Grandparenting with COVID-19 stay-at-home mandates to be safe and to remain virus-free necessitates finding new ways to stay connected to our grandchildren.
The Zoom seder, a first for our family, was replicated across metro Atlanta and our world. Sitting in front of computers or iPads, the best part was seeing and hearing all four children, their spouses, girlfriend, and all eight grandchildren participate. Why was that night so different, words from the haggadah’s Four Questions, resonated in our COVID-19 seder. A family being all together is not as common as it was when I grew up, where relatives lived close by. Today, our family lives in places such as Northern Westchester, New York City and nearby in metro Atlanta, but still not within walking distance.
Connecting with our grandchildren now occurs on an almost daily basis. Our son from NYC calls us almost every night to see how we’re doing. His children, ages 14 and 16, show us what projects they’ve created such as the pinball machine a granddaughter made for her brother’s March birthday using carboard boxes, pencils and rubber bands. We spend time watching our son and grandson playing competitive pingpong on their apartment’s dining room table. Although we cannot physically give hugs and kisses, we always end our iPhone FaceTime visits with saying how much we love each other, never taking those words for granted.
As a grandparent, I still can enjoy sharing stories from the past with the next generation. As one example, I use the phone to tell my grandchildren about the times my grandfather Bernhard, a barber on the Lower East Side of NYC, would visit my home on Long Island. Those Sundays, my Dad, brother, Uncle Bob and his two sons lined up downstairs in the basement for monthly haircuts. Today we laugh when the children show us their COVID-19 hair in a text message where, in Bedford Hills, after watching a YouTube on how to cut hair, our daughter cut her husband’s hair, but also gave trims to our two grandsons – ages 22 and 24.
Locally, grandparenting with three grandchildren living in metro Atlanta remains strong. Eldest granddaughter, age 23, does our grocery shopping, being careful to wear a mask, dropping off the food by our door. Six or more feet apart, we wave hello and blow kisses. One Sunday afternoon, we got a surprise visit from our 7-year-old granddaughter. We watched her ride circles around our apartment breezeway on her new birthday scooter, through colorful bubbles that her Mom, our daughter, blew in her path. My husband and I sat outside on staircase steps 6 feet or more away from our visitors. This was a moment of grandparent naches (good fortune) following COVID-19 protocol to keep our distance. The 15-minute grandparent breezeway visit soon ended.
If I read a particular article in the AJT or AJC, I will cut it out and mail it to a grandchild or child who might appreciate reading it. I could take a photo or scan it to send as an attachment, but how nice it may still be to open up a card or envelope with a hand-written note from Grandma.
In this new normal, Bernie and I wash our hands with soap and water for the recommended 20 seconds, while I sing the “Happy Birthday” song to myself two times.
There is no question that we miss personal physical connections or family traditional holiday meals together, but we need to remember this kind of social distance grandparenting hopefully will be temporary. Bonds grandparents make with grandchildren can still be strong.
What will grandchildren remember most of their grandparents during COVID-19?
I think they will feel the same unconditional love that grandparents freely give year-round. We, as grandparents, can still be good listeners, taking time to know what’s going on in our grandchildren’s lives, at any age. Staying in touch with grandchildren, whether we are using FaceTime, texting messages, or without that technology, perhaps using a landline telephone, we still can capture the joy of being a grandparent while being a positive presence in their lives.