Grandparenting in a Box
Mother's Day Thoughts About Skype, FaceTime, and Virtual Connecting
Posted in ChicagoNow, May 5, 2014 (cartoon by Marcia Liss)
My grandparents lived close by and were a regular presence is my life. But times have changed and kids and grandkids can be scattered all over the place. Luckily, we have our screens to connect us with those little ones we love so dearly.
I have taken an unscientific survey of my friends with out-of-town grandkids and we all agree the ability to connect via technology is a blessing in our lives. We also agree there are 5 stages of this virtual relationship with our grandkids that we have experienced.
Infancy: The baby has no choice but to cooperate. Options are sleeping, crying, and (if I am lucky and the timing is perfect) smiling. All are acceptable, as I just want to see that kid!
My grandchild recognizes me: This is the OMG moment. I was doubtful it would work, even if I did every preschool song and finger play in my repertoire. But it did. At some point, that kid looked straight at me via the iPad and we locked eyes. Then he smiled. I was skeptical about what would happen when we met again in person, but he really seemed to know who I was.
My grandchild wants to talk, read, and sing, and wants me to do the same: Now that we know each other, we can have a Skype or FaceTime meeting every week. My grandchild looks at me in “the box” and talks to me. We sing Twinkle Star, ABC, and Itsy Bitsy Spider together. I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and he shows me Goodnight Moon. It really works. We are having virtual play dates together.
My grandchild wants to show me what he can do: Now my grandkid is zooming around, dancing, singing, and literally showing me his stuff. My kid has to follow him around as he shows me his trains and the tricks he can do. “Look at my new shirt. See how fast my shoes go. Look at my big boy bed.” I’m part of his world between the times I’m able to see him in person. This technology is really great!
My grandchild would rather do something else: He’s only four and he’s bored with seeing me on the screen. He prefers to hide under a blanket and make monster sounds. Well, that’s ok – even if he doesn’t see me, he hears me and I can catch occasional glimpses of him between when he drops the blanket and aims the iPad at the ceiling. He’s in control and I see what he finds interesting – traffic outside of the window, extreme close ups of his nose, the refrigerator.
Mother’s Day is coming up soon, and I want to remind all of you moms out there that you too may be a “grandparent in a box” someday. My grandkids are still young, and there are two little ones who have not yet hit Stage 5. I am confident that my other darlings, currently in Stage 5, will enter Stage 6 someday and actually have conversations with me about their lives. When they are ready, I will be online and eager to listen.