By Aubrie Williams
My parents are moving to Champaign.
They are leaving the area they both grew up in, the home they’ve known for more than 20 years, where my brother and I did most of our growing up, to enjoy their retirement by being closer to their granddaughters.
“Are you OK with that?” is usually the first response when I tell people.
“How does your husband feel about that?” is the second. (For the record, he’s probably more excited than the kids. He had a very close relationship with both sets of his grandparents, and he wants that for his children as well.)
For a long time, when it was first discussed, I flat-out rejected the idea. I can do this all on my own, I thought. I don’t need help. The petulant teenager in me was screaming that I am an ADULT now. I do NOT need THEM doing anything for ME.
But my life got busier, and I stopped thinking about how awful it would be and started mulling over how things might be different for us if they moved. Good things, even. My husband and I could go on dates. The kids would be closer emotionally to their grandparents, something I didn’t have when I was their age because, as an Army brat, we lived quite far from our family. And, selfishly, I could potentially be a better employee because I wouldn’t have to be home with the kids when they were sick. Grandma and Grandpa would be there.
Life would still be busy, life would still be stressful, but the idea seemed a little more appealing.
I still had reservations, however. We’d still need to do things on our own; we couldn’t do everything together. My responsibilities were to MY family now – as in, my children and my husband.
By the time I got to my third pregnancy – an unexpected blessing – stressed didn’t begin to describe my life. And here I was, adding another child to the mix. My nerves were on high alert with the very idea of what a marathon my life would be like with three children, and I wasn’t even running the race yet.
My parents must have sensed this all, and offered more than just help. They moved their little pull-behind camper into an RV park just north of town for the entire month our baby was due. They wanted to be near enough to help but far enough to give us space.
And while it was just right then, with Grandma’s homemade meals every night and Grandpa taking the oldest fishing on the lake, it had a time limit, an expiration date of the end of the month. They had to go home.
This past Halloween night, that baby, who isn’t a baby anymore, had an emergency medical event that required all hands on deck. My husband needed to be with me for her at the hospital but couldn’t because the other two girls needed care as well. And while our babysitter loves our kids and would do anything for them, we couldn’t ask her to stay overnight, to put her life on hold for our family.
So we called in the grandparents, who made the three-hour trip in two.
It was a turning point for them. The sign from Someone that my mother needed to say, “That’s it! Pack up the house, we’re moving to Champaign.”
In the four months since, they’ve sold their house. They’ve found another, three blocks down and three blocks over from us – close enough for the kids to walk when they’re older but still abiding by the “you can’t live where you can see my front door” rule I only half-jokingly gave them.
While the ink isn’t dry on the contracts and the moving van isn’t packed, I started to hear that voice again, the teenager yelling, “I don’t need them to take care of my kids. We can do this on our own.” I wondered if I was a bad mother for not being the one to take care of them when they were sick. Would they look back and remember all the times I didn’t pick them up from school and think I didn’t care about them as much as Grandma and Grandpa?
Mired in all these thoughts, I took all three to the grocery store the other day. After listening to screams, protests and begs for more than an hour, I pulled through the checkout line with a full cart and high blood pressure. I moved toward the exit and head on into a parenting moment that put me in a place of stress I haven’t seen in a while.
At that exact moment, a distinguished-looking woman, probably in her mid-60s, came up to our cart and quietly, without any hesitation or prompting, entertained my children for just a moment. She talked to them like they were her own, getting the youngest to giggle and the oldest to smile.
“God bless you,” I said to her, trying not to cry.
“Oh, honey, sometimes a grandma’s gotta help out a little, even if she’s not yours,” she said with a smile.
She went on to tell me about her grandchildren, 7 and 9, whom she picks up at school every day. And she was positively giddy describing the day off school they had just spent together.
I explained that my parents were moving here in a few weeks for just that reason.
“Well, they’re going to love every minute of it,” she added. “Better do it now, while they’re young and can have fun.” (I chuckle now thinking that I don’t know if she meant the kids or my parents.)
We parted ways with kind words exchanged, and I packed everyone and everything into the van. I was overwhelmed with emotion, with the moment that Someone had just handed me going a long way in easing my fears.
I called my parents.
“Hello?” my mom answered.
“I just want you to know that I love you both a lot,” I said, choking back tears.
“What do you want now?!” my mom said, laughing.
I want you to move here, live down the street, be with my kids, take them to cool places, give them your love, cook Sunday dinner like you always wanted to, and be in our lives.
No, it won’t always be perfect, but it will be awesome just the same.
Aubrie Williams is the managing editor of chambanamoms.com, and she’s one of the luckiest moms in Champaign-Urbana. She’s raising three daughters with two jobs and one husband, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.