We want to thank three PWs for sharing their experiences with long-distance grandmothering.
Home-side Grandmothering of PW Kids
I appreciate my mother and mother-in-law more each time we are back in the US. They are more important in the lives of my daughters than they would be if we lived a “normal” American life, and I think we all realize that. Because we live our lives in a cross-cultural setting, they make a big contribution by giving our children a kind of foundation in American culture, in a loving, wholesome way. Our lives are characterized by a high level of mobility, and yet Grandma’s house, Grandma’s hugs, Grandma’s cooking are a constant in our daughters’ memories.
When the time comes for each girl to “move” back to the US for college and career, that place of stability will still be there, Lord willing. And one of the biggest challenges for Third Culture Kids is that elusive sense of identity, of being able to construct an answer to the question, “Who are you and where are you from?” Their grandmas are one of the most significant resources for them in the search for identity. The last time we were in the US, my mom spent many hours teaching our daughters sewing skills, and they worked on special projects together. This is a part of her heritage that she is passing on to them. My mom-in-law sat paging through old photo albums with them, telling family stories and highlighting the particular characteristics of relatives that carry on through the generations. The grandmas are the storehouses of the family memories that can be so important to our TCK’s as they try to find their own identities.
Our kids also appreciated greatly that their grandparents have all been over here to Africa to visit them. They were able to make special memories together here in our adopted home.
Last but not least, it has to be acknowledged that grandmas make a huge sacrifice when they say good-bye to their beloved grandkids for the sake of the kingdom. Their suffering is as real as ours. The part they play for the advance of the Gospel is significant, and should be appreciated.
PWs Grandmothering Kids Back Home
- Write, write write! Write to EACH child! It’s so important. It doesn’t have to be long or deep, it just has to be DOWN ON PAPER! When I was a child, my grandfather wrote to all his grandchildren quite often – and I try to keep up what he started many years ago! Now I like to write to each child via email!
- Remember birthdays! If you don’t have a card, make one, or just write a letter. Just the fact that you remember their special day means so much! I like to send a little “something” like stickers in the card! It’s hard to send anything else, and kids sure love stickers!
- Call when you can. I know from some countries this isn’t even an option. From Mexico, where we have Vonage, I can call often, which is a huge blessing.
- Pray for your grandchildren – and let them know you’re praying for them!
- Send pictures, of you and of the work if possible. Make them feel a part of what you’re doing.
- Send cassettes of your voice if possible, maybe even videos of you talking, of you working, of you “playing” or whatever you do on the field. If the kiddos hear your voice and “see” you, it helps them feel that they know you.
- When on furlough (or home assignment) spend as MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE with your children and grandchildren. Make each child feel special with little things you do with and for them. Since I have a lot of grandchildren (and 9 of them are just in one family!), it’s hard for me to do something special with EACH one, but even as a group, you can make them feel special!
Since I live fairly close and am able to get back to the States often, I feel I know my grandchildren better than many people who live far away – across the ocean and can’t get back for births, weddings, funerals, etc. I’ve been with my children for all their babies’ births (or a day or so after the birth) – and I have 13 grandchildren! This has been truly a huge blessing from the Lord!
Grandmothering in the Electronic Age
I am a PW in London and have two sweet little grandchildren in the States. I have missed them terribly and feared they wouldn’t even remember me as they are just two years and three and a half. I have been gone for 10 months now. My daughter had a wonderful solution that only requires an Internet connection. She and I downloaded a free copy of MSN Messenger version 7.0. We then went out and each got a web cam, which was very inexpensive and can even be ordered, online. She got hers for a dollar at a thrift store and I paid 5 pounds for mine new. We also got some cheap head phones, though it works without them.
When I am online, and she gets online, our computers tell us that we are online at the same time and we text each other and one can then invite the other to a video conversation. I can’t tell you the joy of seeing my daughter and grandchildren again after so long! Our visit is live, so I can see and hear their little voices. This has really eased the pain in my heart considerably.
To easiest way to find MSN Messenger is to do a google search. Once you buy the web cam and the headphones, you can talk and see each other at absolutely no cost. The only difficulty is the time difference of course. (Editor’s note: There are other free internet phone and video services available now. All require high speed internet service, however.)
Another idea to keep yourself real to your grandkids is to send cards online. Hallmark has a good selection of free online cards and you do not have to subscribe to anything. You can also order gifts via the Internet, from companies where your grandchildren live. The gifts can be delivered directly to them to avoid overseas shipping costs. I hope that these ideas will help ease the loss for my fellow PWs who have so sacrificed to leave these precious little grandchildren for the Lord’s service.
What Grandmothers Give their Grandchildren
- Grandmothers can shower their grandchildren with acceptance and unconditional love.
- Grandmothers can encourage their grandchildren with the gift of seeing possibilities.
- Grandmothers can share their appreciation for life and beauty.
- Grandmothers can recount their stories of answered prayer.
If you are a mom with young children and your mother and mother-in-law cannot grandmother your children, seek for an older woman you can adopt as “grandma” to your children. Even if they don’t know your family story, there is much heritage they can pass on to your children, skills, and different point of view.