By Christina VanGinkel
My twenty seven month old grandson has been traveling with his parents for several months now. They had planned to be home for Halloween, but it now looks as if the next time they may be able to take any time off from work to travel back home may be the week of Thanksgiving. Staying in touch with him at this young age has been a priority for all concerned, and has included daily telephone calls to Nana, Papa, and Uncle (my thirteen-year-old son). It has also included quite a few packages and letters mailed back and forth between us. His latest thing has been to color one side of a page out of his coloring book, leaving the other side uncolored for us to color. When I talked to him Saturday, right after the mail had arrived; he asked me if I had colored my side of the page yet! He is becoming quite the task keeper.
We have also accumulated duplicate copies of some of his favorite books. This way, he can have me read him one over the phone. Mom helps him turn the pages on his end, but I read. It has also progressed to him reading to me. I am sure I mentioned here before that he has already memorized nearly the whole text from the classic 'Go, Dog, Go!' book. We had purchased him his own copy the last time he was home, along with an accompanying stuffed dog from the same story. It is by far his favorite book to read and have read to him.
Our goal in all of this has been to show him how much we love him and to stay a part of his daily life, even though he is hundreds of miles away on most days. This way, when they do make the trip home, he is comfortable staying with us, even though he has not 'seen' us in months, thus giving his parents a break, time to spend some adult together time alone when they are here, without worries about him adjusting each time, because we are 'new' people to him. So far, this tactic has worked splendidly throughout his life. There has only been one time, when he was about a year old, that he acted as if we were strangers. Other than that, this daily regimen of phone contact, photographs, and mail has kept us as close a family as if we lived next door to each all these months of his new life. It has taken some work on all parts concerned, and has kept the phone companies happy at the same time. It has also improved his vocabulary, or at least we feel it has, through all the phone conversations. We have reaped equal rewards, by being able to stay in contact, feeling as if we are playing a vital role in this wonderful little person's life on a continual basis, not just the occasional holiday or extended weekend. If you are lucky enough to have a new grandchild, niece, or nephew, but distance separates you, do not let it control the relationship you have. Take control yourself and make the relationship all it can be!