This is what many Sundays afternoons look like in our house: My mom and dad call and wonder if we can Skype. We jump on the computer and call them. They can’t get the camera on their phone to work. Or the audio on our end is choppy and we keep talking over each other. Or the call freezes half way through and we’re stuck with awkward “frozen computer face.” Or my older kids suddenly forget how to talk and can only give monosyllabic answers.
It is a twenty minute exercise in frustration and I wonder, is this worth it?
Like many people, I do not live in the same city as my parents. This makes my heart ache a little. And because it’s so expensive travel, I only get “home” once a year. This makes my heart ache a lot. So, these choppy video calls are my kids’ connection to their grandparents. I do this for them–because I want them to have a relationship with my parents. But I also do it for me.
On the surface, it may seem like these video calls don’t really have much to do with me. I love my parents. I enjoy chatting on the phone with them or exchanging texts. I don’t need the video calls to have a relationship with them. But I have vested interest in showing my kids that I’m making an effort to include them in our lives.
You don’t have to be a religious person to know that “honor your father and mother” is a glue that holds our society together. The reality is, families take care of each other. That includes the little people in our lives and the older people in our lives. And it’s never too early to start teaching my kids that the generations in our family are linked, even if it’s mostly through choppy video calls.
So how do I do it?
1) Just call your mother
Sometimes I fall into thinking that calling my parents has to be a special occasion or and end-of-the -week treat. But aren’t our lives really just a sum of small, inconsequential moments? The real meat of life is in the minutiae. I should just say, “Let’s tell Grandma!” when anything happens and not wait for the special moments.
2) Talk about your parents in a positive way in front of your kids
This one I learned from my kids. My husband and I sometimes tease our parents in a good-natured way. We are a family that treasures a self-deprecating sense of humor. But we found our kids picking up on the teasing without understanding the nuance between teasing disrespect. So we doubled down on speaking positively about our parents.
3) Tell stories about your parents to your kids
This one is easy to fold into in our days. My kids love hearing stories about when I was young. Usually I’m the protagonist of those stories, I try to remember to include the supporting cast–my parents. Like the time I got my car stuck in a giant snowdrift and my dad helped me dig myself out, or the time my mom stayed up with me all night as I finished my poetry notebook for school. That lady can really type!
4) Forgive your parents
I have, fortunately, been blessed with extremely good parents. But they are not perfect. Neither am I. Even though I’m trying very hard to be a good mother, I’m going to make mistakes. I just hope my children are watching as I shrug off my parents’ missteps and grasp hold of the many ways they enrich my life.
So will I continue to endure those sometimes frustrating Skype reunions with my parents on Sundays? You bet I will. And I hope, along the way, I will be teaching my children a little more about honoring their parents, their grandparents, and all of the family relationships that will bind them and carry them through life.
QUESTION: How do you keep your parents and your children connected?
CHALLENGE: This week, try out one of the four suggestions from this article: call your parents for no reason, talk more positively about your parents, tell stories about your parents to your children, and forgive your parents for their weaknesses and mistakes.
Edited by Rachel Nielson
Image from Shutterstock; graphics by Julie Finlayson.