Long Distance Grandparenting

Nearly every Monday morning at about 5am, I wake to the sound of my cell phone vibrating on my nightstand. I don’t really mind this early interruption to my slumber. My weekly “Morning, GaGa!” photo makes me smile every time. Sometimes, if I am really lucky, I even get a video!

If you know me, or have read some of my other posts, you know that our only granddaughter lives very far away. This makes it quite challenging for us to see her (or her Mama and Daddy) with any regularity. I will say that we are well acquainted, though, thanks to the use of technology. We Skype at least once a week and my phone is full of photos (nearly 2,000!) and videos of their daily activities.

I love the fact that we can experience their daily life from afar, and I feel that Fee knows us pretty well, something that would not have been possible twenty years ago, when our children were small. She takes our weekly visits in stride, greeting me enthusiastically when the screen pops up with a “Hi GaGa” and a smile, or hiding away in the corner under a blanket fort while I ask “Where is Fee?” She is a smart one, that one. When I ask her if she could give me a kiss or hug she replies, “I can’t – there is glass there!” referring to the computer screen that is between us. He first question is always “Where has Poppa gone?” and when he is here he will sneak up and surprise her, receiving a squeal and a giggle when she sees his face appear behind me.

This is not to say that it is easy. I long to hold her on my lap and tell her a story, or to tuck her in to bed at night and kiss her forehead. When I am out and about and see other grandparents doing things with their grandchildren I feel a pang of envy. I am sure they see me staring, and probably wonder what kind of a creepy individual I am.

When our children all began to move away their lack of proximity was tough at times, but it was manageable.  They have all been able to come home quite often, and we text each other almost daily. It has been exciting to visit each of them and get to know the cities that they now live in. It wasn’t until Fee was born that we truly realized how difficult the distance would be.

Our girls were very lucky.  Both sets of grandparents lived close by. They were always available for birthdays and Sunday dinners. They babysat whenever we needed them to, and even watched them for the day when they were sick so that we could both get to work. My mother-in-law loved those days. She would settle them into her own bed and serve them toast and chicken soup. Our parents were close to the girls and very involved in their lives.

When two our daughters came home a few weeks ago they paid a visit to their paternal grandmother. She took them upstairs to the apartment that she had lived in with their grandfather when they were both little girls. It was wonderful to hear them reminiscing about the times that they had spent there as children. Listening to them recalling these special memories made me think about my own impact on my grandchildren and what their memories will be.

In less than a month Jim and I will be grandparents to two little girls.  These last few weeks are almost as hard for me as they are for their parents.  I wish that I could drop by and give my daughter a break from chasing a two-year-old around so that she can rest. I want to be there to see our new granddaughter soon after she makes her appearance in the world. I wish I could see the expression on Fee’s face when she meets her new baby sister, and be available to reassure her of her place in the world when she feels displaced and out of sorts because she is no longer the center of the universe.

After Christmas we will take another trip to see them in their own home. It will be a long plane ride that I wouldn’t even consider again if it weren’t for the prize at the end of the journey. When we get there I will have to load up on enough kisses and cuddles to last me until the next time we visit. It will be hard to leave not knowing exactly when that visit will be.

In the meantime we will rely on technology to keep us familiar. I think I may have to upgrade the memory on my phone!

Granddaughter, little girl, toddler, hello, greeting, sundress
“Morning, GaGa!”
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Dear Fee

It’s been a little while since I left you a note here.  So much has happened since the last one….you visited again last Christmas and we had a wonderful time! It was my pleasure to ring in the New Year with you and your Mommy and Daddy (and I think your Poppa enjoyed it as well). We had such a lovely time with all of the family up here on the hill.  It was a bit crowded at times, but that just gave us all a chance to get to know each other a bit better, didn’t it?New Year's Eve, Baby, Celebrate, Grandma, Celebrate

You have become such a wonderful, spunky, funny little girl.  I really enjoy our weekly Skype dates, even though you are usually a bit too busy to chat for long.  It is nice to get to know you as you grow and change.  I really wish that you lived a little closer, but I guess these video visits will have to do for now.

