Long Distance Grandparenting: My Mom Tells it Like it is
One of the hardest parts about being a military spouse is living so far away from family. It was annoying when it was just the two of us, but living 1,250 miles from home is downright upsetting now that my husband and I have a toddler son, Levi. I want our parents to play big roles in Levi’s life, and I wouldn’t complain if we had some extra help from time-to-time. After all, grandparents make terrific—and reliable—babysitters.
Before Levi was born, my parents made a promise to fly out to Omaha once a month to spend time with him (and my husband and I, presumably). On their most recent visit, I sat down with my mom to talk about her experience as a first-time grandma and the downside to having a long-distance relationship with her only grandson.
Tell me about your relationships with your grandmothers.
My paternal grandmother died when I was two, so I don't have any memories of her. My maternal grandmother was very special and dear to me, and I was very close to her. Maybe it was because I was the only granddaughter. (She had two other grandsons.) She lived with extended family in a house about 30 minutes away, and we ate dinner there every Friday night while I was growing up. I spent many weekends with them, and in the summer, we enjoyed the beach that was two blocks away.
I spoke to my grandmother every week of my life, and when she moved into a nursing home and didn't have a phone, I'd send her postcards and visit.
Before Levi was born, did you have an idea of the type of grandma you wanted to be?
I’ve always wanted to be an active grandmother. I want to get on the floor with my grandchildren, pick them up to read, play games, and take them to activities like pumpkin picking. Some grandparents are content to just be in the same house as their grandchildren, but not me. I want to be fully interactive.
I also want to be a grandmother who supports my children’s parenting philosophies. I want you and your husband to feel comfortable with me caring for Levi without thinking I might “undo” anything. Yes, I give my thoughts and suggestions; some you consider and some you don’t. I’m OK with you disagreeing with me as long as you say it nicely!
So, is this how you imagined “grandmotherhood” would be like?
Yes and no. I’ve always expected to work towards developing a close relationship with my grandchildren. Even though Levi lives so far away, I want him to grow up knowing me. I don’t want to be reintroduced every time we visit. Because of that desire, I’ve chosen to spend my money on plane tickets rather than other things. Visiting regularly has become my priority so that I can be a part of his life. I want to witness Levi’s developmental milestones and have him come to me calling my name – or a version of my name. (Right now he says “May-May” instead of “Mimi.”) It helps that we now have FaceTime so we can “see” each other between visits.
What is the hardest part about living so far away from us?
Aside from wanting to see you and Levi more frequently? Relying on air travel has been difficult. Your dad and I have had to deal with problems getting to and from the airport, bad weather, delayed flights, and even cancellations. However, when we do finally get to Omaha, we stay for 4-6 days, so I get my fill of Levi.
Are there any benefits to living far away?
None. I miss Levi and seeing his day-to-day progress, but you guys are great at keeping me in the loop. Again, FaceTime helps. And I love that you use Instagram to capture him daily.
When we can finally leave Omaha, how close to home would you really want us to live?
Ideally, I would love to be 30-45 minutes away so that if Levi had an activity, I could come to watch. However, I'd be grateful for a car ride up to three hours. At that distance, I'd still stay over, but it would be easier to spontaneously visit.