Feel: Close To Your Family Despite The Distance

I can recall once crying to my mum during a tumultuous time for our family saying "But so-and-so's family is so normal. Their parents don't fight and they are all happy and they don't have money worries. Why can't we just be normal like them?" She quickly and rightly explained that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to families. Everyone has their quirks, their problems, their blessings and their woes. Some are more obvious to outsiders than others, while many are good at hiding them. My family experiences began uniquely in that I was the eldest, the middle child, and one of the youngest. I am my mum's eldest, the second youngest of my dad's and, when my big brother moved in with us, I was the middle child. My father had a girl and a boy in that order in both his first marriage and his second. I've never lived with my big sister, and my big brother moved in at age 13 (while I was 7 and my little brother was only 4). 

Despite the older two being my half siblings I am so incredibly close with them that I always try and omit that detail until people look at me perplexed about how I saw my sister's mum the other day. My sister lives in Bournemouth with her husband and four children (aged 4 and under, yes they are super-parents!). My brother lives in Botswana with his wife-to-be having moved from Raynes Park at the end of last year. My baby brother, who turned 21 on the weekend, has the travelling bug after spending eleven months in Australia, but is currently safely at home living with our Dad. 

I recently found an autobiography I wrote for a school project when I was eleven. I talked about how I wished that I lived with my sister and how truly special she is to me and that it makes me sad that I don't see her very much. I still say the same thing today. I do wish we had lived together, but we didn't and now we are adults we get to determine how much we see each other and we have Whats'app and Facebook Messenger to ensure we talk almost every day. My relationship with my sister is different to my other friends' sisterly bonds. With nine years between us we have totally different lives and with essentially different upbringings and a different parent we are very different people. We don't share clothes and we don't hang out with the same group of friends. We do empathise with each other's issues, we do listen to one another, we have a common interest in that we are obviously both totally in love with her four kids, and we care about each other a lot. Our relationship works for us. And there in lies the point that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to families. Everyone has their quirks, their problems, their blessings and their woes.

However there is no denying that despite having found our own groove, the distance makes things a little harder. At times I've wished I can pop round and give her a hand by distracting the kids so she can actually cook the dinner, or she's wished she could drop off some coconut oil when I had none in the cupboard. Yet we aren't that far from one another at all compared to the distance between my big brother and the rest of us. Three hours in heavy traffic is little compared to an £800 flight to Gaborone. He is thoroughly enjoying his lifestyle there and we are all immensely happy for him. My soon to be sister-in-law got a job that was such a wonderful opportunity and it made sense for them to go, plus the excitement of a new adventure is so very appealing. Also her family are close in South Africa. Two weekends ago we were all together, grandparents, great-grandparents, my sister's step-sisters, and other half siblings, ex wives, old lives and all of the new generation were gobbling burgers after having given thanks for the latest additions to our motley crew; the twins. It is moments like this I fear my brother misses, we each had messages from him asking for photos, and sending on love and kisses to the kids. It's those moments that distance can feel like a burden rather than an adventure. When my younger brother was in Australia and called me on my birthday, he gave a poignant confession that he felt sad he was missing the adorable isms that our niece and nephew were forming. It is these distances that make me grateful my sister is only a drive away. 

And despite all of this I dream of travelling and hope to live abroad one day. With an Australian passport, as well as my British one, I have life long ambitions to live in Sydney, if not for a year, permanently. When discussions of such changes of location arise between me and my boyfriend he says, fairly so, that he wouldn't want to raise our kids away from our mums. I totally agree. My mum would never forgive me if I robbed her grandchildren. This is coming from someone who did just that. The Australian that raised her family in London, without her Dad and step-mum. Since I was very young I have listened with great fascination and admiration at the stories of her travels and how she finally ended up moving to London. This decision always pained her though. With no regrets of her life in the UK, how could she? It brought her me and my brother! But missing out on having her family in Australia round for those special moments is painful. Not having that physical closeness, the camaraderie that families feel for one another is unique. I cannot fathom being apart from my niece and three nephews. They are so deeply engrained in my heart now that there's no going back, or going away. 

So which desire do we listen to? Which emotion is stronger? The compulsion to explore new ground, develop one's experiences by moving somewhere afar or sticking around for the joys and eccentricities of your family? I don't think there is a one size fits all answer to that. With Skype and Viber, Facebook and text messages suddenly Australia and Botswana aren't so far away. Moving somewhere is less of a big decision than a tattoo, in one sense, because you can always move back. But I know the downsides of living without your blood. I've seen the hurt that comes from missing people when you need them. There is also the risk that if you leave for too long you forget how to be with one another. Something my brother and I experienced when he returned from Australia. At our ages we are still forming as people, learning about ourselves and the world around us let alone each other. The photographs below are from a special day that we spent from first thing to the early ours of the next thoroughly enjoying each other's company just as siblings should but so often find terribly difficult. This day was particularly special because until then we had been finding it difficult to reconnect as siblings upon his return.

The truth is nothing is forever, and families change. My sister's has changed every two years for the last five as she was repeatedly pregnant, with a girl, then a boy, and then twins. The dynamic of my immediate family members changed last year when my parents broke up. That sort of change has cosmic ripple effects that reach those you didn't expect to be affected let alone those closest. Perhaps with that realisation it is okay to make decisions that benefit your lifestyle and work towards your personal goals and ambitions. After all there is no such thing as normal when it comes to families. Everyone has their quirks, their problems, their blessings and their woes. And ultimately those things are constantly subject to change. The quirks change from your parents unique dynamic to your nephews announcement of who his best friend is (it's my mum by the way, not me). The problems change from your child not doing well at school to coping with a divorce. The blessings change from your daughter coming out of her depressive teenage years to your grandson being healthy and happy. The woes change from worrying whether you will find your feet after university to whether your brother will go at all. Nothing is a certain, so best live life to the fullest in the way that you see fit. All the while, loving, embracing, communicating with and appreciating that not so perfect but pretty damn fabulous group of peculiar people that you call your family.

This entry was posted on Saturday, 30 August 2014 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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