Grandparenting in Times of Covid

Grandparenting in Times of Covid

It’s different, isn’t it?

As a Grandmother to three boys, aged 15, 12 and 9, I have had a few months to adjust to the initial shock of knowing we would have to be socially distant for possibly months to come.  I am close to all three boys and although our time together has begun to change due to their ages and proximity I always knew I could see them pretty much any time I wanted.  This I took for granted.

February 2020 began and ended at totally separate ends of the spectrum. Can you relate?  My husband and I began the month in Italy. Little did we know Covid was dancing all around us. We had a wonderful time in Soriano, Florence and Rome, returning in time to celebrate our first grandson’s 15th birthday.  He and his 12 year old brother live 35 minutes from us. Still shaking my head wondering where 15 years have gone.

The day following the party I packed up the car and drove to Vermont where our 9 year old grandson lives. I was looking forward to watching him traverse Suicide Six on skis. It’s a six plus hour drive but pretty easy and I have visited a few times since my daughter and her family moved last August.  Knowing I could jump in the car whenever I felt like it was another thing I took for granted.

My visit to Vermont was cut short as I got sick and figured I better head home.  I am not sure if I had Covid but I had what I will call “the flu” and ended up on the couch for two weeks.  That was the beginning of my quarantine and the last time I have seen my Vermont family. It is also the last time I visited my hairdresser!

March, April and May came and went and I did more FaceTime calls with the boys and their parents than I normally would.  I have to admit it is an effective way to stay connected and seeing their faces filled a void.  I think about how much more difficult it would be if we did not have iPhones and Zoom.

My attempt to create something meaningful to improve our connections was a bit short lived.  Not finding anything of substance on the web designed for kids aged 9, 12 and 15 I decided to create “Grammy’s Home School.”  The idea was to FaceTime everyone once a week to do trivia games, some educational based discussions and any fun stuff that would bring us together.  The first week went great.  All three joined and participated. Our time ran an hour longer than planned!  By the second week I had lost my eldest grandson…the content was not sophisticated enough for him and I realized that creating fun, educational sessions for all three age groups was not easy.  The younger two hung in for a couple more weeks and even worked on some cool projects that we shared and discussed.  Then my middle grandson decided to “quit school” so he could do some on-line games with a friend. My 9 year old hung in with me while we read a chapter book. I think he knew I needed it more than he did!

Then, finally, each of the boy’s schools set up their distance learning programs.  I was toast!  We made the shift to phone calls/FaceTime “on demand” and talk about anything but school.  Grampy has maintained a weekly on-line Roblox session with the youngest and sometimes the middle grandson joins them. Just staying in touch with them and asking them how they are doing and letting them know we are here for them has become our SOP.

When May came along, we had been in quarantine since end of February.  My husband had been working from home and the kids had all been sequestered in their homes.  We had some holidays and birthdays coming up and we wrestled with how we could see each other face to face.  I have to admit we were concerned. We dipped our toes in the water on Mother’s Day.  My son, his wife and our two oldest grandsons came for a visit! My son’s birthday was right after Mother’s Day so we had a combo party.   I got up early and baked a cake and prepped for a Covid-safe party.  We have an outside courtyard in between the garage and house.  Our plan was to have our visitors enter through the garage and stay in the courtyard while Grampy and I sat in the dining room, doors open to the courtyard.  It worked!  It almost felt dangerous. We were all careful to stay ten feet apart and no one sneezed.  It was so good to see them.

There were two more events to celebrate and it is interesting how much more comfortable we became as we neared the end of May.  We celebrated Grampy’s birthday here, had it catered and this time set up in the dining room. We took things a step farther and everyone came in and sat at the table.  No hugs but it felt almost normal.  By the very end of May we wanted to join our middle grandson for his 12th birthday, so we ventured out to his house and had a little party outside.  Still no hugs, but we were all together and it was so good to see his big smile as he opened gifts and blew out his candles.

Here we are in June and while I am watching the Covid numbers rise in states that “opened early” I am feeling fairly confident that we can spend time with the grandsons knowing they have not had contact with anyone other than family members.  A transition to the new normal hit this week when our eldest grandson came over to hang out and stay the night.  The boys have spent overnights with us since they were babies.  Sometimes all three at once or two at a time or just a single getting all the attention.  It is an important event for us each time it happens. Having an overnight visitor for the first time in four months was a real treat.

