10 September, 2012

Coping with Grandparents on the other side of the world

Have you been living abroad for what seems like forever and never been visited by your parents?  I have a great solution for you:  have a baby!

I flew the coop back in 2006 (incidentally I was going to England for a year to have a look around and maybe see some of Europe and be home by somewhere mid-2007 to move to Perth and become the World’s Best Tour Guide) and in all the time I had been abroad, I had had two family encounters.  One was my Truly Great Aunt (TGN) who flew from South Africa to deliver my wedding ring.  Actually that is a lovely story all on its own.  The TGN had always worn her grandmother’s (my great grandmother) wedding ring and had promised that she would pass it on to me if ever the time came (which I doubt anybody ever expected) and she decided that the best way to ensure it arrived safely would be to accompany it.  She arrived on a rainy day in December – I doubt she could have picked a crappier time to visit the Netherlands, and stayed a couple of weeks.  It was some of the best times I’ve had in my four year stint living here so far.  I have two TGNs and to be perfectly honest, they are probably my favourite people in the world.  Sorry everyone else, I do love you too!

But, back to the story at hand...  The other family visitor was my grandmother.  We had originally planned for her to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks, but that evolved into a few days one side of a Grand Tour of Europe and eventually into an afternoon in Amsterdam and dinner at our house before swanning off to the Rhineland and beyond with her BFF.

But my parents...  I had never really dreamed that my parents would visit.  My mum has struggled my entire life with her health and my dad is always so busy with work that it was like a dream that was sure to never come true.  Little did I know that all I had to do was get myself pregnant and they would fall over themselves to book flights!  My dad was so keen that he had two fifteen hour stopovers on the way here and back.  My mum had never left Australia and because she is possibly the friendliest person on Earth, made loads of friends on the flight over.  I’m surprised that none of them turned up on my doorstep while she was here!

In the middle of January this year we were so convinced that winter was over (especially after our 14 degree Christmas!) that when Mum arrived we were all hideously underprepared for the icy front that would hit and linger for three weeks.  Some of the coldest weather in Northern Europe in years apparently, people dropping like flies – it was awful.  I’d sent her into my all time favourite store – Kathmandu – to pick up all her winter supplies, but it really wasn’t enough!  The poor woman had to go out and buy a second winter coat to avoid freezing to death.

Anyway.  My parents trekked across the planet upon the birth of Gorgeous Raina, and then eventually had to return home to reality.  Since then we have all had to learn to cope with them being “Skype Grandparents.”  As often as we can we will have a Skype session (thank goodness for my iPad) where they can look at and coo over Raina, but it’s less than ideal.

For everybody’s sake, I miss that they can’t be close by to see her growing like a weed and they miss all of the milestones.  First time rolling over; first solid food (and the related first solid poo!); first time crawling; the list goes on.  And on.  Thank goodness I had the foresight to buy Maarten a fancypants digital SLR while I was pregnant.  The damned thing hasn’t been switched off since February.  If you’re interested there are even some arty* shots of the birth....

And Facebook of course.  If it wasn’t for us being over-sharing STFU Parents (well I do believe I’m slightly less offensive than the majority of submissions on that site) posting about every little meal, smile and poo, my parents wouldn’t get to see anything.  Maarten has told me that on the odd occasion that he hasn’t posted a food photo, he has been bailed up by colleagues to find out why.  Facebook has been by far the best way to share with my parents as much as possible.

All of this is by far the biggest reason that I am counting the days until I go to Australia.  My parents will get so share in some of the milestones, finally!  First Christmas, and hopefully first steps (obviously I have a wonderchild who will walk at ten months).  I’m not sure if they’re too concerned about me returning home to be honest.  I think they would probably be just as happy if I popped Raina on a plane and sent her over by herself for a month or two.

I can't wait for the family reunion that my other TGN is arranging, I couldn't bear to miss out on another family gathering (a gathering that 10 years ago I would have probably done anything to avoid) after I missed the launch of Granny's Snake Yarns that my Great Auntie Vida wrote and self-published last year.  We're going to celebrate 100 years since my great grandmother taught at the school my grandmother went to (years and years and years later).  Most of all, it will be wonderful to take Raina to all my favourite places.  We'll actually visit the safe place that I go to in my mind when I'm struggling to cope...

Here she is, the love of our lives...

How do you manage with having long distance grandparents (or indeed being a long distance grandparent)?

*Arty being practically pornographic

What we are talking about

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