Establish Annual Traditions for the Holidays and Everyday
Whether you live in the same city as your grandchildren or they live across the country, I think it’s safe to say that as grandparents, we hope to create a meaningful connection with each and every one of them. One of the easiest and best ways to stay connected is to establish some annual traditions, which may or may not change year to year but seem to mean the most if they can remain a constant. Some of our family traditions include a Polar Bear Swim on January 1, Easter brunch, attending an organized family camp in the summer, blueberry picking, and a harvest festival with a cider press in the fall. We also try to fit in as many birthday parties as we can find time for! The menu is always simple but does include a sloppily iced, lopsided homemade cake (a box mix is allowed).
Since some of my grandchildren live elsewhere, I have tried to establish some special connections from afar including library hour for my youngest ones with “Mrs. Clarke,” via Facetime, and include a new book each session. I take my role very seriously, starting off with “Good morning boys and girls (even though I only have grandsons) and welcome to the Issaquah Library. I’m so glad you could join me today!” Then I proceed to read the book, study the illustrations, and ask lots of probing questions. I just love it when their little hands shoot up in the air to answer.
A good friend of mine shared a wonderful way to stay connected with her granddaughter while traveling. She packs a small stuffed monkey (any animal will do) in her suitcase and then at each special site they visit, they position the monkey somewhere hard to find, take a picture, and then send the photo to the child for her to search and find. A kind of “Where’s Waldo” concept that she looks forward to and keeps them connected while they are away.
A great idea for older children is to plan a special one-on-one—can be with two grandparents— somewhere around their 13th birthday. It can be a simple overnight or a weeklong trip to some place like Washington, D.C., to see the sights. My late husband and I did five overnight trips and felt that they were all highly successful. We tried to add an educational component and always chose interesting accommodations, which included a yurt, a treehouse, and a “castle.”
And finally, for adult grandchildren who are away at college or live elsewhere independently, I have adopted a clever idea from another good friend. Since we may be the last generation that still has a boxful of actual “snapshots,” this one is easy. Pick out a fun photo from their childhood, adhere it to a postcard (these can be purchased online) and send off via “snail mail.” You will be surprised at how much they will enjoy and appreciate this small gesture.
Marilee Clarke lives in Issaquah and loves the Northwest’s natural beauty. She is a collage artist and her passions include travel and anything creative. She and her late husband taught a course at Bellevue College on “How to get the most out of your retirement years” and that is just what she’s doing!