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Long distance grandparenting

(85 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 14-Jun-12 10:24:37

Janice Bhend's sons moved to the US - and her grandchildren all live thousands of miles away. How to cope with the constant goodbyes and how to be a good gran at such a distance? Read more in our guest blog post and add your views and experiences to this thread.

ProfMum Thu 14-Jun-12 13:12:13

This is very touching. We've just become grandparents for the first time - we live in Cardiff, they live in London, so not nearly so far as the USA. But the problem is similar - how to have routine contact, how to help, babysit, do practical things; how to make sure our lovely little granddaughter, Laura, knows who we are and becomes attached to us.

On the plus side, when we see them, they come to stay, or we stay with them, it's not just brief drop in visits, it's round-the-clock.

But one day, maybe, especially if more grandchildren come along, we may have to decide to move back to London - hmm. Not a hugely attractive prospect, and very expensive.

What to do ....

Grandma5 Thu 14-Jun-12 13:18:26

I read this with a tear in my eye,as it all sounds horribly familiar.My daughter also moved away with my grandchildren six months ago,and i find adjusting from seeing them every day to every now and then very difficult.

SueDonim Thu 14-Jun-12 13:33:08

Our only grandchild, T, also lives in California so we have the same issues as Janice has. When our grandson was born we ourselves were living in W Africa which made life even more complicated!

In the time since he was born we have been able to see our grandson more than I had imagined at first. We twice visited the US in his first year and our son and family came to the UK twice as well. Last year we went once to California and they again visited us for Christmas. This year, we plan to visit in October and hopefully they'll be here for Christmas again.

Our situation is complicated by my husband working abroad and we still have our youngest (of four) child at school so fitting in holidays to suit everyone isn't easy. There is also the cost of flights and hotels and I try not to think about what will happen if/when we get too decrepit to make the long trips, though I hope that won't be for many years yet!

We Skype regularly and T is now at an age where he interacts with us quite happily, though it has to be said, he is generally more interested in our cat than in us!! There is no replacement for hugs, though. I try to console myself by telling myself that when they do visit, it's usually for a couple of weeks at a time so our contact with our GS is simply concentrated into a short space of time rather than a couple of hours here and there.

I do sometimes reflect on the fact that when our children were smaller, we encouraged them to think that the world was their oyster, that there were no limits to what they could do or where they could go. It never dawned on us that the result might be four children who all live in different places!

meringues Thu 14-Jun-12 13:47:17

Our daughter moved over to The States 12 years ago, we have two adored american grandsons. Realistically, when we visit we spend more time with them than if we lived around the corner. I encouraged my children to "spread their wings" just as my parents did with the four of us. The distance is huge, yes, (they are in Southern California), but they have a fabulous life, and I don't resent that at all. They will be with us in 3 week's time, and already they are asking about meringues, the Olympic Torch, and their bedside books. Their Granpa and I love the anticipation and the noise when they are here.

grannyscalpay Thu 14-Jun-12 14:01:04

Oh, how pertinent this topic is for me! I live in Scotland, and my grandchildren are all in Canada. I spend a fortune travelling back and forth, and fortunately, my husband doesn't object. One grandson told his teacher I live at the airport. I agree with the granny who wrote that the visits where you spend several weeks with family are good, but the time between visits is difficult. Daughter and two granddaughters just spent 3 weeks with me in Scotland, and it was wonderful. But how quiet and lonesome the house was when they left! Skype and e-mail is great, but it's not the same. sad

Mamie Thu 14-Jun-12 14:25:33

Yes it is hard. We are in France, daughter and family in UK, son and family in Spain. We Skype regularly, but it is definitely not the same. The good thing is that our time together is precious and the grandchildren regard it as a treat rather than an everyday thing.

lucyinthesky Thu 14-Jun-12 14:46:00

My husband and I are about to get divorced this year (after 30+ years of marriage) as he is gay. My new partner is French so I spend about 70% of my time with him in Paris trying to build a new life at the ripe old age of 64.

Meanwhile our eldest daughter who still lives in London will be having our first grandchild late September and I already worry about being away from them (although obv I will be back for the birth and to help when they need it)

In the same way that we encourage our children to be independent and ive where it is best for them, I am in the opposite situation. In order to create a life for myself I choose to be in Paris but of course I miss the proximity of my children, and my soon to be grandchild sad

If anyone can give any tips as to how to maintain the closeness of family relationships while living apart I'd be very grateful. I do have Skype but it isn't always great neither is the phone as I am partially deaf.


Butternut Thu 14-Jun-12 14:58:04

My way of dealing with having my two grandchildren living in the USA is to live as full and well a life as I can here. At 4 and 2 they are still little, and I intend to be around for a long time for them. I visit once a year, with or without my husband, depending upon our finances. We have just had a very brief visit from them all of 4/5 days (and caught up with friends in London) - not nearly long enough - but finances and other commitments prevented them from staying longer. It was wonderful that the grandchildren recognised us through skype, and 'Monkey' - their favourite hand puppet who has a French accent! It was their first visit here. One is autistic, so it was particularly special. We are hoping our next visit to see them will be Sept. 2013.

