Six years ago, when my first granddaughter was born 1700km (1056 miles) away, I found it quite distressing not being able to see her until I went on holidays a few weeks later as I was working part-time at that stage. One of my colleagues, who was a grandmother herself and had grandchildren living in other cities, gave me a book by Janet Colsher Teitsort called ' Long-Distance Grandma: How to Stay Connected with Grandkids Far Away'. I have the 1998 edition but I just noticed that there is a more recent edition available.
On the back cover it says: Once upon a time, Grandma's house was just over the river and through the woods. But in today's mobile society, there may be several rivers to cross and woods to go through before arriving at Grandma and Grandpa's. Grandchildren and grandparents may even have to fly the friendly skies in order to visit one another. How very true that is in my case and that of many other grandparents I dare say!
In the introduction the author expresses how upset she felt when her daughter's family moved interstate and how she had had to come to terms with and accept the situation. She then put plans in place to keep in contact with her grandchildren so that she and her husband remained a very important part of their life. She decided to do fun things with the children each month of the year using the various holidays that are celebrated in the US as her theme.
So in January, which she writes is a time of new beginnings, she suggested taking photos of the grandparent's home as well as them going through their daily routine for the children to get a feel of what Grandma and Grandpa's house looks like if they haven't seen it before. Perhaps include the photos in a calendar for them as well. She would often send recipes for meals to suit the season. Another idea was to send jigsaw puzzles to each family of grandchildren if there was more than one and she included a packet of popcorn for each family to pop and eat when they were doing the jigsaw. These days the families could Skype each other at the same time which would be fun.
As I worked in a library and handled lots of children's books I had the advantage of checking out suitable books for the girls and since they were babies they have been receiving them in the mail from Nanna. My six year old granddaughter will now be going into Year One this year being able to read really well.
Being straight-line challenged I successfully made the girls a Rag Quilt each...
...as the edges are frayed so the crooked seams aren't noticed....hopefully :-) Another one is in the pipeline for Isaiah James.
When I am visiting I try to record activities we have done together and it is always interesting for them to look at the photos on my camera which have been taken over the years. They get a real kick out of that. Of course, I also have the photos saved onto the computer or a USB....just in case!
Another little tradition is sending up a box full of goodies via the Greyhound coach for their birthdays. When sales are on I will often pick up a little something for them and put it aside until their birthdays are approaching then everything is boxed up and sent and I think the lady working in the Greyhound office also enjoys the occasion as well when Mum and Dad take the girls in to pick it up.
As my youngest granddaughter loves all wildlife known to man, I wrote a little story for her when she turned four which you can read here. I had taken the photo of the butterfly during a recent visit prior to her birthday so used it in the story. She couldn't understand why the story said the butterfly was on her bedroom window when it was actually on the window at church so her mum had some explaining to do about the difference between fact and fiction :-)
Well, there are a few ideas about how I try to relate to my grandchildren while living so far away. For any nannas out there who are sad because they rarely see their granddaughters or grandsons, try and think of some creative ways that you can strengthen your relationship with them especially when they are little. That will lift your spirit and help you to cope with the situation. Of course, some grandparents don't have access to their grandchildren but that is a whole different story and a very distressing situation.
I imagine that Skype is very much a part of the long distance relationship for many families but unfortunately a dodgy internet connection where my grandchildren live doesn't make that possible. So do share how you keep in contact with your grandchildren if you are in the same situation. I am sure I am not the only long-distance grandma :-)