Now I hear that your life is going to change in a BIG way! Word on the street tells me…

YOU ARE GONNA BE A BIG SISTER!Baby, sonogram, big sister

What a wonderful, terrible, fabulous thing for you, my girl! Soon you will be able to enjoy the company of a sibling who you can talk to, boss around, and connive with to make your Mommy and Daddy crazy. You will get to be the leader, the teacher, the one with “experience”. I know that you will thoroughly (well mostly) enjoy your new role in the family. I am sure that this change in status will possibly cause you a bit of consternation, but trust me – it will be worth it in the end!

I remember very clearly the night that I went to the hospital to have your Aunt Kelsey.  I worried so about the fact that your Mommy would be upset to lose her status as the only child. I was afraid that she would dislike her new sibling and be angry with Poppa and me. I really didn’t need to worry. She did love her sister – most of the time.  Sometimes she loved her a bit too HARD by squeezing her a little too tightly, and there was that one incident with the potted plant, but mostly I think she enjoyed her role as the first-born, and to tell you the truth I think she still does. When we added Aunt Kylie to the mix she REALLY got to be in charge, but I think it may be a bit early for your family to think about three, don’t you?

In the meantime, little one, you and your Mommy need to enjoy your last few months of ‘just we two’ when you are together. I hope you make the most of your Daddy and Daughter Mondays, as they may be harder to come by in a few months.  I know you may not always remember this time, but your Mommy and Daddy truly will. Soon your two-year old tantrums and antics that keep them up nights and exhaust them for days will seem like a walk in the park in comparison.  These early days with just three will be precious memories to you all, but honestly once your family starts to grow the real fun begins!

As for me, I want you to know that you will always be my special girl. After all, you are the one who named me GaGa, aren’t you? Thanks for helping me to experience the joy of being Gram. My friends told me before you were born how wonderful being a grandmother would be, but I didn’t truly know until I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes for the very first time. It was magic!

I can’t wait for you to tell your new little brother or sister about me. Only good things, OK? And maybe you can talk your parents in to bringing you both back over here to live so that I can spend more time with you and spoil you. Does that sound like a plan?

Finally, I have to tell you that your new baby will be the luckiest one of all because he or she will have YOU for a big sister!

I love you forever and always and guess what?  Now I get to come see you again in November. This is going to be fun!!

❤ GaGaFee and Gram

Dear Fee

Smiling baby in orange polka=dot skirt
Photo credit http://www.francescadb.com/

I am starting to get excited.

Do you want to know why? Exactly one month from today you are coming to see Poppa and me at our house here on the Hill!

You have already been here two times before, but this time I think it is going to be a little different. First of all…now that you are a bit older, I think that your Mama and Daddy will actually let you spend some time here with Poppa and I ALONE. (I think that by now an evening away probably sounds pretty good to them!)  That should be fun…and maybe a little bit scary (for me and Poppa :))  You see, we haven’t had a toddler around the house for a while. I am looking around the place every day now for trouble that you might get into.  Not on purpose, of course, but I am a bit of a worry-wart, so I want to make sure there is nothing around that can hurt you.

Also – we need to have some fun things for you to do here.  When we chat in the mornings you are very busy, so I know that we will need things to entertain you. I am hoping we can spend some time outside and use the pool that we bought you when you were here last summer. We will need to get a new ball and maybe a riding toy so that you can play out in the yard.  I am sure that Max and Moe will enjoy that, too – we will just have to keep them from popping the ball!

We want to take you to the park so that you can swim in the lake and maybe to Midway Park, where we can ride the train and the carousel.   Your Mama went there when she was little with her Grandparents. Of course we will go to the Parade up town on the 4th of July.  Village of Mayville Fourth of July FireworksIt will be fun to spend an American holiday with you (Don’t listen to your Daddy when he calls it “the day of Colonial aggression”, I know that he secretly enjoys it just as much as the rest of us!)  Maybe your parents will let you stay up late that night to watch the fireworks, too.  We will roast marshmallows out back and I am sure you will roll down the hill a time or two.

I have a pretty good feeling that right about now is when this grandparent/grandchild thing starts to get fun.  I am hoping that our morning Skype dates have made us familiar enough to you that you feel comfortable here.  I just can’t wait to hug and squeeze and tickle you. I am sure that this is just the beginning of many wonderful years of memories for us.Happy smiling baby in stroller

It’s going to be a long month of waiting…

See you soon!