We also took time to look at pooling our 'holiday' financial resources in the future, when the possibility of long haul travel from our end might not be as easy.

I can't say I miss them all the time, because they have never been a regular fixture in my daily life here, but there are days when I would give so much to see them running around the garden. Houses do come alive with children, and although I value peace and quiet, having them all here gave us and this cottage of ours deep pleasure and a sense of roots. All three generations under one roof was great!

When I feel isolated from my family, I take care to remind myself of their happiness, and know that I have done a good job in giving them the freedom to fly. smile

Hugs for all long-distance grandparents.

Ella46 Thu 14-Jun-12 15:05:50

((hugs)) from me too. I'm so lucky to have my son & family a 3 minute drive away, and my dd is just under an hours drive.
flowers for you all.

absentgrana Thu 14-Jun-12 15:43:07

Absentdaughter flew to New Zealand when she was 17 and I knew then that she would never return to the UK to live. Since then, she married and divorced the man she flew out to be with and with whom she had a son, then fell in love with another man to whom she is now married and they have just had their fourth child. She is approaching her thirtieth birthday and I have missed her every day for the past 12 years. I have been to NZ a few times, sometimes on my own and sometimes with Mr absent, the most recent being March and April this year when Finn, the latest addition, was born. She, my son-in-law and two of the children visited us two years ago – we hadn't actually met those two until then. We e-mail, we talk on phone, I send postcards and books and things that have amused me to the children. She sends me photographs. It is horribly painful being separated. After a very long wait and much toing and froing, Mr absent and I now have blue visas pasted into our passports and some time before the end of May next year, we shall leave the UK and settle in NZ. I shall never have to sit on a plane from Nelson to Auckland sobbing quietly into an entire pack of tissues again. smile

Butternut Thu 14-Jun-12 15:51:33

Woohoo! smile absent, as my daughter-in-law would say.

I wonder if it is different when it is sons who leave to make a life in another country?

Stansgran Thu 14-Jun-12 16:07:41

I am lucky as one daughter lives a forty minute train ride away-tho' at £20 odd for a return I think twice before seeing the DGCs but my other daughter is abroad and I would love to Skype them but she is always too busy so I miss seeing them on a weekly basis. I noticed in information about the role of the aging population in a forum she was running she wrote about skype being the virtual kitchen table. Wish she would follow her noble thoughts in reality. Her sister does a good job in reminding her that her parents exist and for that matter her children's grandparents exist. The elder child phoned me up out of the blue this week and I was thrilled but I think she was worried she would be found out(expensive call)but at least I know she can

Grandmanorm Thu 14-Jun-12 16:32:05

All three of our offspring live abroad. Oldest son in Boston (USA) daughter (middle) in Sydney and youngest son in southern LA.
We all have iPhones and we find that Facetime is excellent for keeping in touch, as one can wander around whilst chatting. Our youngest GC is 5 our oldest 23. They are all at ease using the iPhone, even the 5 year old who chats away quite happily. It is most definitely not the same as having them in the same country, but it helps I guess.
They are all well, happy and all gainfully employed. My head knows this and is happy for them all. My heart on the other hand "often" cries, especially on those long hours on the plane when we leave them.
I often wonder just what we did that they all moved so far away from us. My comfort is that we are all in touch regularly.
I used to send regular parcels but postage is horrendous so I am not sending nearly so many now :-(
Oh, we both have visas for the USA, one never knows when countries may stop ease of entry, so I am now on my second 10 year on and DH on his first.
This wasn't the easiest message to write as it makes me aware again, of just how far away they all are.

Mamie Thu 14-Jun-12 16:35:09

On a practical note I do find it helpful to be able to send presents via Amazon. M and S and Littlewoods deliver in Europe for a low-cost flat rate as well.

Speldnan Thu 14-Jun-12 17:37:56

This is such a common situation but so heartbreaking. My son and DIL went to NZ 2 and a half years ago for a 3 year contract which is being extended. Their little girl ( my first GC) will be one this weekend. I have seen her only once when she was a few weeks old and only a few times on Skype . It broke my heart when my son went as he and I were close- when my GD was born the situation was even worse!
For various reasons I don't want to go over there- not least because getting to know my GD would make it even harder to be without her. I am divorced and tend to try to protect myself from pain now- maybe its selfish but I can't help feeling abandoned by my son and angry about my grandchild living on the other side of the world. I talk to them when they bother to take the time but the situation hurts me all the time!
Luckily my daughter and her new son live near enough for me to see them weekly which compensates somewhat. As everyone knows though-one child or grandchild does not make up for another!

uknana Thu 14-Jun-12 18:18:36

Absolutely no difference at all Butternut. My son chose to go to Northern Ireland with his wife (her homeland) and thus I have two beautiful grandchildren that I try to see as often as I can. It is the helplessness of not being on the spot to do the little things that can help our hard-working children now that we are time-rich. Skype is great but you can't hug online. I, too, live at the airport and am picked up and dropped off there! I think it hurts sometimes to feel sorry for ourselves, but we have obviously given them the wings and confidence to do it. It's a bit like the blackbirds that were nesting in my garden. I protected them from cats until I saw the chicks fly and now they are gone.

jorj Thu 14-Jun-12 18:23:12

Ours live in Eastern Canada. Shorter flight than, say, the Aus/NZ, or Western America; but far enough! We have a 10-month-old GS, whom we visited over Christmas and they are coming over for a couple of weeks in the summer (summer? what is that, again??). But we have a regular time for a weekly skype-ing which suits us all - and if we aren't going to be available at that time we email or phone alternatives.

