My Only Child Moved Far Away: What Do I Do Now?

When Tom, my only child, moved to California, I was not thrilled. One of the reasons my former husband and I settled in the Philadelphia area was that so many people who were raised here, stay here.

I know people whose kids go to the same elementary school they did. Some even had a few of the same teachers.

Because I love it here,  I assumed that when Tom grew up, he’d stick around. When he married a local girl, this seemed even more likely.

But Tom had other ideas.  After graduating from Johns Hopkins, he and Amy left Baltimore to pursue their California dream.

What should a parent do when an only child moves far from home?

You can’t blame them for leaving Baltimore. When he lived there I worried about them every day.

“Your son lives in Charm City?“ people would ask. “Have you watched The Wire?”

“Are you kidding me?” I’d reply. “I’ll watch it after he moves. Maybe.”

Safety issues aside, my son is a computer genius, so there was little for him, career-wise, in the Baltimore area. “So what’s wrong with Boston’s Route 128?” I asked.

For Tom and Amy? Everything, apparently. California called.

I’ve always prided myself on raising a son who was strong and independent.  And this was the result.Maybe I should have encouraged him to be a little needier? To want to stay closer to mom?

[More on what moms want their grown sons to know here.]

I don’t think so. I have friends whose kids finished college and moved right back home. They’re still living in their childhood bedrooms, trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

I’m proud of the fact that, at 27, my son is happily married and thriving.

Still, the move to California made me a little blue. My kid now lived about as far away from his mother as he could and still stay on the continental US. It could be worse, I told myself. I had friends whose grown kids lived in Paris. Australia. Israel.

Still? To quote Luke Skywalker, I had a bad feeling about this.

Three years later?  I‘m singing a different tune.

When Tom relocated, I joked that he left me no choice but to squander his inheritance on flying out to visit as often as I could.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Visit whenever you want. You’re always welcome.”

I took him up on it. And learned that Tom was right. California is a really cool place. It’s great to see your kid happy and doing well. Tom belongs there. I realized that I needed to adjust to that. And I have.

And I’m loving it! I visit all the time and I’m really starting to know my way around. Muir Woods. Mill Valley. Golden Gate Park. Indy bookstores. Friendly people. Great weather. Terrific food. No pollution. The ocean!

It’s paradise, all right. I’ve grown to share my son and daughter-in-law’s  love of the Bay area. And I love being able to jet off to California during the bleakest months of the year. Tom and Amy are always glad when I turn up and I always feel loved and taken care of. It’s great to be welcomed into my son’s life and see him thrive.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m well on my way to becoming bi-coastal.

You don’t have kids so that your life won’t change. Just the opposite. Having a kid opens your heart — and your life — right up. And if you’re lucky, that never really stops.

[More on the parenting lessons you learn once your kids leave home here.]

I was blue when my son moved to California. Now I’m thankful.

And when the grandkids come? Tom thinks that when that happens I’ll move to California myself. I think that I love my Philly life too much to ever relocate. But, as I’ve learned, a mom’s life is full of surprises.

I look forward to seeing what happens next.


8 Best of the Empty Nest 

Knowing My Sons a Little Less

rozbrockRoz Warren  is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection Of Library Humor She can be found on Facebook and Twitter. This essay first appeared on Zestnow.

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