Grandparenting from Afar

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As the proud grandmother of a six-year-old grandson (my older son’s little boy), I was thrilled recently to learn that I am to be a grandmother for a second time, this time with my younger son and his wife. My joy with this news, however, was tempered by a sobering fact—though I live in the same city as my first grandson, I live 3,000 kilometers away from my younger son and his wife.

When my first grandson was born, it was so easy to be present at his birth and help out in those early days when sleep for new parents is such a precious commodity and home-cooked meals are much appreciated. And I was always eager to provide babysitting at every opportunity.

I’ve been lucky to be able to spend every occasion with him: birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, Mother’s Day picnics, Thanksgiving turkey dinners, and a host of activities every Christmas. I realize, however, that I will only see my second grandson—yes, it’s another boy!—at best twice each year because I still work full-time, and even more daunting, because the distance separating us is so great.

I wish my own parents were still alive so I could commiserate with them; they lived 600 kilometers away from my sons as they grew up, and even though this distance isn’t that far, we still only saw them twice each year. For one thing, it was expensive to get on and off the Island, and flying a family of four simply wasn’t in our budget. For another, my parents also both worked so it wasn’t easy for them to get away either.

Until now, I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult it must have been for them to be so far away from their only grandsons. I remember we packed as much as we could into every one of their visits, making a concerted effort to enjoy every moment together.

As my sons grew older, my parents would gift each of them with a crisp $100 bill on every visit (in lieu of treating them throughout the year). I can still picture their eyes, wide with excitement, as they held their new fortune. To them, it was a windfall.

I realize I will have to make the most out of every visit with my new grandson. What I lack in quantity, I will have to make up for in quality. Time together will be such a precious commodity.

When I was raising my family, I would phone my parents every Sunday. My sons rarely came to the phone; they were usually too busy with all their activities or off with their friends. It was only on special occasions when they would spend a fleeting minute or two in conversation with their grandparents.

Nowadays, modern technology such as FaceTime, Skype, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook will allow me to play a greater role in my new grandson’s life. I will still be living at a distance, but technology will help narrow the gap.

I hope through the use of such technology, we can become well acquainted, so we won’t have to waste valuable time getting to know one another at the start of every visit.

And I will prepare myself for those inevitable late night phone calls, the same ones I made to my own mother when my sons had a fever that wouldn’t break, or a suspicious rash, or a cough that just wouldn’t settle. I’m sure I must have driven my parents crazy with my worries, especially with my first child. This was back in the time before the internet; instead of a wealth of information at our fingertips with which a person can often self-diagnose nowadays, we turned instead to the wisdom and experience of people like our parents and grandparents. Even with the resource of the internet, there’s still nothing like practical experience, so despite the time difference, I fully expect to receive those phone calls, and of course, texts. I find it interesting that much of the ‘old-fashioned’ parenting wisdom provided by our previous generations now seems to be back in vogue!

No doubt the birth of my second grandson will be both exciting and bittersweet. I’ve decided I want to be the type of grandmother who flies in for a visit carting treats and bearing gifts, fully prepared to win over her grandchild(ren). After all, I won’t have time to waste!

Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci is a local author and a proud “nonna” to an adorable four-year-old grand-son. She enjoys sharing her experiences as a first-time grandparent.

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