Celebrating Grandparents Day from a Distance

September is always kind of a happy song and dance around here but also filled with a great sadness and longing. In September we celebrate not only Child 1’s birthday but the USA celebrates Grandparents Day the first Sunday after Labor Day

School celebrations

I never knew Grandparents Day existed until we moved to the USA. Our elementary school hosts an annual grandparents celebration over lunch time where grandparents get to have a sit down with their sweet grandkids at decorated tables and they get to show them off and introduce them to all their friends and teachers.

Every year I sit with my girls at lunch and we get to watch all the kids sharing this celebration with their families. Its pretty bittersweet as even though we have deep sadness not to have our own here with us, we have been taken under the wing so to speak by some of our neighborhood grandparents and those hugs are pretty darn special. 

A great distance 

If you had asked me many years ago if I ever imagined being so far from my parents after I had kids it would of been a definite nope. Not. Nada. I grew up in a home where one set of grandparents lived abroad and on the other side, I lost my darling granny at age 9 and I never got to meet my grandfather. I spent my entire childhood missing out on Christmas Days that were filled with mass family celebrations, or getting a card in the mail for my birthday. A language barrier of not understanding their Dutch dialect pretty much made a long distance phone call “not an option”. Not to mention the cost in those days.

It was just us – a family of five, pretty much like ours is now. 

Fast forward to 2020. Here I sit with an upcoming double digit birthday celebration and Grandparents Day in a world of COVID-19. COVID has separated most families from their loved ones, most especially their grandparents. Our double whammy was not seeing our Ouma and Oupa as planned in May. A desperate blow. So as I remind myself daily, I also remind my kids “out of sight does not mean out of mind”.

There are ways that you can build a bond and a bridge without being in-person. So like anything in life if you want it bad enough you put in the effort and the time. 

Keeping it alive

Our kids had the blessing to see their grandparents for 8 weeks at a time every 4 or 5 months growing up as we would travel between Nigeria and South Africa. This laid incredible foundations as time was the greatest gift of all. Time spent connecting and truly understanding the nature of each individual and their needs. We have based all our communications on this since we moved to the USA 5 years ago, as all we could gift was time.

Technology and ways of showing your love

Each child has Facetime on their Ipad and the kids are encouraged to keep in touch with their grandparents. They now have the confidence and are at the age where they can now go off and do this by this by themselves. They are able to communicate at their own pace and tell their own stories and develop a relationship with them without my or their father’s input. They have forged their own authentic relationships.

They have Whatsapp on the family cellular phone which we got for this particular reason – family communication. Each family member is on the Whatsapp list and the kids are able to message their grandparents whenever they feel the need or want to do so. They make funny videos, sing songs, send photos and basically keep them up to date on their every day lives via this communication port without me having to be a mediator or third party.

Since COVID-19 the Zoom app has taken off in force. This has allowed us to set up Zoom calls with not just the grandparents but with their uncles and cousins too, so its like a giant family affair where everyone gets to have a chat and socialize in three different countries. How amazing is that!

For those living in the USA or first world countries – very unlike my family back in South Africa- you have a secure postal service so send those handwritten letters, where you actually get to lick the postage stamp. There is nothing more beautiful than a handwritten letter. It takes me back to when I was little and I received a letter from my Ouma and Oupa all the way from Holland. I remember the envelope had this blue airplane sticker on the corner that said “per lugpos” and I knew it had come a very long way. I remember her cursive and the pen strokes and the pages upon pages that I never understood as it was in Dutch and I remember that I felt so acknowledged and loved. 

If you don’t have grandparents to love upon – adopt one. Love on your friends grandparents or visit a retirement. There are grandparents who would so love some time.

Just time. 

The gift of generations

We have no excuse in our daily lives not to reach out and build those relationships. Our children are an extension of us and its a beautiful thing watching our children nurture their own relationships with our parents. To gain knowledge and understanding from a different chapter in the book so to speak. To perhaps also gain and inside look into what we were like as children and create understanding why we as parents are as we are. We are gifting generations of time and stories.

Celebrate Grandparents Day

On 13 September 2020 is Grandparents Day. If you are not able to celebrate yours in person make the call, send the message, love on them. Take the time. Life is fleeting and so very short. Make those memories.

To our Ouma and Oupa and Granny in South Africa and Granddad in the UK – Happy Grandparents Day. We love you and miss you very much.

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