During the summer between my fifth and sixth grades, my parents took me to live in Europe, where we stayed for six years. Before that, I had lived within just a few hours drive of two sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and two sets of cousins. After that summer, I was to see all of them for just a few weeks one summer, during our so called "summer leave".
Don't get me wrong. I am forever grateful for the experience that my parents gave me. Not only that, but the older I get I do realize how lucky I was to both have the parents I have, and the small family unit I had, as we are all very close. As with anything upside though, there is a downside, and in this case the four of us simply did not have anything close to a "traditional" relationship with our grandparents or cousins from that time on. The relationship that those grandparents had with the other grandchildren, who they saw monthly at a minimum was of completely different dynamic.
When I married, I married a guy who also wanted to move around, or at least not remain where he was "from" after school. My husband and I lived in Washington DC for 20 years. My in-laws, all three of his siblings, and the other two grandchildren all again lived in close proximity. We traveled to Texas once a year from Washington DC, and then again once in the times we ourselves lived in Europe. After my husband passed away, I moved to Texas, although it was not my first choice of place. I felt it was important for my son especially to hear stories about his dad when younger and have some quality time with both grandparents. That time was invaluable, but again, there was a completely different dynamic and relationship between the kids who were there all the time, and the ones they had seen once a year or less as they were growing up. Believe me, this was not conscious much of the time, and my kids are not bothered by this.
Even so, I often wonder about the relationship between us and our kids, and our grandchildren as well. I may never have grandchildren, truth be told. I have one child who has not wanted children all her life, and at thirty-seven I doubt that will change. I have grand-puppies, and feel pretty strongly that I want her to live her life for herself rather than me, and that includes the grandchild issue. My son is a late maturer who is very possibly on the very edge of the Asperger spectrum and while I do hope that someday he finds someone and gets married and has a child, it is for his sake, not mine.
I do however, consider what kind of grandmother I would be and how close (both physically and geographically)I would be (and want to be) to those kids or grandchildren. I do know that I have a different perspective than many on this. I was raised to be independent, as were my children. While my son financially lives with me in this high cost of living area as he goes to school, he is not "dependent", and I am not one who believes that our kids have to go away to college to grow up.
I am part of a knitting group of mainly retirees. At least two of the women in my group retired to Colorado so that they could be near (and help) their children and more importantly their grandchildren. One, a former teacher, has taken turns (with another grandma) of taking care of her two grandchildren (with her husband) since they were babies. This year, both girls are in school full time, so things have changed again. This does not mean that they put their lives on hold. They are active volunteers, they travel, they just bought a condo in Arizona that they visit (in no more than two week doses). I guess what I am trying to say is that by being close to, and helping their kids, they have not put their own lives on hold in some way.
Whether I would move across the country to follow my kids, I do not know. I do know that before my husband became ill we discussed retiring in Germany, even though both our kids would have been on the other side of the Atlantic. Whether that would have worked in the "real world", I don't know. I suspect that after a year or so, we would have moved closer to the kids and allowed ourselves four month vacations every year to see old friends, but that was then and this is now.
I have other friends who live no where close to their grandchildren and children, and see them as often as they can, so I do think that we are all different, and what works for one family may not work for another. Put another way, I think that we all need to come up with our own levels of independence, travel, and need for family. Much of that will depend on our kid's needs and wants as well as our own, finances, retirement goals and more. There is no one fit all, correct choice.
Just by looking at retirement/boomer bloggers in the Internet, one can see all the options and levels of closeness. It's also easy to see that living in the same town or nearby is not necessary for a close relationship as such. One blogger on my sidebar has retired to Florida, with kids and grand kids in New York. Another moved closer to his children and even up-sized in order to have room for children and grandchildren. Two other bloggers are snow birds, and from what I can see spend much of their family time during one half of the year and enjoy their retirement communities the other half of the year. And it all works.
When it comes to me and family, I prefer more engagement. Seeing my daughter in Texas a couple times a year is not enough-something I am reminded of every time I visit. Yes, a couple weeks of visiting is enough time-until I need the next time. And while I would have understood had my son decided not to take this move with me, and would have gone anyway, I am thrilled that he came and we have had this time. Someday, I expect, he will move to Texas, or Arizona, and when that happens I will probably position myself to be closer to both children, even if it is not my ultimate place to live.
But hey, that's me, and we all have to do what works for us-as well as what works for them.