My parents live a good ten hours a way and it is hard on my family at times. They aren’t at every birthday party, they aren’t at all the ballet recitals, and they miss a lot of school activities. I don’t have them here to call when a nasty bug is brewing and my husband is away for business. I can’t call on them when the sitter has just canceled on us, and I can’t count on a free night out with my husband when we are way overdue for some alone time! My children get very sad at times and ask why their grandparents live so far away. Sometimes I want to throw my hands in the air and say, “Ask them!” But I can’t do that!
What makes the situation harder for me is that my parents chose to move away. Partially to be closer to my mother’s parents in their older years, partially to escape the harsh New England winters, and partially for a change of pace. These are all reasons I completely understand, but it doesn’t make my heart hurt any less that they are so far away. I’ve just accepted this is my reality and it’s not going to change.
Learning to adjust to long-distance grandparents hasn’t been easy, but we make it work. I will say, it takes great effort on both ends! Below are some things that I have found works to ease the pain of them being gone from my children.
Wow! Technology make keeping in touch easy! My daughters FaceTime with my parents (they are currently talking to them as I write this) just about every other day. Sometimes it’s a two-minute conversation because no one feels like talking, but other times it is a more detailed discussion. We are also able to send pictures in a snap and videos on the fly. This keeps my parents in the loop with all their activities and accomplishments. Social media is also a great way to keep grandparents (or other family members) in the loop.
My mother coined the term “Grammy Package” for her six grandchildren (who all live in Connecticut). Every so often (and most definitely on special occasions) she will send all the children a package. Sometimes it’s something silly and of little value, (which are honestly the best) and other times it is more significant gifts for birthdays or little holidays. These “Grammy Packages” just let my daughters know their grandparents are thinking of them. We try to mail letters with schoolwork, art projects and pictures to them. My daughters also make homemade cards as frequently as we can!
It is important to make sure visits are planned ahead of time. Look at the calendar and map out trips that don’t allow for too much time in between. We tend to see my parents more frequently in the summer, so we strategize to space out the other visits during the rest of the year. One year we saw my father in July and then not again until Christmas. He vowed to never let that happen again because it was too hard on him (and my girls).
My sister lives an hour north of me, so when my parents come they split their time with her. My sister and I try to “bundle” activities and events for them to maximize their visit. For example, we are having a joint family party for my youngest daughter and my niece because their birthdays are a month apart. Who doesn’t love an extra celebration? We also suggest they come when any of the grandchildren have events (a baseball game, pre-school opportunity to read to the class, basketball practice, or a gymnastics showcase) close to one another.
Visits That Count
The trips come and go so fast, so it is important to have visits that count! Are we optimizing our time with Grammy and Pop Pop? I will say, with this comes a lot of pressure to make things perfect. However, if my sister and I plan ahead, we make the whole time they are here more smooth and exciting. We talk about what works best for each of us and our families, and then take turns with my parents. We also try to find a time so that they can be with all six grandchildren at least once or twice over their visit (great photo ops)!
Being open and honest
Finally, I find it is really important to speak up and say how you feel. I have told my parents a number of times that moving away really hurt me. It is not going to change the situation but it makes me feel better to get it off my chest! At the end of the day, communication is key to surviving the long-distance grandparents situation!