My parents just left this morning after a four day visit. I'm always a little sad when they pull out for the five hour drive back to Minnesota. I enjoy my time with them so much, it makes me miss them more when they are leaving than I do when we're apart.
Granted, my mom is one of my best friends. We talk on the phone almost every day, even if it's just for ten minutes, to check in on each other and keep up to date on the other's life.
I love seeing my parents playing with my girls. They have an obvious affection for each other, even though they're only together ever two or three months. I makes me excited for the day- far, far away- when I'll have grandchildren of my own.
Both of my children's "sets" of grandparents live out of state. Our home is in Wisconsin, my parents live in Minnesota, and my husband's parents abide in Ohio. It makes staying in touch more difficult, and doesn't allow for the wonderful grandparent benefit of free child care; but we make it work and manage to stay close emotionally despite the miles.
Here are a few ideas that work well for our family:
Regular phone calls. As stated, I call my mom regularly. I also make sure I get to talk to my dad every week or so. I also call my husband's parents about once a week. Since our parents aren't around to see our children's everyday lives, I make it a point to catch them up on new skills the girls are developing or funny things they said. They really enjoy hearing updates.
In addition, as soon as Hope could hold the phone without eating it, I began holding the phone to her ear to hear her grandparents' voices. Of course, she didn't talk back to them till much later, but I still feel it's beneficial for her to grow familiar with their voices at a young age, and they feel like they're connecting to her. Now that Hope is three, she can carry on two or three minutes conversations over the phone with her grandparents all by herself. And Violet is just starting the listening phase of phone conversations.
E-mails and Social Networking. Personally, I am much better at keeping in touch through writing than with phone calls. Subsequently, I attempt to e-mail our parents or contact them on Facebook once or twice a week. Facebook is also a great place to update them with photos or short video clips of the girls.
I even let Hope e-mail her grandparents occasionally. She pretends to type as she says out loud what she's "typing". And as she finishes each sentence, I re-type under her line what she said out loud. Her grandparents enjoy reading her messages, repetitive and pointless though they are, and she loves it when they write her back.
Web cams. Two or three Christmases ago, we bought both sets of grandparents and ourselves basic webcams. We hooked these up to our computers and now have the option to chat over the computer. This is fun for the girls because they can see their grandparents' faces as well as hear their voices. You can communicate with built in programs on your computer, use Yahoo, or even try the newer and extremely popular Skye.
Good, old-fashioned face-to-face visits. The drive from our house to my parent's is about five hours, to my husband's parents- nine. Not convenient, to be sure, but not an impossible distance to cross. It's obviously much easier for two adults to pack up and take a short road trip than it is for a family of four with small children, and so our parents commendably make a great effort to head to Wisconsin at least four times a year. We make the trek to their houses about twice a year each. Altogether that's a minimum of six face-to-face visits each year!
We even have, twice, gone on a group vacation- our family and all four grandparents. It's been a wonderful experience! Granted, this won't work for some families, but it may be an option for yours.
Sadly, grandparents are gone now, my husband's at work, and all the kiddie responsibilities fall to mommy. And on that note- I have to go! Violet is- loudly- calling!