The picture above was taken behind the Inn at St. Peter’s Village (PA).  My grandson and I took a drive out there just for a change of scenery.  There were a lot of mask-less people in the river.  I guess masks and swimming really don’t pair well. The message on the rock caught our eye.  Seemed the perfect sentiment given the last couple of weeks our country has had.  It was good to be able to talk with a 15 year old about all the world happenings and know that he is making it through OK.

I know the local boys are a bit bored and miss their friends and playing team sports.  I hope they will be able to get back to regular routines soon.  Our guy in Vermont has been luckier.  He lives on a street with several friends his age and all the families pretty much quarantined together.  He has always been able to get out on his bike with friends or kick the ball around in the park or take a hike up Mt. Peg.  He seems the least affected and my conversations with him are upbeat and silly.  I miss being able to hop in the car and head up to see him.

For the most part kids are pretty resilient. Sometimes more so than their grandparents.  If you are a hands-on grandparent, as I believe we are, there is a finite period of time that you get to be with them.  The time gets naturally shorter with more infrequent interactions as they grow and move forward in life. I have to admit I have been struggling with that a little in the last year or so.  Being socially distanced from them because of a pandemic is something I never anticipated. It takes some adjusting and a commitment to creating special ways to stay in touch with each child.

For now I will continue to stay connected to them via FaceTime and occasional overnights with the local boys.  With face masks we can venture out to places that don’t have large crowds.  We can do curbside pick up and eat burgers in the car. We can plan an outing to the closest Drive-in movie theater and make a night of it.  And, as soon as it’s safe, we can all hop in the car and drive up to Vermont for a reunion.  Maybe by then I will be able to hug everyone without any doubts.

To all the grandparents out there, I know your routines have been changed. To the brand new grandparents, I imagine some of you have yet to hold your new grandchild.  For many of you family vacation plans have been cancelled.  How this will play out is unknown right now but I hope you are finding ways to stay connected to your grandchildren.  I would love to hear what creative things you have done to maintain your special connection.  I might steal some of your ideas!

Spread the Love,

Melissa  a/k/a Grammy

Grandtravel

Grandtravel

I started a tradition with our eldest grandson three years ago.  I had told all three of my grandsons that we would take them on their own special vacation, to a place of their choice  once they passed their ten year mark.  Our first grandson chose San Francisco and we have great memories of our visit to the waterfront, the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods and Yosemite.  Ten seemed to be the right age and we tested that again in early August when we took our middle grandson, pictured above, to his chosen state of Oregon.

It is interesting that the brothers both chose the west coast, however Luke had a clear plan when choosing Oregon.  He wanted to spend at least one day visiting the University of Oregon in Eugene where his Dad, my son, went to college.

Starting from our home base in Portland we enjoyed the city and a stop at the original Nike Store for some KD’s.  Basketball fans will know what the initials refer to.

Our week included a great day at U of O where we found my son’s brick in the walkway on campus. If you have never had the opportunity to visit the campus and you find yourself in the area, it is worth the detour. We shall see if Luke’s current plan to attend college at his Dad’s Alma Mater materializes.

We then traveled to Washington to see Mt. St. Helen’s. Near the volcano we made a long climb down into Ape Cave where the temperature was 42 degrees.  It was 85 degrees up above.  We saw a lot of the Columbia River Gorge  including Multnomah, Bridal Veil and Latourell Falls.  The sights were spectacular and Luke enjoyed taking pictures with Grampy’s adult camera and hiking the trails to get as close to the waterfalls as possible.

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was finding a 50’s style Drive-In Movie Theater about 45 minutes from Portland.  We had a great time eating dinner in the car and giving Luke his first experience at a Drive-In.  As luck would have it our return flight was cancelled a day early so we headed for the Drive-In again and planned our bonus day excursion to the amazing Oregon Zoo in Portland. That’s where I lost my brand new prescription sunglasses, maybe in the monkey area.

Multi-generational travel with the entire family is very popular but there is something extra special about traveling with a grandchild.  A break from siblings and parents can be good for everyone.  With the advent of Face Time it is so easy for the child to stay connected to home and check in daily to share their adventures.  Luke proved to be a great traveler,  not minding the long flight and always eager each day to scout out something new.

