From mother to daughter, to grandmother to mother, life roles change, yet stay the same.
Your daughter just called five minutes ago to inform you of the imminent arrival, well, seven months from now, of your first grandchild. Within those five minutes, you have considered how fast you can sell your house, have a garage sale, pack, and move to within a few miles of their house --- especially since you currently live 12 hours away by car. The next few minutes are for backtracking as you realize how impractical that would be as you have a job you enjoy, the house you live in is finally just the way you have always hoped for, and your husband cannot pick up and leave his job either.
So, you are now stuck with the dilemma of your current life colliding with wanting to be in two places at once. There are ways to be in two places at once with current technology and going the extra mile of keeping track of memories, pictures, and feelings.
- Start a journal. Find a blank journal at your local bookstore. From the day you hear of her pregnancy, begin writing how you feel, your thoughts of what she must be feeling, and some memories that come flooding back from your own pregnancy with your daughter.
- Keep e-mails. The distance between you and your daughter will be lessened when she sends notes of various doctor appointments and even ultrasound photos. Print these off. As you are adding to the journal, include some of the information from your daughter's e-mails, even copies of the ultrasound.
- Have a long-distance baby shower. The Internet is a wonderful thing and there is an ingenious gadget called a webcam that can be easily installed in your computer and your daughter's computer. Check out any computer or electronics store and you will find webcams and necessary software for around $30. Once you and your daughter have installed this equipment, tested it properly, and feel confident this can be pulled off, send out invitations and plan a baby shower at your home. And equally, have your daughter send out invitations and plan a baby shower at her house the same day and time. Once everyone is gathered at both homes, proceed with the baby shower. You, she, and all the partygoers will enjoy talking on the webcam and seeing gifts given at your home and hers.
- Camera phones. This is where the new Dad comes in. Upon baby's arrival, ask him to take pictures with his camera phone as soon as is feasible and send. Being in phone contact and having pictures sent to you will get you as close to the delivery room as possible, even with hundreds of miles between.
- Record in journal. Write, write, and write some more. You may be far away, but just think about your grandchild being able to read how you felt at that very moment -- especially when she herself is grown.
- Make phone calls. Once you have the baby's pertinent information, ask your daughter if she would like you to spend some time making phone calls to family and friends. This would be no different than if you were there within arm's reach of your daughter. Ask her first, but odds are that she would appreciate you taking over and making some of those phone calls to inform everyone of the good news.
Baby's First Year
- More journal entries. Now comes the fun stuff. The first time you visit your daughter, her husband, and your new grandchild, leave the journal behind. Let them find it after you leave. Once they ask about the journal, let them know you would like to keep adding to it over time so they can keep it close at hand.
- Keep e-mails. Once again, modern technology works in your favor. Ask your daughter to send digital pictures of your grandchild's progress and growth. When these come through, save each picture. Once a month or when you have a couple dozen pictures saved, go to www.shutterfly.com, download the pictures and order two sets of prints. When they come, set aside one set for yourself and one set for your next visit.
- Add to the journal. When you are visiting their new family, ask for the journal. Add prints and thoughts and feelings. If the journal has been well-received by your daughter and her new family, then leave it behind for the next visit.
- Webcam calls. Once your grandchild is a bit older, spend time on the webcams, being able to talk face-to-face. He or she will get to see you and remember you, and you will have the pleasure of enjoying a few minutes with your grandchild . . . even if it is only on a computer screen.
- Encourage e-mail communication. Once your grandchild is able understand computer use and can correspond through e-mail, ask and encourage that he or she writes to you personally. The communications you can have with your grandchild may range from everyday activities, to how school classes are going, to problem solving. You may become a listening ear to your grandchild as he or she is growing up and needing to talk with someone other than parents.
- Create mini-vacations at your home. When your grandchild is able to spend time away from his or her parents, plan a week or more at your house. This gives you and your grandchild time to truly get to know each other and do the special things only grandparents and grandchildren can do together.
With a little effort on your part early on and consistency later on, you and your grandchild will have a wonderful relationship . . . even with miles and hours separating you.