Storytime with Grandpa via webcam.
A highlight of my early childhood was living close enough to both sets of grandparents to visit frequently. I spent hours and hours at my dad’s parents’ home especially, since they were a mere mile away. My kids don’t have the luxury of grandparents living nearby. Since my eighteenth birthday, I’ve only lived in the same country as my parents for one year – and for that year, we were on opposite sides of the country (they were in DC and I was in California). Most of the time, we’ve lived oceans apart. In the absence of family get-togethers for Sunday dinner or the holidays, we’ve come up with come creative ways of staying close to family.
- Webcam My kids enjoy webcam sessions with both grandparents, as well as several aunts and uncles. I’m thinking we should try to do more cousin sessions now that they are getting older!
- Email At the end of every day I write a couple sentences about our day. Then I send it off once a week, along with favorite photos from the week. We also send out links to family videos. Several siblings send out family emails as well, and I love finding out what they’re up to. My kids recognize family members from email pictures and videos.
- Phone Thanks to the magic that is VOIP telephones, I can now talk to my parents in Austria for as long as I want – by dialing a US number! I talk to my mom several times a week, and my kids talk to all of their grandparents occasionally (they prefer webcam). This is a HUGE change from my first year of college, when I called maybe once a month because it cost over $2/minute to talk to my parents in Nicaragua. I also call my siblings regularly, and one sister’s kids in particular love to get in on the conversation.
- Facebook I’m sure it’s due to the combination of a geeky family and a large family, but we have our own sibling (including in-laws) facebook group. Mike claims that there is a second, secret, in-laws-only facebook support group. =) Facebook is also a nice way to stay in touch with extended family members.
And a few old-school methods:
- Snail mail I don’t send letters as often as I should, but I’m a big believer in the magic of getting a REAL paper letter in the mail! I need to get better at printing physical photos, too.
- The Christmas Book was the brainchild of my oldest sister. Every Christmas she asks each of us to submit something – pictures, writing, poetry – WHAT we send is our choice, but if we don’t send something in she will get (kindly) creative. She rarely has to get creative. Everyone’s entries are compiled, with all the sheets in page protectors. This Christmas will mark ten years of this tradition, and I treasure my family’s collection of annual “snapshots of who we are, experiences we’ve shared, and things about which we care.”
- The magic of family I am always amazed at how well my kids get along with their cousins when we all get together. My kids tend to be quite shy, but with their cousins they are always friendly and quick to start playing.
Mike travels a lot (he spent this week in Berlin, with two other trips in June), and we use phone conversations and email to keep in touch with him. The extra money we spent on the 3G version of the Kindle for him is worth every cent, because it means he can send us short email messages from anywhere in the world.
I AM lucky enough to have one sister and one brother (plus his awesome wife!) within an hour’s drive of our home, and we try to get together with them at least once a month.
How do you stay connected to family – no matter how far away they live?