. That stinks.
I trusted in my family’s love and leaned on it during difficult times in my life. My kids will still have a support network for things that trouble them but it won’t be a car ride away. In a perfect world, we would live near family. But that’s not our reality. Our lives are in Florida and we don’t expect that to change. The long distance challenges our family members who wish they could see the boys grow up and dote on them but it also teaches all of us to truly value the time we do get to spend together and to make those moments a priority.
It also means that my wife and I work harder to keep grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in the forefront of our children’s minds. We do have to sacrifice those spontaneous family dinners, emergency babysitting calls and family milestones but it also means that wherever my wife, kids and I are THAT is where our family is. We are a unit that must depend on each other.
So, take it easy on February and try not to wish its’ end so soon. There’s a family in Florida that counts down the days until February like a kid counts down to Christmas.