Reunited - and Keeping Long-Distance Family Close
Reunited and it feels so good. After two years, I was finally reunited with my wonderful parents and they got to meet Baby J for the first time.
You know the opening scene of Love Actually where Hugh Grant talks about the happiness and love found at Heathrow’s Arrivals? Well, I feel like we could have been part of that opening montage. Two years. That’s a crazy long time. The last time we saw each other, H had just turned 1 and couldn’t even walk yet. She is now 3 (quick maths) and ran straight into her Grandpa’s arms. I ugly cried and didn’t care.
If you like, you can see a little montag I put together of our reunion @bornforblueskies.
They were here for just two weeks, but their timing could not have been more perfect. We had originally talked about them coming over for Christmas and staying for New Year’s and Baby J’s first birthday (insert crying emoji face here), but thankfully their impatience meant that they arrived in mid-November which resulted in them just missing South Africa being placed back on the red list. In fact, their flight home was cancelled and they had to rebook with a different airline. We were the lucky ones.
My heart breaks for the many thousands of South Africans whose flights were cancelled, Christmases ruined, and long-awaited reunions yet again postponed.
My parents had asked to do nothing touristy but rather to just be included in our day-to-day lives. I wasn’t sure that they would be satisfied with school-runs and ballet lessons but they loved it.
Everyone always talks about how a woman changes after having a baby, how a man changes, but no one prepared me for the very great honour of watching my parents become grandparents. While I’ve seen them in this role during previous visits, this one in particular really amplified their roles as Granny and Grandpa. I feel as if my heart grew seven times in size with every “Run, Grandpa, run!” and “Play with me, Granny!”. To see their love for our children shine out of their faces and overflow in hugs and cuddles filled my bucket all the way to the top. To have them confirm our beliefs that our offspring are amazing and to have their support and encouragement in our parenting meant the world to us.
The house feels so empty without them here. Our dramatic H has been wondering around forlornly with her head hanging. When asked what’s wrong, she replies with a sniff “I’ve lost my Granny and my Grandpa."
Being a long-distant grandparent can be so hard and with so many families being separated geographically, I thought it would be helpful to get a few tips from my parents on how to ease the ache of being apart.
- Have a set time to talk.
Sunday afternoon tends to be the time that we video chat. Knowing that we have that time set aside gives us a sense of anticipation and becomes something that we look forward to. The children also know that Sunday afternoon means seeing Granny and Grandpa (and their dog Mia) and I think it’s so important to maintain that communication even if 38% of the call is spent watching Mia swimming. We are so fortunate in this day and age to have the ability to make video calls and to see each other this way – make the most of it.
- Videos of the children.
Your friends might not be interested in the video of your 11 month old babbling unintelligibly or your 9 year old’s first attempt at film-making (all 7 minutes of him screaming Blair Witch style around the garden with the camera angled up his nose), but the grandparents will be. It allows them to be part of family outings or occasions or the day-to-day which is so important. It gives them something to talk about during our Sunday afternoon chats and keeps them up-to-date on what is going on in our lives.
- Make videos for the children.
It turns out that grandchildren enjoy receiving videos as much as their grandparents. My parents are so good at this and it has allowed our children to get a glimpse of life in South Africa. One of my favourite memories is when Biggest J asked my mom if she could please give them all a virtual tour of their house. I had never thought of giving our children a tour of my childhood home but in the same way that grandparents are curious about their grandchildren’s lives so too are grandchildren about their grandparents’ lives. We have received videos from the Karoo, from various nature reserves, videos including Mia swimming, videos of a swarm of locusts – all of which the children have loved and talked about.
- Take the time for updates.
As I have already mentioned, we are so fortunate to have a number of technologies at our disposal – use them. Send photos (I am told that there is no such thing as too many). I currently have close to 50,000 photos on my phone (yeah…I know…it’s a problem. I don’t want to talk about it) and 49,000 of those are of our children. Part of the reason is that our children are just that stinking cute, but I’ve also gotten into a habit of taking photos to send to the grandparents. A short message is also an option. I sometimes forget what I’ve said during a Sunday chat and then get a message on the Tuesday asking how baby J’s allergies are or how Big J’s swimming lesson went. A quick text can go a long way.
Make the time to connect with your parents. Give your children opportunities to spend time with their grandparents even if it is via FaceTime. H ran straight into the arms of her Grandpa and Granny because she knew them even from 8000 miles away. Give your children the gift of knowing their grandparents because as someone once said “A Grandparent is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend."
If you want to connect with me, add me on instagram @bornforblueskies.
Until next time,