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As women, we meet friends in various life situations. We have our childhood friends, school friends, neighborhood friends, Temple or Synagogue friends, our summer friends…and others. Some people even have their “vacation” friends – the ones they go on vacation with.
I have my writing – or “blogging”- friends. These are writers/bloggers who I’ve met on the blogosphere. We write comments on each others’ blogs and send each other emails expressing opinions and feedback.
Recently, I met a woman in Blogland, Rivki Silver whose blog, Life in the Married Lane, I discovered and took a liking to. And even though she is young enough to be my DAUGHTER (please don’t laugh – it’s okay to be friends with someone younger than us, right?), I found that we have a lot in common. Passion for music, relationships, writing, children, Judaism and family values.
Anyway, I started off by responding to her blog posts (even though they were about raising three little kids under the age of 5 – closer to my grandchildren’s ages). Next, I wrote her an email asking her if she knew my relatives in Baltimore (that’s where she is from). Nothing like a bit of Jewish Geography to get a relationship going, right?
Well to make a long story short, I guest posted on Rivki’s blog several weeks ago, which was a big thrill for me. So following that, I asked Rivki to contribute to my blog as well. Below you will see her practical insights and creative ways to keep up with grandparents who (sadly) live far away. It’s all about staying in touch. Being close in spite of the miles between grandparents, mothers-in-law…mothers and grandchildren. It’s all about Quality Time from a distance….with Bubby or Zeidy (that’s Grandma or Grandpa!).
Enjoy! And feel free to write a comment – Rivki (and I) would love to hear from you. And don’t forget to stop by her website and check out her awesome and compelling (and funny!) writing.
When Grandparents Live Far Away
By Rivki Silver
“How do you manage without family nearby?” This is a question I hear somewhat frequently, usually around holidays or after having a baby. I’m one of the many people who live far from parents and in-laws. Distance has taught me how to manage without the aid of close family (good friends are a necessity!), but I haven’t entirely adjusted to the reality that my children only see their grandparents a few times a year.
I grew up in a similar situation. We lived in the heart of the midwest, my mother’s side was up in Wisconsin, and my father’s on the East Coast. We would visit our grandparents a few times a year, and while I have clear memories of spending time with both sides, it wasn’t like I was close enough to call up my grandmother to shmooze. And I regret that.
My husband had the benefit of living in the same city with his maternal grandparents, and had a very close and warm relationship with them. As for his paternal grandmother, she stayed in the old country. He did talk to her on the phone a few times a year, but still, he frequently mentioned that he felt bad for her. She didn’t seen her grandchildren in over twenty years, or her great-grandchildren ever, except in photos.
So, with our experiences as such, we are doing our best to ensure that our children have the closest relationship with their grandparents as they can, and, of course, try to make sure that the grandparents get as much nachas (joyful pride) from the grandkids as they can!
We are fortunate that my parents are able to travel to us many times during the year, and are able to stay for more than a week at a time (my dad more so than my mom, as he is retired and she is not). We are also fortunate that we are able to visit my mother-in-law about twice a year.
For the times when we remain far apart, there are a variety of options for keeping in touch. We are fortunate to live in an age where technology can kind of shrink the feeling of distance. Admittedly, I could be a whole lot better at doing a lot of these things. I’m glad I’m writing this post because it’s giving me some incentive to be more connected!
Email. Ever since I got a smartphone, it has been ridiculously easy to snap a photo of the kids being cute and send it in an email. This is a popular thing among the grandparents. I used to send a weekly email in which I would share cute antics of the kids. It was easy enough to start an email draft and add a little bit each day, sending it off at the end of the week. An additional benefit of that is that I would actually have a record of what my kids were up to, since I seem to forget so quickly who did what when.
Skype. My boys love playing with my computer (though I do try to minimize it because I don’t particularly enjoy it), and so the combination of Bubby AND the computer is a real cause for excitement. Even though the audio and/or video can be spotty, the boys love to see their grandparents on the screen, even if no one is saying (or hearing) much of anything. It’s entertaining to see my boys holding up various toys to show to my parents or my mother-in-law, and while I often have to serve as a translator, everyone has a good time.
Phone. I call my parents and my mother-in-law regularly, and when the kids are around, I will put the phone on speaker and then everyone can talk. I like to do it on speaker so I can help facilitate actual conversation. Well, as much conversation as you can get with an almost-three-year-old. Seeing the way my kids’ eyes light up when they hear a grandparent on the phone (even the baby gets excited!) is very touching.
Pictures. When I’m able to, I order actual pictures and mail them off. After both of my husband’s maternal grandparents passed away, we went through all our pictures and sent my mother-in-law a book of pictures we had of her parents with our kids. I know someone who would send a photo book to each set of grandparents every Chanukah. I would love to be that organized. It’s something to aspire to, for certain!
Stories. We do try to talk about the grandparents a lot to the kids. With bedtime stories, or if we’re reading a book and there’s some way to integrate a cameo from a relative, we go for it. Of course, when we are going to visit, or when someone’s coming for a visit, we talk about it for weeks and weeks beforehand. We definitely try to build a lot of excitement about getting to spend time together. Another sweet thing we do is to go through a list of all the relatives we love, listing everyone by name.
Projects. Making welcome signs for a visiting grandparent has become a tradition of sorts. My oldest will even write “Welcome So-and-So” by himself now, which thrills whoever is visiting. There’s some nachas! Sometimes I will have the kids draw pictures and mail them off. I used to send over the school projects that I wasn’t planning to keep to my parents or my mother-in-law, which is win-win because they can enjoy them and I won’t feel guilty about throwing said projects away.
That’s pretty much it. It’s not the same as being able to get in a car and be at Grandma’s five minutes later, but it is the best we can do. I am definitely agitating for at least one side to move here, but as of now I have not been successful. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on that quest! Having grandparents in town would be wonderful. I am very interested in hearing other ways of keeping in touch, or of really integrating far-away relatives into our children’s lives, so please tell me how you do it!
Tags: email to grandparents, grandparents relationships, long distance relationships, phone calls to grandma, skyping to grandparents