Love and kisses,

Gram ❤

Dear Fee

Well then.  Today is your first birthday party! Poppa and I are so sorry to be missing it, but I am sure you will have a wonderful time. Your Mama and Daddy have a great reason to celebrate with their friends. Your little family is one year old!

We have been very lucky to have been able to see you in person a few times since you were born. (Here is a link to your Mama’s post about your birthday and the lovely slide show that she made that documents your first year) Each time we were together it was amazing to see the changes that had taken place since the last time.  The fact that we can’t see these things happen gradually is the hardest part of living so far away from you. Skype is good, and I am very glad that we get to visit with you a few times a week, but it doesn’t make up for the lack of cuddles and kisses. I haven’t been able to steal you away from your parents for some special time alone (for you and me and for them), and I haven’t had nearly enough time to spoil you properly!

I have seen you transform from that tiny wiggly creature with the great shock of straight black hair to a busy, active curious little girl.  I love your happy laugh and your rosy cheeks. Even your temper tantrums make me smile! We have enjoyed visiting and blowing kisses, and I was lucky to see a few firsts – the first roll over, the first tooth, the first crawl and the first steps. We play pat-a-cake and I love to listen to your animal noises.  I am most impressed with the elephant.  I watched you feed your breakfast to Max and Moe (much to your Mother’s dismay), and even got you to fall asleep on my shoulder – one time. It has been such a joy to see your Mama grow and change as well, and your presence in our family has brought back many memories for your Poppa and me from our own first year as parents, so long ago.

I want you to know that I have great plans in the Grandma department. I can’t wait to spend time with you as you get older, doing fun things together.  I hope to have sleepovers and shopping trips and special secrets.  I plan to braid your hair and take you for ice cream and slip you a little “pocket change” when you get older. You, like your mother, are my first, so I am sure that I might make a few mistakes along the way, but it is my understanding that a Grandmother’s sins are always forgiven, right? You will be the one who teaches me “how” to be a Gram, so your future siblings and cousins will benefit from our time together, I am sure.

Right this minute you are probably enjoying your “smash cake”, opening presents and giving your parents and Godmother a great photo opportunity. I am thinking of all of the fun that we will have when you come and visit us this summer. I really hope that today it is a lovely day for you all and I want you to know how delightful it has been to get to know such a special little girl this year. Congratulations on your first birthday and I hope that the next 12 months are filled with happy things for you.

I love you more than words can say, sweet girl.

Fee Birthday Balloons

Love and kisses,

Gram

Dear Fee,

     Right about now you should be sleeping on Christmas Eve.  I am sure that the proverbial “Visions of Sugarplums” are dancing in  your head.   Hopefully you will only get up once (or less) during the night so you won’t catch Santa Father Christmas at his business!

Fee - Christmas Eve

     You and your parents have already been counting down on the Advent calendar that we gave you.  I hope that you will be using it for years to come! By now Mary and Joseph are in place,  just waiting for the baby Jesus to join them.  I think that you have probably listened to the books that Poppa and I recorded for you when you were here in November.  “The Night Before Christmas” and the Christmas Story have always been a part of your Mama’s Christmas Eve tradition and I am happy that we could be a part of it even if we aren’t there.
     I have to say that I am pretty excited for your first Christmas.  Even though I can’t be there to share it with you and your Mama and Daddy, I remember the days when Poppa and I were just starting out our own family Christmases. It was a wonderful time of new beginnings, and new traditions.
     I am pretty new at this Gram thing, but I already decided that Poppa and I would start a new tradition with you.  We are going to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, beginning with Jesus’ birthday tomorrow and ending with Three King’s Day on Epiphany, January 6.  We intend to give you one small gift each day in anticipation of that big event. You will receive your “big gift” on that day. It is my hope that one day I will live in Mexico and you can join me for the festivities there!
     I have had this idea for a while – mostly because of my love of the Latin culture – and wanted Poppa and I to start it for our grandchildren. Mind you, you are probably getting the best of it…by the time you have six cousins the first eleven presents will probably be VERY small, or we will go broke! Enjoy being the first – it is a special honor. it’s really not about the presents anyways, is it? It is more about the story and the anticipation, and the love that Jesus promised us all.
     I think that in your house Christmas will be quite different than it was in your Mama’s house.  For one thing, your Daddy will always have to work on Christmas.  This is probably a very good thing, because it will keep you all focused on the real reason that we celebrate the holiday.  I am afraid that over the years, I have not been very good at “keeping Advent” and remembering the reason for the season.  I hope that your family will always have that focus that we lacked.
     I hope that we get a chance to visit a little tomorrow, but if I don’t talk to you, know that I will be thinking of you.  Have a very Happy Christmas, my sweetheart. My heart is with you even if I am not.
Love and kisses,
Gram

