Having overseas Grandparents or family faraway is hard.
I am lucky to live in this beautiful country, New Zealand. But by living here I also pay a price. Being from the UK you can’t get much further away from New Zealand. I miss family at the best of times but when you have children, that’s when you really feel it.
I remember when Jack was born and I was lying in the hospital bed in a state of wonder and realisation of what my own mother had done and given up over the years for my sister and I.
It’s certainly hard being so far away from home. Not just for me but for my children who only see their grandparents every couple of years. Yes, there’s Skype but it’s just not the same as touching and holding …hugging and kissing.
Mum has told me more than once how hard it is trying to have a conversation on Skype when the children are non-responsive and otherwise occupied. How all she wants to do is reach out and touch them. To brush their hair away from their eyes and how frustrating it is when all she gets is non-commital answers to her questions from the kids.
I’ll give you an example:
Grandma to Jack: “Hi darling Jack. How are you?”
Grandma: “What have you been doing?”
Jack: “I dunno.”
Grandma: “”How’s school?”
Jack: “I dunno.”
Grandma: “Whose your friends at school?”
Jack: “I dunno.” …. By which point Jack has lost interest and has wandered off elsewhere.
Imagine how lovely it is to have my parents out visiting us in New Zealand at the moment as part of their ‘Gap Year’. (Mum’s writing her own blog about this called Gap Year Granny. Check it out:
Whilst she is here, I have been lucky enough to interview her for one of our podcasts on being an Overseas Granny, and how she’s finding it catch up with the children.
Here she writes about her own opinions and experiences about being being a faraway grandparent and also how she is finding it going from one extreme to another (not seeing the children apart from on skype to living in with them and having to contend with them 24/7. She also talks about her own opinion on being a house-guest and some tips about how to be a good house-guest.
Readers of If Only They’d Told Me…please meet my mum, Magda!
Being a parent we always want the best for our children, don’t we? We bring them into the world and watch them grow and develop. We soothe them when they fall and encourage them when they attempt something new. The time comes when we have to let them go and make their own way in life and we stand back and trust their judgement.
Jacqui met and married John, a Kiwi, and settled in Auckland where she has clearly happily adapted to life down under. They have two children Jack and Sasha who are typical youngsters, full of energy and inquisitive about everything and every one – and thus we have become overseas grandparents.
We miss them. All the little everyday things like listening whilst they proudly show off their reading and writing skills and telling them how well they have done, picking them up when they have fallen off their bikes and putting a sticking plaster on a grazed knee. Hearing the squeals of delight whilst out walking through a park when they discover insects, worms and birds. Seeing them climb a tree and shouting at them to be careful they don’t go too high and might get stuck – for we most probably will have to climb after them to help bring them down. All the simple things, really.
For long distance grandparents and grandchildren it helps when Mum or Dad talk to their children about what life was like and what they got up to when they were young. Tell them what their Mum and Dad did and what family life was like when they were growing up. Children always love to hear tales of family history and soon a picture is formed. I remember when I was a child and asking my parents what they did in the olden days and eagerly awaiting their replies. Actually this also applies to families who are lucky enough to reside close by. Hearing about Grandma or Grandad and what they are up to helps bring them closer and the distance does not seem to far.
So, we all have to cope and make the most of the precious time we spend with one another. Technology is fantastic these days and we can easily get in touch at the click of a switch. We can see one another on the screen and chat and catch up on our latest news. But you can’t replace that with a touch or even a smell or just a moment in time. When I switch off the computer after having chatted I suddenly remember something else I had wanted to talk about, but its too late. That is the downside for families who live far apart.
Because of the distance we try and visit our offspring every few years. The journey is long, tiring and expensive so we have to stay with the family when we do visit and that means being with each other 24/7!
What can I say? Well living with the family is great; we get to know each other all over again at close quarters and form a bond with our grandchildren. That is wonderful. The children are thrilled to bits about Grandma and Grandad being there and can’t wait to show us off to their friends. They want us to play games and read to them and we want and enjoy this too. All very exciting to love and be loved in return with the joy and innocence that only a child can bring and utterly priceless. But it is tiring! We had forgotten how exhausting it is bringing up children. We had forgotten that they have needs 24 hours per day.
Being a good house guest. Well you might believe that everything will be perfect, after all you are staying with family and you all love one another and have common bonds. That is true. However even although you are living with family and sharing their lives things do not always run smoothly . Do they ever? You have to try and fit in with their life and how they do things (even if these differ from how you do them). You have to make sure that, not only you, but they, have the private time and space that is needed, so that you can all get along. We all need that, young and old. We are independent and tend to do our own thing quite a bit and also need our own space, so that helps. We muck in with the housework and everyday chores and find our own little niche in the household. We get to help bathe the grandchildren and read them a bedtime story and have a goodnight kiss – or should I say lots of goodnight kisses, for I have learnt that saying goodnight takes an awfully long time. Perhaps it’s the excitement of having grandparents to stay and the knowledge that they can get away with it for the time being, who knows.
All too soon it is time to say goodbye and return home. We take our leave amid much hugging and lots of tears, until the next time, and life goes on.
Do you have Grandparents overseas, somewhere else in the country or even just down the road? What are the pros and cons of having Grandparents in the same city? Do you have any personal stories you’d like to share?