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Being a long distance granny

(360 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 12-Sep-13 10:18:34

This week's guest blog post comes from Frances Johnstone. With two of her grandchildren off to live in California she's determined to embrace the positives of their move and stay cheerful...but she WOULD like some tips. Do add yours (and your own experiences) here.

Greatnan Thu 12-Sep-13 10:34:03

I was working abroad when the first three of my ten grandchildren were born and I have had no problems in building a good relationship with them. It is even easier now, with Skype and Facebook.
My daughter lives in New Zealand and speaks to her own grand-daughters ever week on Skype.
At first, it can feel like an amputation to be away from your family, but it does get easier.
Now, I have grandchildren in New Zealand, London, Kent and Yorkshire.
As long as they are well and happy, it doesn't matter where they are in the world. And I get long holidays in the sun during the Alpine winter!

Gally Thu 12-Sep-13 10:59:25

I am a long distance Granny to all my gc's. 4 are in Sydney which is difficult and 2 + 2 are in the south of England 450 miles away. I knew when DD2 went off on her travels and met the man of her dreams that she wouldn't be home again, so I was already prepared for the distance problem and eventually accepted it. I talk to her nearly every other day and see the children on Skype - if only briefly as they have the attention span of a gnat - most weeks. It hurts that I am missing out on my extended family but I am lucky to be able to visit at least once if not twice a year and those are very special times. I know that life for them is better where they are and strangely I think we are closer than we were before she left home; job opportunities are good and of course the weather is more conducive to a healthy outdoor family life. They are only 'yours' for a brief period and to see them off on their way in the world knowing they are happy and doing well and producing their own families is enough.

Grandmanorm Thu 12-Sep-13 11:25:49

I too am a long distance grandma and have been for 19 years. I have two in California, (19 and 16), 1 and a bit in Boston (USA) and 2 in Sydney.
I feel close to them all as FaceTime is great.
It was a lot more difficult 19 years ago, but my L A Granddaughters are very much part of the family.
As Greatnan says, it is hard in the beginning, but it does get better.
The fact that they (one's offspring) are strong enough to travel and still feel close to us, their parents and siblings, I feel, is fine by me.

GinnyTonic Thu 12-Sep-13 15:47:07

We have recently bought fancy Skype cameras which enable us to clearly see the whole room on full TV screen both here and in Melbourne. We can also zoom in or out and pan around. It's a practical help, to keep us in touch with rapidly changing 2 year old granddaughter as is having regular catch up times & following Aussies on Facebook. Thank God for technology. Personally, I would appreciate any tips to make the separation easier. Our retirement plans have been completely changed to accommodate an annual trip to Oz - just immensely relieved we are in a financial position to do this ( although it requires a lot of juggling of funds).

Jendurham Thu 12-Sep-13 22:31:39

My son and his partner use ooVoo to contact her brother in Spain. They have a tablet and can wal;k around with it and show them what they want to. It does not work very well on my 3 year old laptop, but it's brilliant on the tablet.

Joan Fri 13-Sep-13 08:36:18

For the little grandchildren, my old linguistics professor, Roly Sussex, has the right idea. He buys two copies of a children's book, then reads his copy to them on skype while they look at their own copy.

grannieannie41 Fri 13-Sep-13 09:02:17

I have one grandson living in Capetown who I haven't met yet,only 36 days old and two grandchildren aged 2 and 2 months who are about to go to Sydney. I have a very close relationship with grandson no 1 who has spent a day a week with me and we adore each other.. I know I will miss them deeply.. Roll on Xmas when I visit them all

tillyann Fri 13-Sep-13 09:51:44

All our grandchildren live overseas so we are grateful for Skype .We also do a lot of travelling .Being retired is a help, must now invest in a tablet!

Speldnan Fri 13-Sep-13 09:55:55

I have a granddaughter of just over 2 years old- I've only seen her for two short periods since she was born.
It's heartbreaking not to know her and I miss my son everyday. They've been gone nearly 4 years and you get used to it eventually.
It's very hard not to do the guilt trip thing but yes you have to accept that they are happy and successful and making something of their lives.
As for the grandchild- well it helps if the parents are good at communicating. If they are, you can certainly Skype or FaceTime and get to know/keep in touch with your grandchild or children.
In my case my son and DIL are terrible at keeping in touch so I rarely get photos or news and speak to them once a month- if I'm lucky! The time difference in NZ doesn't help -11-13 hours- so it's either when the little one gets up or is just going to bed.
What I have been doing for about a year now is to send my GD little gifts, cards and letters about once a month- her parents read these to her and I have asked them to keep them for my GD to see when she's older so that she knows her Grandmother was thinking of her even if she didn't see her.
I send small gifts for birthday and Christmas- at great postal expense- but I like to do it.
I hope one day that they will return to the UK but in the meantime I am consoled by the little grandson that I have an hour away from me and whom I look after two days per week.
It must be harder if you have got to know your grandchildren well and then they go away- I feel for you.
I did that with my own parents as my ex husband and I took our children abroad for 4 years when they were 2 and 4- I don't think I gave my parents enough consideration at the time but I think it must be right and natural for children to be adventurous and not to consider their parents when they make their plans.

bmteal Fri 13-Sep-13 10:12:18

Yes two of my little treasures live in California. I do find i get quite sad and miss them terribly.
With all this technology about, our lives are made easier.
Skype is great, as you can see everyone of your family.
While talking to my Son, i can see the antics of my Grandchildren in the background.
They always make me laugh and when their ready, i can chat to them.

