As the weeks wind down and my second son’s birth looms ever nearer, I thought it was fitting to share this image from my family archives. It’s of me as a newborn in the hospital, with both my grandmothers. I’ve written about one of them so far (Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), but both were a big part of my life while I was growing up.
This photo is meaningful for me even though I don’t remember that moment. I see my grandmothers as I remember them in childhood — loving, caring, warm and comforting.
I remember the soft texture of my paternal grandmother’s hands, the silky smooth wrinkled fingers that floated over piano keys. I recall the vibrant smiles that both grandmothers frequently flashed — a conveyance of their inner joy.
I wasn’t the first grandchild for either of my grandmothers. But still I was loved. They were proud of all their grandchildren, eager to hear our stories and listen to our childlike chatter.
Both teachers, my grandmothers instructed me when I was older — one piano, the other English.
My paternal grandmother’s favorite hymn was “The Old Rugged Cross.”
My maternal grandmother’s favorite book was “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
It’s interesting what things you recall when looking at a simple snapshot.
How the memories flow, disjointed at times, but all the while bringing back fond memories that make the distance of time seem less far.
The Importance of Close-Knit Family
We were, and still are, blessed to have most of our family nearby. And by that, I mean within 10 minutes by car. Both sets of my grandparents lived 10 minutes away from my childhood home.
And now that I’m married with kid(s), we are likewise blessed to have both sets of parents within 10 minutes of our house. And then when you add in aunts, uncles, and cousins, the map of nearby relatives gets ever more crowded.
But crowded in a good way.
Family is important to us; my husband and I were very intentional in settling down near family. We didn’t want our future children to grow up not knowing their extended family. And I can say that so far, we’ve managed to fulfill that desire for family bonding.
Our son knows the street names where his grandparents live, he talks about his cousins all the time, and loves to call on the phone to “invite” family members over to play with him.
We are a close-knit family.
Long Distance Grandparenting
One of my nieces, though, lives multiple states away. I haven’t met her yet, even though she is almost a year old. My parents are long-distance grandparents to their second grandchild.
It’s tough being distant when you want to be close.
I often hear a tinge of sorrow in my mom’s voice when she talks, excitedly, about her granddaughter — my niece.
Thankfully, technology has helped somewhat with long distance grandparenting. There are video conferencing options like skype and facetime. Facebook allows distant family members to keep up to date with the daily antics of little ones as they grow.
Tips for Long Distance Grandparenting
- Video Chat – use video calls to chat with your grandkids. You could even set a weekly phone date!
- Send postcards – kids of all ages love to get real, old-fashioned mail. My toddler is thrilled to receive simple postcards when his grandparents are on vacation.
- Compile care packages – even if the goodies aren’t all that fancy, kids love to get packages. You could probably acquire some finds at the dollar store for younger kids. You could do care packages seasonally, or make themed holiday care packages!
- Share photos – even a toddler can recognize their grandparents in photos. Send them pictures of you so that your grandkids can talk about what you’re doing and “relate” to you. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to send cell phone pictures or prints.
- Visit ….but respect boundaries – it’s important to respect your child’s wishes, so make sure to ask and approve any trips before planning an impromptu vacation to visit your grandkids.
- Celebrate birthdays – even if you can’t be there in person, you can always send a card (or if you’re more ambitious, a present). Again, back to the whole “kids love getting stuff in the mail” thing.
- Make audiotapes – read your favorite stories aloud so that your grandchildren can listen to the recordings whenever they need grandma or grandpa time.
And this next tip is for parents. Talk about distant relatives with your children! Repetition and visual references will help your children to be familiar with their long distance grandparents, great-grandparents, or other far-off relatives. Even though my grandfather (memories of painting with Grandpa) lives a plane flight away, our son knows his great-grandfather, and recognizes him through photos, and fondly remembers the activities they did together two Christmases ago.
Resources on Long Distance Grandparenting
Here are some resources for those faced with long distance grandparenting. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.
- Long Distance ‘Date’ with Grandma
- 20 Activities for Grandparents to do with their Grandchildren
- Long-Distance Grandparents: How to be Close to Your Grandchildren When You Live Far Away
- 10 Creative Ideas for Long-Distance Grandparents
- Over The River & Through The Woods: Long Distance Grandparenting
- 10 tips for long-distance grandparenting
How Do You Cultivate Closeness?
What tips do you have for those with relatives who live out of state? Are there ways you’ve managed to encourage close relationships between your immediate family and your far-off family?