How my parents and I keep our relationship strong despite seven years of long-distance

A familial bond that transcends 7000 miles

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Jason Ono is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

When I tell people that I attended boarding school for seven years, they often react with pity because I’ve spent so little time with my parents growing up. 

Most of the time you spend with your parents is indeed during your childhood. By the time you leave home for college, you’ve already used up 93 percent of the in-person time you have with your parents. Since I had left home long before then, it’s undeniable that I’ve spent much less time with my parents than what is considered normal. 

And yet, I strongly disagree that my situation is something that should be pitied. I don’t think that my bond with my parents is any weaker than others my age — my parents and I make an active effort to keep in touch with each other through texts and phone calls, and we make the most of the time we have when we are physically with each other.

When I first decided that I would enroll in boarding school, I was 12 and lived in Japan. My parents let me choose this path on my own. Thus, I made the decision mostly out of excitement — I had unexpectedly passed the admission exam which I had presumed was too competitive for me. Little did I understand that the gravity of this choice would elicit significant changes.

Naturally, living away from home was difficult in the beginning. Since the school I attended was located near my home, I went home almost every other weekend. As time passed, however, I became more and more independent. I earned leadership positions in dormitories and in student organizations, returned home less often so I could spend more time with my friends and eventually left the country for high school. 

The relationship dynamic between me and my parents gradually changed over time — especially after I left for the States. Because I took the initiative to study abroad and my parents weren’t familiar with the American education system, they had no choice but to be laissez-faire about my education. Moreover, I spent even less time at home. All of this forced the relationship between me and my parents to become more mature.

This maturity is most evident in the fact that I miss my parents now for a different reason than before. When I was still getting used to the boarding school life, I missed them because I associated them with things like my home, old memories and my hometown. Today, I miss my family because I enjoy their company. I enjoy hearing what’s going on in their lives, and they are also excited to listen to my updates about my life at the University.

Back when I used to live with my parents, there was seemingly no limit to the time I could share with them, and I feel as though I didn’t fully appreciate the value of the interactions I had with them. Now that both my parents and I are aware of the value and finite amount of time we can spend together per year, we actively make an effort to maximize our time when we are together.

As you might have noticed, what I’m describing here is nothing special. Every college student eventually experiences a shift of dynamics with their family as they spend increasing amounts of time away from home — I just happen to have experienced this a little earlier. And since this has allowed me to have more meaningful interactions with my parents, maybe I should even consider myself lucky.

Nonetheless, I do think that scheduling intentional time with your family is extremely crucial to maintaining a good relationship. Personally, I try to periodically return home — usually for every long break — so that I can have in-person time with my family. 

I also try to help plan family vacations every once in a while. It doesn’t matter where we go, but having a chunk of time together as a family for purely recreational purposes allows us to be honest with each other in ways that we might usually not. 

What inspired me to write about this topic was actually something my father had told me on a recent trip to New York City. He relayed how confident he feels about our bond despite the short amount of time we spent together, and I was surprised by how similarly I felt.

Even though we might only see each other on my breaks, I’m proud of how my parents and I have grown together — we’ve maintained our strong bond for a long time. And I’m immensely thankful for the unrelenting support they have given me since the day I left home seven years ago. They might live 7000 miles away from Charlottesville, but regardless, I’m confident that I will always stay in close touch with them, no matter where I go on the globe.

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