The hardest part about social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the uncertainty around when my parents will next be able to see their beloved first grandchild. With this in mind, I have worked hard to find unique ways for them to connect.
When I started my own family here in San Francisco, I knew having an ocean between me and my parents, who live in the UK, would be hard. Since our baby arrived, video chats have become a regular thing and we’ve gotten pretty good at finding creative ways to stay close.
As we adjust to sheltering in place, even grandparents who don’t live far away are having to miss out on spending precious time with their grandchildren. Although it’s not the same as being able to hold and see each other in person, taking part in shared activities and staying connected does make things a little easier.
As this lockdown continues, there are some things that have become part of our routine that help us to stay in touch.
My mom knits and likes to make things so my baby has a ton of lovingly made clothes and decorations for his room. My husband and I both enjoy photography and have so far taken about a bazillion photographs of our son. We’ve been more proactive in sharing these with grandparents who aren’t on Facebook or Instagram, creating shared albums that we regularly update.
I made a few sets of baby footprints over the holidays and mailed them out with cards, which people loved. Receiving a parcel or handwritten note is always a lovely pick-me-up and for children and teenagers, so used to technology, taking the time to write a letter or postcard might be a welcome break from screen time.
Sharing a Meal
Breaking bread together is something that has helped to build and maintain human connections since forever. Just because we can’t physically share a meal with family during shelter-in-place, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy mealtimes together.
My parents love to be on FaceTime with us when the baby is trying a new food for the first time to see what his reaction will be. He pulls the best faces!
With older kids and extended family, we’ve sometimes arranged to cook the same meal and then given the laptop or iPad a place at our dinner tables so we can enjoy the meal together. We did also arrange a cook along on video chat and that was fun, but would have worked better if we’d kept the meal simple!
Finding Shared Interests
Finding a shared activity to talk about is a healthy way to divert the subject away from the virus. For the first several weeks of lockdown, whenever I spoke to family or friends we’d spend ages talking about the articles we’d read, each attempting to become epidemiologists overnight. Because nobody had left the house we really didn’t have much else to discuss. That soon became exhausting and now we try not to go there.
In my family, we’ve been watching the same TV shows and comparing notes on them. There are lots of other more interesting (and higher brow) options; several Zoos are live streaming and providing updates on their animals (San Diego Zoo’s streams are excellent), many museums have opened up virtual exhibitions, TikTok challenges are exploding and grandparents are getting involved! Finding a shared interest is a really good idea even in the best of times.
Trivia nights are very popular in the UK (we call them quizzes). There are a ton of ready made ones online, or you can create your own. Virtual pubs are also popping up and musicians are doing live gigs from their living rooms. Old fashioned games, like Bingo, translate well online and are easy to set up if you have a printer and some colored markers.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty around how long lockdown will go on here in California. I don’t know when we’ll physically be able to see friends and family again but in the meantime I’m trying my best to stay connected and share these precious baby moments with family by making the most of the technology we have.