GS and I blow kisses on skype, I tell him about the latest toy I have bought for him, and we were all squealing with excitement when he learnt to crawl the other week and obligingly demonstrated for doting grans. I think he recognises us. We'll see, when they arrive here 'for real'! He might be surprised that we exist in 3-D, off screen!

Incidentally, our dog has learnt to bark for our attention if we are out of earshot when skype pipes up - v. useful!

To Lucyinthesky: I also find Skype difficult to hear, and my son talks so quickly that I can't listen fast enough (he says!). Facebook (which I know can be insecure and we have to be so careful) is fun, though. Now that I have so many new friends and relatives in Canada I really enjoy using it, sharing photos, chat, commenting on something crazy which doesn't merit a letter/phonecall/skype or whatever. And if the other party happens to be online at the same time, you can use instant messaging, too, which can have hilarious results if your instant typing is as typo-ridden as mine!

Life goes on - keeping busy helps, I agree.

Mamie Thu 14-Jun-12 18:30:36

We have pathetic "broadband" in our bit of France and the first English phrase our half-Spanish grandaughter said was "Granny's stuck..."

Gally Fri 15-Jun-12 07:14:36

I have 3 daughters all of whom were brought up in Scotland. 2 now live in the south of England and the third is in Sydney. Between them they have 7 children and one imminent. I try to see the 'English' ones as often as possible and we all skype, however as I become older it will be more difficult to constantly travel back and forth; they try and visit 'home' a couple of times a year but it's difficult with all the paraphernalia associated with babies and petrol isn't getting any cheaper, so expense comes into the equation. Since the 3rd married an Aussie in 2003, I have managed to visit 9 times and I know I am lucky to be able to do this, but it doesn't make life any easier, especially since being widowed this year. I don't feel I really 'know' my Oz grandchildren that well and feel great resentment towards the other grandparents who live next door to them but give very little assistance, if any, to my daughter who on occasions becomes very homesick and rings me in desperation. Sometimes I just want to get them by the scruff of the neck and ask them if they have ever thought how difficult, sad (and expensive!) it is for me just to be able to see our grandchildren, but I know it wouldn't help the already rocky situation. My problem is to decide what to do - whether to downsize and be near one or other of my UK daughters, leaving 31 years of life and friends behind in Scotland, which would then enable me to spend longer in Sydney, or stay put until such time as I feel a move is necessary; I hasten to add that I am a very healthy, active 64 and don't anticipate becoming dependent on any one in the near future! Like Grandmanorm I am happy for all my girls and their husbands are all gainfully employed. I just feel stretched in 4 directions and incapable of coming to a decision. confused. The late Mr.G used to say if you don't know what to do, just remain with the status quo, and that's what I am doing at present.

Butternut Fri 15-Jun-12 07:25:58

Gally Some wise words your John has left for you.

newt148 Fri 15-Jun-12 07:57:09

I have a similar situation and know how painful it is, I'm in Ireland and the family are in UK and the far side of Ireland. But life and time takes its toll and travel is limited and goodbye's so painful..hugs for all us grandparents who reside away. always saying "one day" (smile)

Mamie Fri 15-Jun-12 08:44:10

Just waved mine off to school (sniff, sniff). Off now to bounce back home across the channel for six hours!
Only six weeks until my next visit, though.

julika Fri 15-Jun-12 09:53:30

My daughter lives in New York, has done for the past 11 years. To our surprise and delight she produced a granddaughter 2 1/2 years ago at the age of 40, but it is such a double-edged sword! We visit twice a year and they come twice a year, but it is very expensive as their flat is too small to put us up, so on top of the flights, we have to pay for a hotel as well. Skype is wonderful, but GD has a thick Brooklyn accent and with Skype's distortion, it is hard to understand her. D calls me every other day, but only "Are you OK?" "Yes, thank you, and you?" most of the time. We get on very well with the other GM, but of course there is a bit of jealousy that she can help them out and we can't.
Right now we have a crisis at this end and I would give anything to have my D with me. They will be here next week, but they will go back, of course they will go back and this time it will be harder for D as well, which doesn't really help me.

flowerfriend Fri 15-Jun-12 10:00:17

I am a long-distance granny as well. It's my doing and so I don't complain. I enjoy the life I have in France. When I do see my grandchildren it's for a nice chunk of time. This isn't so bad when they are a little older but I felt they were unsure for the first hours when they were toddlers. The cost of the travelling is a big bit in my modest budget but they come to me as often as I go to them and both ways are relaxed visits. Gally Enjoy your visit for the arrival of your next GC but I am glad to see you are sensible enough not to be making hasty decisions about any move.