It was difficult to tell who wailed the loudest twelve years ago, as my hubby and I left our families to follow our wanderlust and seek a little adventure. My 3-month old cried because she hated being in her car seat and we had a 6 day drive ahead of us. I cried because I was a new parent with NO clue about babies or raising anything. Sure, I had mothered goldfish, Goldy the first, then Goldy the second, then … you get the idea. With a history of sending living things to a watery, flushable grave, things did not bode well us. I was moving to another country, leaving my family and my support network. My mom cried because she wondered what kind of relationship she and her new granddaughter could possibly have with such a wide distance between them. My parents worried the bond, if any, with their new grandchild would not be strong. They thought my oldest would never remember them and there would forever be a missing link; a vast gap; an abyss in their relationship with her (and subsequently her younger sister) because of the physical distance. The daughter guilt piled on top of the new mother guilt piled on top of the anxiety, piled on top of …
While not ideal, living far from the grandparents does not have to mark the end of any and all connection. With a little effort, the relationships my girls have with their grandparents are strong, healthy and viable, and my kids cherish every moment with my parents, look forward to being with them, and miss them when they are away. My parents have done a great job not letting distance create space.
These are my parents’ tips for bonding with their grandkids from a distance:
1. Allow grandparents to have their special “things” when they are together. Don’t worry so much about schedules, naps and … it pains me to say … nutrition.
2. Let them use their own pet names specific for each grandchild. Don’t insist on the name you like best.
3. Include the grandparents in all the daily activities when they visit – you may think it’s mundane but they LOVE this stuff.
4. When apart, consider sharing videos of everything and anything from the daily routine to the random silliness to the insanity and meltdowns – whatever they are doing – you cannot send enough and nothing you send would ever be construed as boring.
5. Use all the technology you have, Face Time is great especially for smaller kids that have trouble “talking” on the phone – they can see and interact, and grandparents can witness the growth and development firsthand.
We keep the grandparents in our daily conversations. We have our kids participate in choosing special cards and gifts. During visits, the grandparents and quality time are priority. In a nutshell, it’s important to suspend your control and allow the grandparents to take on some in their own way. I still think it’s important for the grandparents to set some boundaries so the kids don’t bulldoze them, but expect your parents to be much more lenient with their grandkids than they were with you, especially when they only see them once in a while. You may find the strictest of parents become the silliest of grandparents, which will amaze you and which the kids LOVE. What better way to form strong and lasting bonds whether near or far?
Karen posted this week on keeping the bond alive, even after death … now that is a long distance relationship.