Dear Annie: My slightly older brother and his spouse (in their mid-30s) are moving to Texas from California with their three toddler-aged children for no other reason than politics — politics to which no one else in the family subscribes.
I am unmarried and childless and have loved being “Auntie” from the moment these kids debuted. Actually, I moved back across the country after graduate school because I wanted to be a regular in their lives and not a “twice a year” relative. My parents are retiring within the year and were looking forward to being highly involved grandparents. My parents, my brother and I all live within 20 minutes of one another, and this move will bring our family life as we know it to an end. FaceTime is not a substitute for weekly hugs. Neither I nor my folks will be moving to join them as they hoped we would.
It wasn’t up for discussion. The news was sprung on us suddenly and is in its final stage, and we never had the chance to say how having them live so close by has been an irreplaceable blessing. When they announced it, all I could muster to say was that I had no idea they were so unhappy here. I think I was too diplomatic in our initial conversation and responded by admitting that they needed to do what they believed was best for their family.
Our dilemma now is that if we tell them how much their close proximity means to us, they might stay and forever blame us for their unhappiness. Or, if we express our hurt, they may use this as a reason to not only leave but cut us out for good.
How do we let them go and move forward with our lives while also communicating that their decision is truly devastating for those they are choosing to leave? If they stayed, we would have an established family of four living, loving generations in one place. I do not believe moving to Texas, where they know no one, will make them happy. I am willing to admit that I might be wrong. — California Brood
Dear California Brood: Tell your brother how you feel — not as an ultimatum, but in the spirit of honesty and vulnerability. Don’t tell him what he should do; just tell him how you feel, and leave the decision up to him. Be sure to let him know that you will support whatever he decides.
It sounds like your family comes first, and that is a beautiful and commendable thing. But not everyone has the same priorities. Perhaps your brother needs to spread his wings and leave the comfort of his hometown. Or perhaps his priority is his own family rather than the preferences of you and your parents.
Part of being a family is supporting one another’s goals, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. Besides, 1,500 miles has nothing on a strong family bond.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]