I feel so lucky to be able to offer this to each grandson and get that very special alone time with them to focus on their interests and help build that sense of wonder and curiosity that comes with travel to new places.

When we got back to PA Luke seemed a little more confident and excited to share his new stories with his family.  His older brother took me aside and said he thinks we shouldn’t stop these special trips at age ten, but maybe 15 should be the next milestone for a second solo trip.  By the way, he will be 15 in one and a half years!  I think he is on to something.  If a 15 year old boy is still willing to go with his grandparents on a trip I say we should make that happen.  In the meantime, our third grandson who will be ten in about two years is up next.  We are curious to find out where he will want to go.

Have you traveled solo with your grandchild or are you thinking about it?  I highly recommend it.  If you have any questions about the San Francisco and Portland areas for kids please get in touch.  I would be happy to share more of our itinerary details.  I would also love to hear about your Grandtravel adventures!

Until next time, Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

There is Something About Vermont

There is Something About Vermont

I have lived in a number of states and climates throughout my lifetime. I have been fortunate to have visited all but two states in the U.S. and several different countries. That said, I feel justified from an experience standpoint to say “there is something about Vermont.”  Those of you who know me have often heard me say I wished I was still there.

My family moved to Vermont when I was entering 10th grade.  I wasn’t happy about it then as you may imagine. Coming from a more urban area it was an adjustment. Walking into a new high school, (Go Rutland Raiders!), not knowing anyone, registered about a 7.5 on my anxiety scale.  Luckily I have the kind of personality that allows me to walk up to strangers and introduce myself.  Luckier was the fact that the first people I approached were kind and curious about the new kid.  It did not take me long at all to form friendships and get introduced to my new town.

At some point during this introduction I looked up.  I can’t remember the exact moment but I stopped thinking about what 15 year old girls think about and I noticed something. I saw the staggering beauty of the mountains that formed a circle around the town.  It was foliage season and the colors were spectacular.  The air seemed cleaner than what I had been used to and there was a slowness that existed around me that felt comforting.  It was like my breathing became slower there.  I actually recognized that at age 15, so there must have been something special going on.

Life went on, as it does, and I left Vermont for other places but came back twice and not because my family was there.  The second time I returned they had already moved away themselves.  I came back because I could breathe better.  I say that as a state of mind, not that I have breathing issues! It always felt safe and was a place where I could collect my thoughts and figure out my plan.  The combination of the natural beauty, the people and the simplistic way of life still suits me well.

Why then didn’t I stay?  Lack of opportunity for me back then was the real kicker.  I had two children I was going to have to put through college someday and the prospects of advancing my career were limited.  Add to that long, hard winters.  I was not financially equipped at the time to have the appropriate vehicle to live where I was living. Being semi-off the grid (only wood heat) in a drafty old farmhouse at the top of the mountain is a challenge in both winter and mud season.

Each year it took 9 cords of wood to heat the house using two woodstoves and I became adept at helping to split and cut wood. It was hard living but it was glorious.  Our view, all the way to the New Hampshire White Mountains, was breathtaking in every season. The kids could cross country ski out the door for as many miles as they wanted to.  The four room school house they attended had some of the best teachers they would ever have. My friends were the best.  There were locals and those who had come from all over the country because they too had felt that special something. I felt pretty rich then even though I had no money.

But it wasn’t to be forever given my nagging desire to grow and expand my future opportunities.

My last exodus from the Green Mountain state was 33 years ago. Seems I have lived a couple of lives since then.  I still go back, not nearly as often as I would like, and still dream of having a little house there that I can escape to.

Each time I go, as soon as I cross the border into Vermont, I take a deep breath and feel the same calmness wash over me that I felt 51 years ago when I was a sophmore in high school. It’s pretty magical and I have met others who say they have that same experience.

I get to have the feeling again this week as I drive north, entering into Vermont on Wednesday.  This time I will bring my work with me as I will be filming a woman in Lamoille Valley for the Beyond Sixty Project.  I can’t wait to get up there with the crew and hang out on Lake Elmore for a couple of days and take in the winter scenery.  Anticipating the feeling I will get is already making me smile.

I hope you have a place you can go to that gives you peace and calm.  Sure is worth the journey. If you haven’t tried Vermont I highly recommend it!

Love and Peace,

Melissa