Growing up, my grandparents were always a big part of my life. We’d see them at least a couple of times a week, be it trips to the seaside, dinners at their house, them watching me play football or me going to their place on a Monday to watch WWF on Sky Sports.
This already close relationship got even stronger when they moved into our garage – we did have the garage converted into a granny flat I should point out, it’s not like we attempted to crowbar them in-between the cars! So, they were (and continue to be) a big part of my life, even if my Grandma is the only one still with us now.
It’s therefore a really shitty situation that both my parents and Hay’s parents live so far away. Mine are 3.5 hours away to the North East, whilst the missus’ folks are 4 hours to the North West. We are (and they are) doing everything we can to ensure they feel included and can bond with the little one, but there is no getting around the fact that distance is a massive bitch.
Unfortunately though, nothing can be done about the distance. It is just the situation that we are in. Hay and I slowly migrated further south, first through Uni, then jobs, and now we are very happily settled in Hertfordshire. This is now our home and I’d very much doubt that we’d ever move back up country. With both sets of parents, or should that be grandparents, happy in the environment they’ve been for years, it is also highly unlikely they’d make a move closer to us unless circumstances changed drastically.
It is a huge shame that our parents can’t just pop by to say “Hi” to us and the little one or take her on an outing for a few hours. Both Hay and I feel really guilty about this as it is us that moved away. It feels a bit like we are depriving our parents of Baby L even though that’s obviously the last thing that we want. There’s then also the fear that when they come to visit they feel like they can’t get involved or they don’t want to step on our toes by trying to make up for the time that they’ve missed because they’re in our house.
There’s not a lot of point in wallowing in self-pity though. It’s more productive to just get on with life and enjoy the time we have when we’re all together. Both sets of parents have been great so far in travelling to us, with mine having been down three times and Hay’s being down twice with a third visit in the pipeline.
We have been doing a number of things to try and alleviate this distance – I’ve not quite finished my teleportation device yet, so we’ve had to make do with the following methods instead. They’re nothing too revolutionary, but it is definitely helping us cope with time apart and we hope that our proactivity has helped the grandparents cope with the distance and feel involved:
- Video Chat Via Skype: It may not be as good as being face-to-face physically, but when distance is involved, it is the next best thing. We’ve Skyped a few times with each set of parents and they seem to have enjoyed the experience of seeing the little one. Despite a few teething problems to start with (I blame the older generation and technology!), they all seem to have realised that video chat is a decent substitute and is much better than just looking at photos or talking on the phone. I hope that we continue to have regular Skype chats which means that the grandparents can watch her grow and interact, whilst Baby L is continually reminded of them as she grows.
- Created A Dropbox Folder For Photos: During her short 9.5 weeks of life, we’ve taken A LOT of photos. And I mean a lot. There’s only so many you can email over to parents or upload to Facebook without sending yourself (and all those “friends” on Facebook who you don’t talk to) insane. So we decided to set up a Dropbox folder and send the link to our nearest and dearest. We then regularly add photos to this folder every few days in order to keep the grandparents up-to-date with what’s going on and how Baby L is changing each day. This means that we are continually giving them photos for when they get the chance to look at the folder, rather than them chasing us or feeling out of the loop because we haven’t been proactive in sending them.
- Give Them A Job(s): When both sets of parents came down to visit the first two times, the missus and I were still very much finding our feet. Breastfeeding, changing, bathing, soothing etc were all still pretty new to us, so I guess we didn’t feel too confident involving others in this at the start. This meant that when the parents came to visit, they would have a cuddle and push the pushchair, but not necessarily get down and dirty in the nitty gritty. That changed when my parents stopped by for the third time though – both Hay and I made a conscious effort to include them in as much as possible. They bathed her, changed her, fed her a bottle and got her ready for bed on the first night, then looked after her during the day as Hay and I went to the cinema to have some much needed alone time. Although these are small things to us as we do them every day, they were huge, particularly for my mum, and I think they really enjoyed the experiences.
- Blog And Share: I started blogging as The DADventurer a few months before Hayley gave birth. It was a place for me to record our experiences and it also gave me a different topic to write about rather than just football / betting as my day job. I always intended the blog to be a memory for us and thought that you awesome strangers may take a fleeting interest, but I didn’t really think friends and family would read it. Despite this, both sets of parents have been to the blog regularly, which actually is a pretty good thing as it means that they see and hear about things in a way that you can’t explain over the phone. Again, hopefully it has given them an insight into our lives and made them feel included despite the distance. I’m not suggesting you set up a blog, but thinking of ways to share stories, musings etc has worked for us quite well.
- Arranging The Next Visit: It sounds pretty obvious, but we’ve found that nailing down the date of their next visit, whilst they are with you, works quite well. Rather than waiting until a few weeks later and then trying to book in a visit, agreeing a date means that everyone knows what is happening and gives everyone something to look forward to. Everyone is busy nowadays, so it may not be feasible for the grandparents to just come down in a few days time. Therefore, arranging something well in advance stops any issues occurring and even has the added benefit of travel or hotels can be booked when they are cheaper.
So there we go. These are the five things we are trying to do to ensure that the grandparents are as involved as they can be with the little one despite living a few hours away. Do you have any hints, tips or ideas on how best to cope with long distance? Are your parents on the door step, and if so, is this a good or bad thing in your opinion?