It's hard living so far from our extended family, but we've found a few ways to help the kids remember them.
Tomorrow is our last day with my family. While I’m sure we will all be glad to get back to our home life and while I’m sure my parents will be glad to get their house back, it is really hard to think about leaving. I always tell the kids my one regret about my life choices was to move so far away. But it is far, around 2,000 miles, and soon we head for home.
Because we live so far apart, we only see my parents once or twice a year. This rarity makes it hard to keep the relationships between grandparents and grandkids, strong and this is the most difficult with young children. Over the years we’ve adopted some intentional practices to keep the connection strong.
Pictures: We keep pictures of my parents within reach. That way, when a toddler wanders around holding the photo, I’m reminded to say, “That’s Mamaw and Papa!”
Calling: We talk on the phone: whenever I talk to my mom (which is often), whoever is nearby gets a minute or two to say hello. I can still remember the tenor of my Grandma’s voice– gone now for 15 years– so I think it is an important identifying quality. When my older girls accomplish something (track meet, room renovation, great meal cooked, base hit), we call Mamaw and Papa to brag. My parents love it when the big girls call. In addition, once a quarter or so, we Skype. I wish it was more often, but it takes a lot of organization for a family of seven! When we Skype, they can see my parent’s faces and that makes it seem so real.
Split the distance: Every few years we get in an extra visit by splitting the distance between us. For us, that means meeting in Colorado– it’s just about halfway. We set up camp and enjoy some time together.
Reliving memories: I don’t do much scrap booking any more– too many kids! But I have a million digital pictures, so on quiet afternoons, we thumb through the digital albums together and talk about the people in the pictures. This keeps memories of their cousins, aunts, uncles, and so forth alive, as well.
Celebrations: While we can’t be together for their young cousins’ birthdays (or anyone else’s!), when anyone has a birthday, we celebrate it here. In the morning, I gather all the kids, and we phone in the birthday song to their answering machine (or in person, if we get lucky). We make a cake and enjoy it with dinner; all the Littles get to blow out the candles!
Those are a few of the ways we keep our far-flung loved ones close in mind. What are your ideas?