I anticipated with delight being a Grammie. After all, when your kids are all grown, moved out of the house, on their way, married, successful in their careers — what else is there to look forward to?
When I became a Grammie, I wanted to be the kind of Grammie that was involved in my granchildrens’ lives. Babysit at least once a week to give the parents a free date night. Take my grandchildren on little outings. Make and eat treats together. Create cute little projects. Go to their special events. Share secrets. Have sleepovers. You know– the memory making, good friend, always around, spoiler kind of Grammie.
Well, that was the plan—until reality set in. You see, my grandson lives hundreds of miles away, making it nearly impossible for me to do all the things I had intended. Instead of having my grandson in close proximity, I have been relegated to long distance Grammie status and it is a real drag. What I would give to have weekly play dates. Instead, I have had to get pretty creative to establish the kind of Grammie-hood I had always envisioned. Here are some of the things I’ve done in order to shrink the distance and strengthen my grandparent ties:
1. Embrace Technology. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to have not have regular communication with my grandson. Thank you technology. Even though Jack is only two and a half, my grandson knows that cell phones and computers are great tools to hear and see his Grammie. His mom is really good about calling me almost daily so that Jack can hear my voice. Sometimes I have been busy and they had to leave a message. I’ve kept those voicemails for when I need a quick pick me up or when he is being a two year old and refuses to talk to me. When I hear the, “Hi Grammie. I miss you,” my heart just melts.
Skype is another great use of technology. After all, their motto is, “Wherever you are, wherever they are-Skype keeps you together.” When Jack was younger, I don’t think he quite got the whole look at Grammie in the computer thing. But now that he is two and a half, he knows that it is me. We laugh and make faces and share toys and books. It is a pretty good substitute for being in person.
2. Utilize Snail Mail- I know it is old fashioned, but who doesn’t like getting mail? I send cards for all holidays (I’ve even been known to make up special occasions just so that I can send something fun) and little surprise gifts (stuff that costs more to mail than to buy or make). Just another way for my grandson to know that his Grammie is thinking of him.
3. Create visual ques. I’ve just started working on this one but it has great possibilities. A company called Heritage Makers provides great ideas for keeping family history alive. I made a deck of playing cards using our family pictures as the faces for the cards. He can use them for a matching game. In the future, I’m going to make a calendar with pictures of me and his Pop-Pop so that he will not only learn his months and days, but see us cheering him on as well. Another great template they have is for a family history picture book. It will provide Jack with a story of how his family came together.
4. Make Visits. Luckily, my husband is very supportive of this. He knows how important it is for me to keep connected and because he owns his own company, he has a hard time getting away. He is all for me taking a trip twice a year to visit. I subscribe to Southwest Airlines “Ding.” It alerts me on my cell phone whenever there is a special deal going north. JetBlue Airlines has a similar program on the internet. No matter what airline you fly, buying a ticket on the internet is always cheaper than over the phone. I do my best to get the least expensive ticket possible. After all, I want to have some cash left over to spoil my grandson once I get there.
5. Leave mementos. I always leave a souvenir of my visit so that after I’ve left, he has something tangible to remember me and the things we did together. A craft project or a game we played. Cookies that he can eat now and his mom can freeze for later. It is a great conversation starter for when I return home, ” How is the ….” He then will fill me in and we can talk about what we did. Just another way to build on those memories.
While being a Long Distance Grammie isn’t my first choice, I have still been able to come up with ways to stay connected with the most precious little guy I know: my grandson. Hopefully, some day, we will live closer. Until then, I will keep doing my best to be a real presence in his life.
Are you a long distance Grammie too? What do you do to stay involved in your grandchildren’s lives?
***For a view from the “other side of long distance grand-parenting,” please check out my daughter’s blog: the stationery place Being the mom of a long distance grandchild, she has a lot to say on this topic as well.