Thursday, October 4, 2012

Granny's Corner: Long Distance Connections

          When my last child (#6) left the nest, I already had several grandchildren. My experience balancing the last few years of high school for my sons and those little babies was a strange dichotomy, requiring a shift in gears from parent to grandparent. At this point you may say, what's the difference? Anyone who is a grandparent knows what I'm talking about. 

       Each time I've been called upon to babysit, I'm always amazed how forgetful my children are. Although I raised them, all six of them, somehow, either due to my menopausal fog, shift in the universe or just plain ignorance, they think I haven't a clue about what to do when a baby cries. Funny, how that doesn't change when the children get older, as the parent painstakingly explains how to take care of their child. 

      My goal as a mother-in-law, grandparent and mother is to offer advice only when it's requested and even then, deliver it sparingly. This is their time to learn about themselves as parents and spouses and the last thing they need is an overbearing parent/in-law. They'll make mistakes (I did) and sometimes it's better that way. (Not to mention the may-you-have-a-child-just-like-you redemption.)

    I've been at this for ten years and I think I have some knowledge to impart, humor to share and ideas for making those connections with your grandchildren lasting. 

   One of the challenges that today's grandparents face is  distance. The good news is there are great tools we can utilize to stay in touch. Here's a list of ways I'm trying to stay in touch.

1. Snail Mail- Children still love getting mail, cards, letters, gifts, anything that arrives magically at their door or delivered by the people in blue,brown or purple.
           Postcards- These are cheap and easy to find and kids love pictures, you can even make your own postcards on the computer, if you're tech saavy.
           Photos-Thirteen cents for a 4x6 photo (Costco) is darn good and kids love photos.
           Letters- Old fashioned letters are almost a lost art. I once had a grandmother that would write picture story letters where certain words were represented as a simple drawing. Another fun thing is to write in code so the grandchild has to decifer the code to see what you said.

2. Email- Many children and teens have their own computers now and email accounts. The thing about email is it's quick and you can carry on a conversation, daily or weekly. (I hope you're picking up the necessity for you to learn to use a computer. Nothing's better than a tech, saavy granny!) Try this: Start a story and take turns writing it over the internet. I've even done that over the phone together, when it's finished I send it to them.

3. Chat- There are multiple companies that offer chat over the internet, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, etc. Take advantage of these free ways to communicate, even a quick,"Hey, how are you?" or "What's up?" keeps the line of communication open. 

4. Skype-This one is new for me. How cool is it that you can speak to someone miles away and see them in real time? Unbelievable. It's almost as good as being there. The challenge sometimes is timezone differences and setting up a time. Those that are successful with this seem to have regular times scheduled each week or every two weeks.

5. Text- I learned a while ago, and believe me I fought it, that the best way to get in touch with my kids is through text. At this point I really wish my parents and some of my siblings would get on board because this is instant. A quick,"Hi, I'm thinking about you, hope your having a great day." Goes a long way to let them know you care. None of my grandkids are old enough for phones but when they are you can bet they will be getting texts from their Grams. (Not when I'm driving!)

6. Facetime- This currently is an Apple only product, but those that have it say the realtime conversations are awesome. It requires a wireless connection. It won't work through the 3,4 or 5G internet access. 

With all of these suggestions it is important to stay focused on why you are doing it: To keep the line of communication open and let them know you are there for them. If your purpose to get kudos from their parents or consistent responses from your grandchildren than you're missing the point. Remember, they need us, we aren't children anymore, it's important to remember that. I don't know how many parents and grandparents I've heard say, "Well, they never call me...why should I call them." That's just sad. 
Three of my grandsons!

Often these efforts to stay in touch get lost in the shuffle because we're hoping for that chunk of time to appear. It won't. Even a short howdy is better than nothing at all. Don't get hung up on always having a meaningful exchange. The important thing is to stay in touch which sends the message, I care about you and what your doing. Gifting that message is the best thing you can send a child.

How do you stay in touch with your grandchildren that are miles away?


  1. Such a great grandmotherly post and some great ideas for minimizing the distances between you and your grandkids.

  2. Good advice. I was waiting for that chunk of time to call my mom and sisters back after being gone for a while. Of course, it never appeared. I ended up with three shorter convesations which were good. I felt like we were still connected. The long talks will come another day. Good for you for learning the new technology. The kids will think you're cool and willing to be part of their world.


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