Dear Fee,

I have decided that I have a love/hate relationship with airplanes.  I love them because they bring you to me, but I hate them because they take you away.

I also have a feeling that in just a few short hours you are going to be literally screaming your way across the Atlantic Ocean on your way home to see your Daddy…probably driving your Mama and Auntie Ky (not to mention a number of other passengers) straight around the bend!  I can’t say as I blame you – I hate that flight myself and have often felt like screaming for most of it as well.

We had such a lovely visit, though. It is not good at all that you had to come for such a sad occasion, but Poppa and I were very lucky to spend your first Thanksgiving with you and your Mama.  We were very sorry that your Daddy couldn’t come as well, but then it’s not really his holiday, is it?

You got to meet nearly all of our relatives on your Poppa’s side of the family, and you even got to spend a nice afternoon with your Great Grandma Jean.

You taught yourself a few things while you were with us, including how to pull yourself up on the sofa, and you learned how to play Pat-a-Cake.  You even met Santa for the very first time – although I don’t think you were really very impressed!

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Max and Moe will really miss having breakfast with you every morning.  They sure looked sad when you were leaving.  We will have to throw a couple of pieces of bananas on the floor for them once in a while in your honor!

I can’t wait to see you again this summer.  What a wonderful time we will have when you are able to run around outside and enjoy the hill in the sunshine.

I hope that you pay no mind to the awful people who will likely scowl and stare and make rude comments on the airplane.  They do not love you like I do!

Go easy on your Mama for the next few days.  She did a pretty good job taking care of you all by herself with only a little bit of help from us (and quite a bit from Auntie Ky on the plane).  She could use a rest!

I will talk to you very soon on the computer, and I will miss you every day until I see you again.

Love you very much,

Gram

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You love Poppa’s moustache!

Dear Fee,

Today I am sad but excited.

I am excited because you are coming to visit Squirrel Hill for the second time. I am also sad because the reason that you are coming here is to pay tribute to your Great-Grandpa Ray. I have decided, however, that I am going to treat your visit home like a gift from him.  He has allowed us all to be together for your first Thanksgiving, and that is a special thing!

You are now eight months old, and even though Poppa and I have met you two other times – when you were just a month and again this past summer when you were 5 months old – this time will be different because you have developed such a personality and we can interact so much more.  You will be eating turkey and stuffing and crawling about the place.  We hope that our Skype visits will help you to recognize us.  It is hard to be a Gram when you live so far away. It will be nice to have the chance to spoil you a bit and perhaps even to give your Momma a break. We are very lucky to be having this visit, because we were not counting on seeing you until next summer.

Over your lifetime I am sure you will hear many things about your Great Grandpa Ray.  He was the Grandpa extraordinaire; always quick with a song or a tune, I can hear him singing la la la la la to your Momma and your Aunts when they were little.  He loved dogs and music and bubbles and children in general. He was sunshine personified, a happy and loving presence to all of his children and grandchildren.  I believe that he was made to be Grandpa and we were so fortunate to have him as our very own.   You met him last summer and although you will not remember it, meeting you was very special to him indeed.  His face lit up every time he saw your pictures!

I just want to let you know how eager I am to be able to squeeze and cuddle you for the next several days. I can’t wait for you to explore this place on the hill – your family home. Your Poppa crawled around these floors when he was your age and it is pretty neat that he can watch you do the same in the place where his family has been all these years.

Thank you to your Great Grandpa for the many gifts he has given to us. I only hope that I can be half the Grandparent that he was!

See you soon!

Love,

Gram xxooImage