One of our new GaGa Sisterhood members recently asked a question on our members-only forum and the answers she received were so helpful, I’m sharing her question and responses.
Question from Long-Distance Grandma-in-waiting
My daughter is due to have her first child in January. She is a two-hour plane ride away. I have read many suggestions for connecting with older long-distance grandchildren, but how does one connect with an infant? My daughter and son-in-law both have high-level, stressful jobs, so they don’t want me to visit them frequently. I was told I’d have lots of “electronic” contact with the baby. I don’t know when they’ll find the time to Skype, though. When they’re not working, they will want to be with their child. And assuming that we DO Skype, you can’t really have a conversation with a child who is extremely young. Ideas?
Answers from Seasoned Grandmas
- What a great opportunity you have to develop a relationship at a very early age. I Skyped for a few years before moving to be closer to my granddaughters. You are right, not the same thing. Not knowing your personality, I’m taking a big leap. I wore a cute hat or seasonal “ears” so they looked at me closely. FaceTime is a nice way as well. I would make sure that you are “recognized” easily by your grandchild and be creative. A dear friend told me: You need to be the fun one. Lots of ways to do that. One time I met the family at the airport at Christmas dressed as a package with the girls’ name on it. They had to open the poster to find me. Make the connection early so your grandchild wants you to be in her life. Keep asking your daughter what her expectations are for you and your grandchild. Make it YOUR connection.
- I have the same issue. We are in the San Francisco area and my son and daughter-in-law are down south. We don’t Skype. For us, FaceTime works. Why not sing to the baby. “You Are My Sunshine” and “Pack Up All Your Cares and Woes” have always been my favorites. That way your new grandbaby learns the sound of your voice. Don’t be afraid to sing the same one over and over. My grandson is now 19-months and when we visit and I sing “You Are My Sunshine,” I can still feel his body relax. Also, my daughter-in-law will send little videos every few days. We are lucky, every four months or so I find a really cheap fare and we will visit for a day or two. I find three days is tops and four is really pushing it.
- I second what people have written: sing sweet songs to her, even over the phone. Or read nursery rhymes to her. She’ll learn your voice and associate it with someone who loves her.
- You have some wonderful suggestions and I want to add that attachment and connection with infants and children come with consistent, regular contact. So, if possible, set up specific, regular times to Skype or do FaceTime. I don’t know about your relationship with your daughter. You most likely have told her that you are willing to help her and she can call upon you. I think it’s important that she will be determining how much that is. Our role of grandmother brings up the issue of how we relate to our adult children. Sometimes, the old conflicts come up but hopefully, they have been resolved. We all have lots of opportunities for new and rewarding relationships!
- Being a grandparent is a new role, which I think we all have to get used to. So many times, I remind myself, this grandchild is not my child. I have to follow the lead from her parents. This may be especially challenging with cultural differences. You do have an advantage though being the maternal grandmother and having a good relationship with your daughter. So, my advice is that at times you may have to be quiet and not express your opinion but you will always be there for your daughter. And, you will weather all the different stages they will be going through.
- I sang to my granddaughters from the time they were born. I also made CDs for them on their first birthdays. My daughter played them in the car. I would also tell your daughter and son-in-law that you want to bond with your new grandchild and would love to receive lots of photos and videos of the baby. My daughter-in-law sends me texts of my youngest granddaughter almost every day and I love them. I always text her back. We didn’t start Skyping until the baby was five months old. Now we Skype every Sunday morning. The fact that you care so much already means a lot. I bet you’ll come up with your own ideas.
- Send photos of yourself in different rooms in your home, in your neighborhood and doing your favorite activities. Frame them in colorful foam frames and ask your daughter to hang them on the wall near the baby’s crib. Give your grandchild a special “pet name” that only you use
- If your new grandchild is in daycare or at home with a nanny, ask them to send you photos of the baby in some of her day-to-day activities.
Remember a few more tips: if you initiate calls, always ask if it’s a good time to talk. Keep your conversations short and positive. Ask them what was the cutest thing the baby did today. Infants change so quickly that it’s important to savor those moments when you can connect and be sure to share your appreciation with your grandchild’s parents.