by Linda Rondeau
Grandparenting from a distance presents challenges. I don’t like that I live so far away from my children and grandchildren. However, as they remind me—they were the ones who moved away. We were unable to follow. Unhappy with simply spending a few days each year visiting, we worked at trying to orchestrate longer visits that would include building memories.
Our first such adventure was with our then four year-old grandson and was dubbed, Camp Rondeau. At that time, we lived in a very rural area so activities were limited to hikes, shopping, going out to eat and Jamal’s favorite, the fire engine playground down the street from us. Sometimes we made a trip 50 miles away to the nearest movie theater. We did have a bowling alley in town, and the kids always enjoyed that activity.
Sometimes visits included necessary school assignments. We found this to be problematic. We tried to engage the children, make the experience fun, but they were resistive to anything that interfered with their special time. I explained that they should never expect their parents to reward them for doing jobs, school work and basic expectations that come with everyday living. However, Grandma’s House had different rules. We worked out incentives so that the completion of their assignments in acceptable timeframes did not interfere with their expected fun.
Yep…bribery. And it still works.
Last summer I tried a twist to Camp Rondeau. My daughter and her husband needed childcare for a two-week period during the summer. Rather than see them use up their needed vacation time (time they could come to Florida to visit), I volunteered to do child care for those two weeks, and they happily called it Grandma Camp. I’m sure I couldn’t compete with horseback riding, canoeing and other adventures experienced at church and scout camps, but we sure made it memorable.
TIPS TO MAKE YOUR EXTENDED VISIT PRODUCTIVE
Whether you will have complete charge during your stay, periods of time when you are the authority, or whether the parents will be present throughout your stay, respect the needs of the household. Here are some tips to help your visit go smoothly.
- A planned activity every day. We did something active, played games, cooked and sometimes just chatted. Because the kids had been away from their tablets, television and computers at camp, they wanted down time which gave me opportunity to work on writing tasks.
- Plan ahead and clear all your activities with the parents…both of them, especially your in-laws. What may work for your son or daughter may not work with your son-in-law or your daughter-in-law. They may feel awkward to mention their druthers to you, so be specific in what you plan on doing and don’t veer from the path unless the detour is in-law approved. You might inadvertently create tension in the marriage.
- If you will be responsible for the children’s care during any time of your visit, be sure you know where emergency phone numbers are. Make a plan in the event of accident, fire or illness. If the parents will be out of town, be sure you have a notarized slip naming you as temporary guardian.
- Be sure you know the “rules of the house.” Even though the grandkids love you, they’re not above trying to fool you into, “Oh, my mother lets me do this all the time.” No matter how much we try to stay on top of our grandchildren’s lives, when there are great distances, it is impossible to know all their friends and regular habits, let alone every family rule. When I visited for Grandma Camp, my daughter and son-in-law understood that Grandma’s rules would be different than normal house rules. However, knowing as much as you can ahead of time may help to avert disaster. There are general reasons why the family rules are different than the rules your children grew up with. Know the hazards of the community.
- Have a celebration at the end of your stint. Since my stay was at the end of August, I planned an end-of-summer ice-cream social. It was educational as well as fun. The kids went to the store with me to pick out what flavors they wanted and special toppings. Each child invited a special friend (parent approved—both ways). A beginning and end time was set. We talked about hospitality and what was involved in making your guest feel welcomed and special. After the ice-cream feast, the kids entertained their individual friends with pre-approved activity. The event was the highlight of my visit.
I’m hoping to repeat the fun this year, if the Lord allows during the last week of June over the Fourth of July. What do you think of Fourth of July Ice-Cream social? With red, white and blue theme? Can’t wait!
Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel, Linda Wood Rondeau writes blended contemporary fiction that speaks to the heart and offers hope to those with damaged lives. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her eternally patient husband, Steve. Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com, her blog, Salt and Light, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus.
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