Quora is a social media website where people post questions and other people answer them. I get emails about parenting questions and sometimes I answer them. Here is today’s question and my answer:
Q: How do I balance the needs of my wonderful aging parents, my wonderful adult children, and my little grandchildren when they live 1,300 miles apart?
My answer: I’m in a “wonderful adult children” group, but I have children and had grandparents and still have a mother.
What my grandmother loved was receiving telephone calls. If she were still living, I think she would love to Skype. What meant so much to her was to feel that her family had time for her. So, letters, phone calls, photos, anything that let her know we were thinking of her. For that generation, tangible things are best. Actual photos can be carried around and shared with their friends.
Your adult children are likely swamped with life. The things we treasure are gifts of time and gifts of food. I love it when my mother provides a meal for my family, either by delivering it or having us over. And when she takes cares of my young son, that is a HUGE blessing. To me, food and time are even better than money!
For grandchildren, I think their real need is to know that someone cares enough to spend time, to listen, to look them in the eyes. Of course they like it when surprises arrive in the mail, but nothing takes the place of time spent together walking, playing, visiting the zoo, etc.
Overall, facilitating intergenerational experiences is a wonderful way to balance the needs. Create a round robin letter that gets sent from family to family and added on to at each home before sending on. Start a blog! When I began posting on a daily basis, my mom was thrilled. Even if we don’t talk that day, she still sees pictures, hears about what I’m doing, hears about the grandkids, and just has a sense for what our daily life is like. Find ways that make sense to you to create connection between the generations.
Experiences are the things that create the memories that never fade.