'The best things in life are the people we love...
(Yep... affiliate links are included which means, if you buy through me, I get some coffee money ... though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
As a mother and grandma, the most wonderful places I've been and the best memories I've made all revolve around my family, kids and grandkids. And I'm fortunate enough to have some of my grandkids living close by.. actually, right next door.
But, like many others, the rest of my family and grandchildren live quite some distance away. It's great when I can organise time to hop on the train and travel up to spend some time with them. Ahh.. they seem to have grown so much and so quickly every time I visit.
I'm painfully aware that you can't hold onto time so the moments that I do get to enjoy with my grandkids are important. With that in mind, there are a few things that are worth thinking through as I plan each visit with family.
Maybe you're like me. Maybe some, perhaps all, of your grandkids live a long way from where you live. Gone are the days when generations of families stay in the same area where they were born for most of their lives.
When my youngest grandson was born, the family spent almost a year in areas many miles away. I travelled by plane or my train to visit with them. So, when they were at last able to return and visit with us, it was very exciting. My daughter was holding little Griffie in her arms as gathered up children and bags and emerged from the car. There was a brief moment of tense uncertainty on my grandson's face when I opened the door. And then he relaxed, leaned towards me and breathed "Nan," as he threw himself into my arms.
Maintaining a close connection with your family and grandkids is important... and those memories are the ones I treasure most. But I also want those memories to be treasured by my children and grandkids.
When you live a long distance from your grandkids, you probably don't get to see them very often. Today, most grandparents still work, so they're lucky to get to see the grandchildren during vacations and holidays. Having such a short time together can make it hard to know what to do to make each visit special.
1. Let Mum and Dad Lead the Way
It doesn't matter if you did it "that way" and all turned out fine. Your child has made a choice with their spouse to do things a certain way: their way, not yours. It's not a critique of your parenting skills when children do things their own way. Try to remember what it was like when your parents or in-laws didn't comply with your wishes with your kids, and don't do the same thing.
You don't have control over this situation and no amount of fighting it will give you any control. If your child is not abusing your grandchild, just let mum and dad lead the way and follow their rules for the kids.
If you do this, you're going to enjoy the visit a lot more than if you fought them about how they do things. And the last thing you want is for them to dread your every visit.
2. Save Gifts for the Last Night
This is especially important when you don't see the grandkids as much as you want. Don't show up and shower gifts on the grandchildren right away. You don't want the grandkids to think of you as some kind of rich Santa Clause. You want them to know who you are outside of gifts.
Save gifts for the last night or the day you leave to help them cope with the change instead. This will ensure they're thinking of you long after you leave. Also, only give parent-approved gifts. You can source some amazing choices online, too. I discovered a Cardboard Rocketship Playhouse and a Robot Turtles game that teaches kids to code. Want to get them outdoors? How about a durable Hop Scotch Rug, suitable for indoors or outdoor?
Double check the appropriate ages for the gifts too. The packages say the ages for safety reasons. You'll be glad that you did that.
3. Get Some Alone Time
Nothing is better than giving the parents some time to themselves so that you can get time with the grandkids alone. That one-on-one time is something they'll remember forever. And, the parents probably have little opportunity to enjoy time alone together. Plus, by letting the parents get out alone, you're helping your grandkids by encouraging a healthy marriage.
It's a lot of fun to have alone time with grandkids. If you have multiple grandkids, try to get some time alone with each one whenever it's possible. That will also increase your bond with them. It creates a special time with their grandma/grandad when they don't have to compete for attention. And you can learn so much more about them when they can talk to you without interruption.
4. Experiences Over Things
You know how fast time goes when kids are little. They grow so fast that the best toy today will be too childish for them in six months. That's why giving experiences is a better gift. Give lessons that you know they'd enjoy like dance, gymnastics, swimming or karate for your grandkids - with parents' permission, of course.
Another idea for older kids is sending them to Holiday Camp, if they'd enjoy it, or taking them to a theme park. These are the types of gifts that will be remembered when they're adults.
5. Get Creative
If you have the craft gene, go ahead and plan some sort of crafty activity together during your alone time - such as baking or making mom and dad gifts. Or if you're not crafty by yourself, try taking them to a painting or other type of class. Check out their local library or community events for fun opportunities.
Another option is working on a course together online. How about a chalk pop-art class. A class for decorating biscuits is another option- a delicious one, too. If you're anywhere near an Apple store, their free workshops are great- Coding Lab for kids is a popular choice. Courses will generally give them something to take away from the experience and remember it by.
These ways to make your visit with your grandchildren special will pay off in a big way over time. After 18 years of building your relationship, your grandkids will be very happy that you did and so will you.
Disclosure: At Grandma's Place is committed to high standards of integrity and quality. I do not promote any brand I do not believe meets these standards, and I only promote brands I would purchase myself. If I don't love it, and don't think you'll love it, it won't appear on my blog.
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.