Family & Friends

My Only Son Moved to California – I was Not Thrilled

When my only son moved to California, I was not thrilled. One of the reasons my ex 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.

It’s worked out this way for many of my friends. For instance, my pal Lynn. Both of her adult kids settled here. Lucky Lynn sees her grandchildren every day!

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

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?

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.

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.

Rosalind Warren (aka Roz)

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  • Anndee Hochman

    I was the kid who moved to the other coast. My mother’s comment: If you went any further, you’d be in the ocean! A decade later, I surprised everyone by moving back. Now that I’m a mom myself, I can feel the tug on both sides. Thanks for a resonant piece!

  • Rena McDaniel

    I don’t know those grand children have a power that their parents didn’t even have. I have it both ways. My son has lived in different areas since he was 18 and joined the Marines. Then five years later he got out and returned to our hometown, but the husband and I had since moved to SC. My daughter and her husband followed us down and live about 10 minutes away. I have four grandchildren. Two by my son who lives in KY. He recently got divorced and its been hard to get to see them. My daughter had twins and I get to see them a couple times a week and over night on Fridays, I love the Bay area and keep trying to get back out there. Every time I plan a trip something comes up and I have to cancel.

  • Carol Cassara

    Gone are the days when the extended family stayed in the ‘hood. It sounds like you’ve got a good thing going!

  • peppylady (Dora)

    Had to read your post. Both of son left there home town, and I thought they would of because of economic reason. But quite of bit of the time I think how I miss them both.
    Although one is only 100 miles away but it seem like something always comes up that I don’t get the opportunity to visit like I want to.
    Right now it due to car trouble.

    My other son is about seven hundred miles away in southern Ore by the California line. I would like to increase my visit with him and his wife.

    Coffee is on

  • Rena McDaniel

    I am so thankful that my daughter stayed close to me, even when we made the move to SC. Now its time to start making the grand kids needy so they wont leave either!

  • Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski

    So glad it all worked out for you and your son. I live in Southern California so I’m partial to it and Northern California is gorgeous. Enjoy your bi-coastal life. It sounds fun.

  • Cathy Sikorski

    I feel your pain. My oldest daughter lives in Ireland with her husband and my baby lives in NYC. And they too went to a school in PA where my mom and I both went! But a different perspective like yours puts joy in those visits to interesting places…and we share that with our kids. How great is that?

  • Suzanne Fluhr

    One of ours lives 4 miles away. The other is a digital nomad, currently in Budapest, after stints this year living in Mexico City, Bangkok, and Madrid. I talk to him more often than to the son in Philly. Go figure.

    • Roz Warren

      I spend a lot more time time Tom and Amy now that they live in California than I did when they lived in Baltimore. (And the Bay area is a lot more fun to spend time in than Baltimore.)

  • Tam Warner Minton

    My son went to college in California, married a California girl, swore he would never come back to Texas….and they live in Austin. Go figure!

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