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How My Family Makes Long-Distance Grandparenting Work

Grandparents learn to speak "tech" to stay connected with family near and far

Published on: March 16, 2017

Grandparents with computer

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of spending time at my grandmother's house. We read books and sang songs; she was full of stories about the “good ole days” and like most grandparents gave me tasty treats even when Mommy said no. Most importantly, she taught me that I could be anything I wanted in the world. 

So when I had a child of my own — my 1-year-old son, Salem — I couldn’t wait to see the bond he’d develop with my mom. There was only one problem: His ya-ya lives more than 800 miles away.

But by using a number of online tools, including Snapchat, Skype and Google Hangouts, my mom and I have created a new normal. Despite her living in Texas and my living in Wyoming, she’s involved in all of my son’s milestones. My mom saw Salem's first steps on Skype. She even get a modified version of alone time with her grandson. When I, say, go to change the laundry, all it takes is a quick call to my mom on Skype for her to keep Salem company and have a “conversation” while he sits in his walker.

Thanks to my mom's dedication to learning something new, my homesickness feels much less than it once did.

Working technology into our daily interactions in this way took work. For one thing, my mom isn’t naturally tech-savvy. In the beginning, she struggled to download the apps and couldn’t figure how to answer when we would call her on Skype — but she kept trying. That persistence paid off; now she often calls me first. When I moved to Wyoming, we went from seeing each other daily to just four times a year. Now, thanks to her dedication to learning something new, my homesickness feels much less than it once did.

It wasn’t always that way. I learned I was pregnant shortly after moving; it added a sense of urgency to my mom’s tech lessons. She began asking others close by for help; she learned she wasn’t the only grandma learning to speak “tech.” She was determined to have a plan before the baby came. 

Pregnancy was challenging with my support system so far away. We had to be innovative. We bridged the distance gap by sending lots of photos. If a relative who lived near my mom was having a get-together, my mom made sure to send me pictures of the highlights and get group family photos. We also communicated (and still do) a great deal by group chat so everyone receives messages at the same time.

These days, my mother and I regularly Skype, sometimes several times a day. Because we communicate so frequently, she knows Salem’s likes and dislike as if she was here in person. I love watching my mom overcome with laughter as she sees his love for dancing first-hand, or when we laugh together about his chubby belly in small shirts. When Skype isn’t on, I do my best to take at least one photo of Salem a day so my mom can witness how he changes between visits. 

Despite the distance, we’ve made the best of it. I wholeheartedly believe that this time away from home has made my bond with my mom stronger. I also believe it will create a stronger sense of appreciation for Salem's interacts with his grandmother. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

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