Um, about that grandparenting dream you had …

What everyone has said is true: there’s nothing as splendid as being a grandparent. You know it and I know it.

When she was about to become a grandma, my Mom told me she expected a reemergence of feelings she had experienced when she had her own babies. But when my daughter was born, Mom reported with excitement that a whole new section of her heart opened up, a place she never knew she had! New feelings unlike any other filled her and she joined the ranks of people simply gobsmacked with being a grandparent to 9 pounds, 10 ounces of absolute cuteness. When I tell other grandparents my mom’s observation, they smile and nod in agreement.

I only truly understood what Mom meant when my first grandchild was born.

Becoming a grandparent was, to me, like having my first crush all over again. The world is new and wonderful, and I began to see the world through different eyes.

But when grandchildren are living far away and you need to “visit” for a few days instead of just popping in for an afternoon, grandparenting is a different experience than perhaps you thought it would be.

How your grandparenting dream came to be.

If your own grandparents lived in town, I hope you have wonderful memories of them being a happy and involved part of your life, there for everyday experiences as well as important occasions.

One of my grandmas, Johanna Schreier

Perhaps many of their qualities have influenced how you want to grandparent.

Then, if you raised your children nearby to their grandparents, you kept on developing a view of what involved grandparenting is.

reading picture book to child

I hope you saw your parents or your in-laws involved in close relationships with your children:

  • Your mom, ready to baby sit whenever you wanted
  • Your mother-in-law, asking to have the kids overnight every time you turned around
  • Your father, inviting the kids to stop by to see his new bird house
  • Your parents, wanting to take your kids to church – to share their faith and to show off the kids
  • People you could call in any emergency, to be right by your side

Your kids knew their in-town grandparents’ houses as well as their own. They knew where to find the crackers, the books, the Play-Doh – and which knick-knacks were no-no’s. Your mom couldn’t wait for the kids to come trick-or-treating at her house. Your in-laws put a giant inflatable snowman in their front lawn in December just for your kids.

Grandparents’ happy faces were at soccer games and swim meets – and they even showed up for some practices. They were at every school event, dance recital, award ceremony, church play. I always thought my Mom would have gone to my kids’ check-ups if I had hinted she could!

Some of us never had the rich experience of our kids’ grandparents in town – but we saw other grandparents in action. At parks, playgrounds, stores, front yards, birthday parties, museums, ball games, grandparents would be grinning and loving life with their grands.

Our dream of what kind of grandparent we wanted to be evolved slowly and beautifully.

Problem: we’re a people on the move.

The way we developed our dream of how we wanted to grandparent ran up against a big obstacle: our child moved away from us.

It’s a common occurrence. According to recent surveys, only 37 percent of people in the United States still live in the town in which they were raised.

Adult children move away from their parents for jobs, adventures, geographical preferences, and other reasons. According to a MetLife Study entitled Grandparents Investing in Grandchild conducted by the Pew Research Center, out of the 70 million grandparents in the nation:

Approximately 39 percent of grandparents
that’s 27.3 million people
have a grandchild more than 500 miles away.

You and I are among 27.3 million people! That gives us some comfort, but, oh, we would much rather be a “pop-in” Grandpa or Grandma who stops over at the kids’ house just to see how those new swimsuits look on them.

If you’re like me, you worried your grands won’t know you. You despaired that you’ll only be a visitor that’s seen a couple of times a year. Being miles and miles away isn’t what you had in mind when you dreamed of being a grandparent – and darn it, why did they have to move to Houston anyway?

If you’re just entering “grandparenting at a distance,” you realize that sure, it’s going to be a different relationship than the one you imagined. But I have a secret for you: it can be so much better than you think.

In fact, you can have a relationship
with your out-of-town grandkids that is better
than many folks have with their in-town grandkids. Really!

I have a better relationship with my grandkids who live almost 2,000 miles away than many people have with grandchildren who are a mile away. In this blog, I love sharing what’s worked for me and hope you will share with all of us what has worked for you.

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3 thoughts on “Um, about that grandparenting dream you had …”

  1. My Mom was the best Grandma to my three kids! That’s what’s so hard for me about MY three grandkids living 800 miles away.

  2. I am in a little bit of a different situation. My five grandkids (ages 8 years to 11 months) only live about 30 minutes away. But their mom won’t let them facetime or zoom, etc. She says they get too riled up and wild when they see themselves on the screen. We do a phone call about once a month but it is very stilted and of course, the two littlest can’t take part. Any suggestions?

    I am so happy to have found your blog. I have two other grandkids (ages 2 years and 2 months) that live about 45 minutes away and I can’t wait to start using some of your ideas with them!

    Most importantly you’ve given me hope.
    Thanks so much!

    • Oh, Sheila, I’m glad you found me, too!

      What a coincidence — my 4 grandkids are 8 years to 15 months. I’m tickled for you that they live 30 minutes away.

      My only suggestions to see if you can get some screen time with the kids:
      – Ask if perhaps you could have individual time with them, in their bedroom, without the siblings? Maybe they wouldn’t be as riled up.
      – Suggest that visiting with you on screens could be a reward the Mom can use: “When you get your room clean, you can Skype with Grandma.”
      – Tell the Mom you want to read books to them. Maybe the group would settle down for that as you start the book. Ask if you can at least try! Be ready with a book as the session starts. If she’s a mom of 5, I bet she wishes she had more time to read to them so she might see your visit as educational!

      Hope these help.



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