Long-Distance Grandparenting: Surviving the Miles with Love

My son and Grammy share a special moment at the hometown pond where generations of my family grew up swimming and skipping rocks.

I moved to Kansas City for a job in 2004, when the idea of kids was not on my mind. The plan was to complete a three-year contract then move back to New England to be closer to family. I was in my late twenties.  Someone asked me if I wanted kids. I didn’t know the answer then, but I do remember thinking “I can’t have kids if I still live in KC because my ENTIRE family is back in New England. My child would never know their awesome East Coast family.” 

Fast forward to several years later and I was right, but I was also very wrong. 

My mother is a long-distance grandparent. She’s in Connecticut with 99% of my family. My son and I are here in Kansas City. It’s a daunting difference of 1,500 miles. While it may not be ideal, it is doable. I reached out to the expert herself, my mother/my son’s Grammy, to ask her how she makes it work on her end. 

  • Using Technology: In 2018 there are about 6 billion ways to connect with family members using technology. From Grammy: “Skype is great (when I can figure out how to work it), and I love getting emails and pictures daily. Of course the phone is always good and always easy to use.”
  • Focus on the Little Things: Mom/Grammy is really great about sending little reminders about small parts of my son’s day. She keeps great track of them so she can be a part of the day-to-day things such as doctor’s appointments, theme days at school, even what we’re having for breakfast or dinner. This way she’s not just focused on the larger milestones like birthdays and other holidays. She knows what our routines are.
  • Send Silly Things in the Mail: Mom/Grammy will randomly mail out small package for my son just cause. Grandparents are always good like that. They’re always thinking. The packages contain everything from a Lightning McQueen water bottle to a new book to or funny little toys she buys at the dollar store. My son loves saying “Grammy sent me this!” and he always thanks her for the little things whenever we talk or Skype.
  • Visits: Visits can be hard when the distance is great and the airfare is pricey, but they are always worth the money. For my son and I to fly to Connecticut, it’s average about $700 for two tickets (depending on airline, specials, time of year, etc). For Grammy to fly to KC, it’s about $275-$300. But we commit to at least one visit each per year. My son and I can usually do two visits a year, and Mom/Grammy can usually do one. In fact, she’s coming in two weeks for his birthday. Squee!!!!

Of course, it’s not easy. It hurts my mom a lot that she can’t see his face daily or even weekly. She’s missing out on seeing his growth in person. There are no last minute “why don’t you come over for dinner” invitations, or “hey can he spend the night at his grandparents so we can take him to Disney on Ice?” or things like that. Mom also told me the hardest thing is that she’s not able to hug him or me without it being a special occasion visit or holiday. I miss that too. The everyday things. The non-planned-not-supposed-to-be-special moments that turn into some of the best memories from childhood. But we make it work. 

There will be a point where I will have to have a long hard conversation/discussion/contemplation on whether we move out of Kansas City. I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon though, and I’m really proud of us that we’re able to have an unbreakable bond that spans 1,500 miles. 

Kudos to all the families out there doing the long-distance grandparenting thing. Our kiddos are learning a valuable lesson that family, love, and support can beat thousands of miles of separation any day of the week. 

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