As I sat on the sofa nursing the baby, I just wanted my mom to come over and fold my laundry. Though she also wanted nothing more, the miles between us prevented that kind of spontaneous face-to-face.
There is a special kind of heartache when the people closest to your heart are not actually near you. As an increasingly mobile society, we are less likely to raise our children in the same spot we were raised. But distance doesn’t mean we have to be isolated from our extended families. We can do some intentional things to stay close even if there is a state line or international border that separates us.
We have more tools than ever to connect with almost anyone on the planet. Calling, photo sharing, and video features like Facetime are often available right in our pockets. They offer a spontaneity that allows us to connect right when we want to. Skype and Google hangout let lots of people to get on a group conversation at once. Apps like Voxer are tools to keep the conversation going all day despite constant interruptions by little people.
Incorporate the everyday
Of course you want to share the big moments. But don’t limit the phone calls to the lost tooth or new pregnancy announcement. Make sure you are also sharing the mundane details. These are the minutia that let others in to your everyday experience. What you’re making for dinner, that tomorrow you’re headed to Tuesday morning story time at the library, that you’re wearing your new sweater. It’s the constant contact and little details that will help others feel like they know your actual, daily life, and therefore feel connected to it. This could mean more frequent, shorter conversations.
Have realistic expectations
Sometimes a three-year old loves video chatting with Grandma. Sometimes she doesn’t. Just like in real life, kids don’t always cooperate with our expectations. Sometimes your sister has half an hour to talk. Sometimes she doesn’t. And often when she does, you are in the middle of changing a diaper or handling a tantrum. Recognize that technology can work for you, but it has to work within the confines of your (and others’) reality. Don’t blame this on distance. You’d have many of these same constraints if you lived next door (and now you have the benefit of ending a call when the two-year old starts melting down, not true when your mom is standing in the same room.)
Prioritize in-person visits too
Though bonding can happen through constant virtual contact, there’s nothing like playing for hours with cousins in their basement or eating Grandpa’s signature spaghetti sauce or giving your aunt a real hug. When possible, make in-person connection a reality. Sometimes those who don’t have young children are more mobile than those who do (though when possible take full advantage of baby’s ability to fly for free.) Sometimes one family’s travel budget is tighter than another’s. Be honest about limitations and work together to figure out how to spend time together face-to-face. Because people are always worth the effort.
As a mom to four girls, ages 3 to 12, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She writes to capture the places where motherhood meets everyday life to remember the small, yet significant moments in the midst of the blur. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir , a contributor to this year’s Be you, Bravely, An Experiment in Courage and acts as the Specialty Content Editor for MOPS International. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.