SueDonim Fri 13-Sep-13 10:27:34

Both my grandchildren, aged 3.5 and 6mths, live in California. We've been fortunate in that we've been able to see them at least once a year and in fact this year, when they come for Christmas, we'll have seen them three times since the baby was born.

We Skype, although the time difference can make it difficult, and I'm happy to say that our grandson has no doubts about who we are, he is perfectly at ease when we turn up at his home, having emerged from the computer(!) and I hope it will be the same with our granddaughter.

It does make you think, though. You encourage your children to think the world is their oyster so you can hardly be surprised when they then take themselves off to see that world! smile

GadaboutGran Fri 13-Sep-13 11:00:35

My parents were ten pound Poms & took us to Australia just after the War when searation really did mean separation & even making phone calls was difficult. We received letters regularly & packages of favourite comics & sweets (I can still smell the tin of Rowntrees fruit gums). I always had a very strong sense of our grandparents & felt very secure in knowing who our whole family was. Even when we came back to England we lived too far away to see one set often & the other died a few months before we got back.

Gorki Fri 13-Sep-13 11:15:46

We were the same Gadabout. We went to Australia in 1949 on the same scheme but I only had one living grandparent at the time and she lived in South Shields so I very rarely saw her as we lived in the South. How different things are now. I am so glad all you long-distance grandparents can keep in touch via technology so that you are not missing out on special times as your grandchildren grow up.

Greatnan Fri 13-Sep-13 12:06:19

I am lucky in having a grand-daughter and gd-in-law who send me regular news and photos of my four great-grand-daughters. I transfer cash from my UK bank account for birthday and Christmas presents and they send me a photo of the children playing with them. They also put them on the phone to me as soon as they are old enough and they thank their 'Nanny Noo'.
I encouraged my daughter to emigrate as I could see there was not going to be much future for her children in England - they are all very happy in NZ. I watch 'Wanted down under' and I think some of the grandparents are selfish when they use emotional blackmail to try to stop their children emigrating. As has been said - you bring up your children to be independent and adventurous so try to rejoice when they display those traits!
I am going to be joining my daughter in NZ in a couple of years (at her suggestion) but that will mean leaving another daughter, several grandchildren and all my great-grandchildren in the UK. At the moment, I am spending six weeks a year in NZ, and I will just reverse that when I emigrate. It helps that I live alone and am retired with a reasonable pension income.

Coppernob Fri 13-Sep-13 12:08:17

I have 6 grandchildren only 2 of whom live locally. 3 live in other parts of this country and 1 lives in Italy. Apart from the locals, the granddaughter I have most contact with is the one in Italy, thanks to Skype and Face Time. Sofia is only 8 months old but we 'talk' to each other regularly and I get frequent up to date pictures of her and what she's doing. It's such a joy when her little face pops up unexpectedly on the computer screen!

The family visited us for 2 weeks in the summer and I didn't find it at all easy when they first went back. Talk about empty nest syndrome! But they have their own life to live and they are well, happy and settled so I couldn't wish for any more for them - and it means we get to go to Italy every now and then!

It's hard, but in these days of instant communication and quick travel, not as hard as it once was.

MumMum Fri 13-Sep-13 12:16:48

My grandson was born in the USA, lived in Mongolia for his first 4 years and has now moved to Vietnam! We first met him when he was five weeks old, then I went to help out when he's was 5 mths old and so on..... In June I did the ultimate babysitting duty by going to Vietnam at his parents expense ;).
It is hard being a long distance Granny, but using Skype means that we can keep in touch regularly and can see him growing up. Sometimes he doesn't want to chat and other times he's full of it!!
We use most of our disposable income on air fares but its worth it just to see him running towards us at the airport, it's a bit hard when we leave though!!
I send little presents in between birthdays and Christmas as I reckon if we were seeing him more regularly we would buy him books etc. .....
We have never had a Christmas with him yet though, but that is to be remedied is year when, yes you've guessed it, we are getting on a plane (again) to go to the USA for a family Christmas with the DIL's family, who we get on with really well!
But at the end of the day, it's tough, and writing this has brought me to tears .......

