Grandparenting Across the Miles

Over the highway and through the traffic, to Grandmother’s condo we

Sure, it’s a slight variation on the traditional song, but one
that fits the status of many grandparents today. We watch as our children grow
up, marry, move, have children of their own and perhaps move again. Grandsons
and granddaughters may not be down the road or around the corner as we might
wish they were.

Grandparents, too, change locations. Some sell the family home and move into
a townhouse or tour the country in an RV, or settle down in a little cottage by
a lake far from the city. If a grandparent and grandchild want to remain
connected, they have to find creative ways to carry on their relationship across
the miles. It’s a bit more challenging than if they lived in the same city or
neighborhood, but it can be done, and it can be done successfully, as many
grandparents can attest.

My mother and father, for example, lived apart from my three children (their
first grandchildren) from the time my son and daughters were born. But they
didn’t let that stop them from maintaining a close relationship. They wrote
regularly, phoned often, sent unexpected treats, and sometimes met us half-way
between our house and theirs for a few days of vacation together.

My children have lasting memories of their grandparents surrounding them with
love and passing on a sense of heritage they will never forget. And my parents
were great role models for me — now that I have grandchildren of my own.

Whether you are a new grandparent or a veteran, you may want to consider some
of the following activities as you build your long-distance relationship with
your grandsons and granddaughters.

Be a phone pal. Instead of calling your adult children and then asking
to speak to the grandchildren, call the kids first! They will love it. Be ready
to ask questions about their friends, interests, school and sports. Take notes
so you’ll know what to talk about on a follow-up call.

Go digital. We no longer have to wait for our photos to be developed,
make copies and then send them through the mail. Nowadays, we can share photos
as a digital file over the Internet. The kids will ‘see’ you almost immediately.
They can do the same in return. You can also record messages and footage with a
video camera or compile a memory album of special photos.

Send a ‘love package.’ Everyone enjoys a surprise gift, and no one
more than children. Watch for sales and stock up ahead on small items that you
can mail for reasonable postage. I’ve packed chewing gum, creative stickers,
flower seeds, coloring books, valentine cards, Easter candy, puzzles and so on.
A card with a couple of dollars tucked inside is also a favorite with boys and
girls of all ages. No matter what it contains, a ‘love package’ is a terrific
way to say, "I’m thinking of you, miss you and love you."

Be an instant ‘messager.’ Modern kids are into IM (Instant Messaging).
No child or teen can ignore an IM — especially if it’s from Grandma or Grandpa.
Thank heaven for the Internet. You can send an e-mail to chat with your
grandchildren, regardless of the time zone. Grandparents whose grandchildren
live in a foreign country find this to be one of the best ‘connection’ tools
available. Through e-mail you can play games, share books, talk about the latest
movies, discuss topics of mutual interest and give and take tips about a hobby
you may share.

My 11-year-old grandson Jake for example, is an amateur gardener and chef. He
wrote to tell me that he had earned $125 from his door-to-door chocolate chip
cookie business. And he grew a watermelon that was so big is could have won a
prize. What fun it was to hear about these adventures — in "real time."

My 13-year-old granddaughter Johannah is a Shakespeare buff. She’s been to
two Shakespeare camps and has been in several of the old bard’s plays. She’s
also writing a teenage novel with a friend. She knows of my interest in theatre
and writing, so we have a lot to ‘talk’ about when we chat via e-mail.

If you don’t have a computer, I recommend you make this purchase a priority.
Today’s children are growing up with the Internet. If we want to remain a vital
part of their world, we need to ‘get with the program,’ as the saying goes.

Grandparenting across the miles takes a little more effort and ingenuity than
being there in person, but it’s worth whatever it takes. You and your
grandchildren will be the richer for it.