Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Push-Pull of Long Distance Grandparenting


For the first two years of our granddaughter's life, we were but a 90 minute drive away. Not only that, we actually lived with my daughter before, during, and after delivery while our son-in-law was deployed out of the country, then provided day care for six months after he came home and my daughter returned to her teaching position. All of which is to say we were/are very, very close to our now 2 & 1/2 year old granddaughter.

When we first got the news that my son-in-law was being transferred to the Pentagon in Metro-DC, literally the other side of the country, we were devastated. We understood, of course, and absolutely wanted them to do what was best for their family, but personally we went into mini-mourning, though we kept it just between us.

When they actually moved, I flew east with my daughter and granddaughter to assist with the physical move-in, and my husband drove one of their two cars east in tandem with my son-in-law, plus two dogs. It was both exciting and painful to help them get established in their spacious new home, about three times the size of what they could afford previously in very, very pricey San Diego. Their new Metro-DC home even had a fully finished out basement with a private apartment where we could stay when visiting.

Since then, we have returned four times, roughly every two months, for two to four week visits. Even though we Skype religiously each week (even two times a week the first couple months after they moved), we were constantly worried between visits that our granddaughter would forget us. This did not seem to occur, although there was always a short warming-up period before she'd be on our laps with a pile of books for us to read. And now that she's closer to three years than two, her memory capability is clearly sufficient to hold onto Nana and Baba between visits, so we're no longer as worried as we first were.

Still, it is so hard to say goodbye, as we'll have to do tomorrow morning. Even as being with her for long periods of time is exhausting (she's two and 1/2 . . . ), it's also utterly precious. So many words, phrases and actions to hold onto; "I cook with Nana!," "Baba, play piano!," "Nana, sit here and color with me," twirling my hair when I hold her close, patting us both on the back as a way of expressing her contentment at being held, squeals of laughter when I blow up a balloon and release it to go careening around the room, dancing together to Sia, doing 'pieces' together, her word for puzzles. And so much more.

And yet, we are also looking forward to our lovely empty nest lives back in California, and all that goes with that. Our many social circles and activities, our very long and satisfying daily workouts, hikes and bike rides, reading on our front yard patio, our very clean and tide house (oh how messy two year olds are! :-).

So while neither end of the spectrum fills 100% of the gaps, we're making due, and so far it is working OK. Our granddaughter continues to love us, we 'fill in' very quickly when we are together again, and the older she gets the better and quicker the re-connects are becoming.

What makes our world go round these days.

Plans And Goals For Today
Fast walk six miles.
Begin trip planning for our return visit in June, which will include a week of traveling through Delaware.
Old Town Alexandria for lunch.
Return in time to grab our Southwest line up order exactly 24 hours in advance of our flight.
Pick up our granddaughter from daycare.
Stop at the park on the way home.
Make dinner for everyone.
Pack for our departure tomorrow.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, can I relate to this post. My heart breaks every time I leave my granddaughters (and their mommies, of course). I am reassured that they remember me when we Skype and warm up to me pretty quickly when we visit. But visiting several times a year doesn't compare to being in their lives routinely.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings and helping me to realize I am not alone.

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    1. I am thankful that we both retired before she was born, one so that we could travel ourselves silly, and two in that we had the time to devote almost a full year to her care. When we go back, we stay long and try to immerse ourselves in her life, plus, of course, plan special things. We eagerly anticipate her being old enough to travel alone with her Nana and Baba!

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