Stansgran Fri 13-Sep-13 12:23:21

I have two DGC who live an hour and half away, two who live in Switzerland. It's the child minding crises which I find difficult. I've just had a cry for help as my DD is being sent to India whilst SIL is in Australia. It is astonishing how difficult it is to get there from Newcastle unless you go through that purgatory called Heathrow . Once the skiing flights start then it gets easier but she never seems to have a crisis then unless Newcastle airport is snowed in!

hespian Fri 13-Sep-13 12:29:39

Speldnan I feel just like you. My new grandchild was born in August in Australia and I have only seen her a couple of times on Skype. I just long to touch her and I can't imagine how we can have a proper relationship in the future. Like you I am sending monthly books (free postage through the Book Depository) and I wrote her a letter when she was born that I want her to have when she is older.

I have two other grandchildren very local to me who I see almost every day so I am very aware of what I am missing. My DIL has her family around her and she seems to stop my son from having much contact with us.

We would love to visit but no mention has been made so far. The last time we went was pretty awful with us being made to feel very unwelcome so I'm afraid we have to wait for an invitation rather than say we are coming! My heart just breaks knowing that our family is so distant to us. Families are not meant to have thousands of miles between them. sad

PHM12 Fri 13-Sep-13 18:37:19

I have 2 grandsons in California. We use Face time now they have reached the ages of 8 and 10. I had to join Facebook to get background information from their American mother which is better than relying on info from English father.
The other 2 GC who live in London are getting better at using the latest technology to keep in touch .

Pamcb1 Fri 13-Sep-13 18:50:55

Wow, that's a tough one, you just get to know the new little people and they go so far away. A lot of excellent advice has already been provided. How about also writing some stories for them and, as I know you are an excellent cartoonist, illustrating them yourself? And, of course, saving for holidays to California. Regular and varied contact seems to work so that you are part of each other's lives.

tiggypiro Fri 13-Sep-13 19:16:45

I am also a long distance Granny. My DD has 2 boys - 2 mths and 4yrs - in Beijing and DS 3 boys - 3 mths, 4yrs and 6 yrs - in Spain and it is something you just have to get used to. As already mentioned Skype is wonderful and I talk to DD 3 or 4 times a week but sons are definitely different ! Once a month seems to be his limit. All 3 elder boys willingly talk on skype and when I visit it is as if I see them often. I see the Spanish crew 2 or 3 times a year for a week or so (if I'm lucky!) but see the Chinese crew much more often as I go for 3 or 4 weeks and they usually come here for 10 weeks in the summer. Leaving them is awful but I try to leave the tears until they are out of sight.
I don't send parcels as over the years too many have not arrived but many thanks to Hespian I will give The Book Depository a try.
All us long distance Grannies must congratulate ourselves that we brought our children up to have the confidence to do what they have done. I would rather think that than the alternative view that we did so much wrong that they wanted to get away !! I am sure the former is correct for us all.

jorj Fri 13-Sep-13 21:20:22

For Frances:
1. have a regular Skype date - e.g. we do every Sunday breakfast (theirs) and share muffins, coffee, and time together. Two-yr-old does his own thing, (occasionally interacting with us!)
2. if you send cards/presents to each other, open them in front of Skype camera so all can share in the surprises. Similarly, show off new acquisitions, pet's latest trick, etc
3. visit as often as you can. Or more. When children are very young they probably appreciate the grans travelling to the children's own home, but as they get older, they'll enjoy the adventure of travel TO the grans more and more. Invite yourselves, let them do the same.
4. become as widely-read on their new country of residence as you can, study the photos on google and maps and use the web like you've never done before!
5. keep positive!

Speldnan Sat 14-Sep-13 15:25:29

Hespian I agree with your last statement that families are not suppose to have 1000s of miles between them. Tiggypiro is also correct that we have done something right giving our children the confidence to be adventurous and live abroad (where life can certainly be better). Eg when I'm feeling down I remind myself that my son and his partner were living in a small flat in London before they moved to Wellington-now they live in a place where they can walk to work or to the beach. My son can cycle, snowboard and go on interesting holidays-all near to where they live. The little one goes to a lovely daycare centre and lives in a city with little crime. How ever much I miss them I can only be happy that they have all these things.

Grannyfran Sat 14-Sep-13 21:46:48

I have so much enjoyed reading all these posts. They are a brilliant mixture; lots of help, practical ideas and encouragement, but also understanding of how it feels. I really feel now that there is plenty I can do to make long-distance grannying work. I love the idea of regular Skype get-togethers, and also of getting to know the area they are moving to really well on-line. Come to think of it, I had far-away grannies myself, and I still loved them, even though there was no Skype and telephone calls abroad were for life-and-death situations only. Things were so different then; my grannies seemed very old ladies at 60! They may have knitted jumpers for the size we had been when they last saw us, but they managed to keep in touch.