My kids miss their grandparents on a regular basis. They're obsessed with them in this completely beautiful, loving way. One set lives four hours south of us and the other set lives about three hours north. We all frequently talk about how we wished we lived closer so we could see each other more regularly because even though they're not super far (thank goodness), it still feels far enough.
Far enough to require planning visits in advance, packing our bags for those visits and sleeping over instead of opportunities for weekly family dinners or sneaking out for a midweek date night, free grandparent-babysitting included.
But even though we don't see each other daily, or weekly even, we all make significant efforts to visit consistently. We always have plans together on the horizon. Birthdays are celebrated in-person, plays or recitals attended and often when our kindergartener has time off from school, we pack up and either go to New York or Vermont to spend our free time with them.
Except right now. Right now—even though our kiddos are not going to school—we can't just pack up and head north or south. Which has been confusing, and understandably emotional, for the kids.
Basically a lot of our conversations lately have gone something like this:
Child: "Can we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house, pleeeeeeease?"
Me: "I'm sorry, honey, we can't right now. Remember how we talked about the germs going around? We have to stay home to keep safe."
Child: "Well, when are the germs gonna be goneeeeeee?"
Me: "We aren't sure. We just have to try to be patient."
Child: "Why can't we just go to Nana and Poppas nowwww?"
And after I side-step the whining, I want to burst into tears. Because I don't know. I don't know what to tell them exactly. I don't know when we'll see their grandparents again.
I simply don't know when this will be over.
And while the kids are used to frequent FaceTimes with Nana and Poppa to stay in touch and they know they have to go through stretches of time without visits from Grandma and Grandpa, they're not used to stretches this long or only having FaceTime as an option for connection.
Even though this is our new (and temporary) normal, it doesn't feel normal. The uncertainty isn't normal. Long periods of isolation isn't normal. Only being around each other—and no one else—isn't normal.
Celebrations that were planned and family visits that had been marked down in our calendars have been canceled and crossed out. Baptisms, birthday parties, Easter gatherings—all gone.
This Easter, a time when we usually gather with at least one set of grandparents, will be celebrated by the five of us, in our home without any extended family members. We'll still hunt for eggs and eat too much Easter candy, of course—but there will be a piece of our puzzle missing in the shape of a chocolate bunny from Poppa and a ricotta pie from Grandma.
We don't know when we'll be together in person again and it's breaking our hearts.
Because they miss Grandma rubbing their back and earlobes (this is a true request) while she tells them bedtime stories.
They miss going on adventures to the farm with Grandpa.
They miss cuddling up with Nana on the couch for movie time.
They miss going on walks with Poppa to visit the ducks.
They miss smelling Grandma's meatballs and sauce cooking in the kitchen.
They miss building blocks with Grandpa in the living room.
They miss painting rocks with Nana at the kitchen table.
They miss Poppa sneaking them M&M's.
I can't help but pause and think to myself how lucky they are they get to miss these people—as strange as that sounds. I'm so proud of the relationship they have with their grandparents, how close they all are, and I know this strange period of time could never take that away from them.
The other day, my father-in-law read about five books to my 2-year-old after she grabbed my phone and demanded, "Gandma, Gandpa! Read book!" to me while dragging me over to her little fox chair in the corner. She plopped herself down—snacks included—and I adjusted the phone so she could see her Grandpa's face as he started reading. She was proud as a pickle. Happy as a clam.
She knew this was an option, because last week Grandma did it, and the kids loved it.
So for now, we'll have virtual storytime instead of in-person bedtime stories.
We'll have videos of Nana and Poppa reading and checking in with the kids instead of catching up under a cozy blanket on the couch.
We'll talk on FaceTime over dinner at two different tables, chatting about our day instead of sharing a meal together at one.
We'll have a Zoom Easter party virtually connecting under different roofs, instead of celebrating under the same one.
We'll send colorful pictures or handwritten notes in the mail instead of delivering them with our own two hands.
We'll figure it out. This is hard. But we can do hard things.
We can still laugh.
We can still see each other's faces, hear each other's voices.
And we can still stay in touch.
The connection may be virtual right now, but it's not virtually impossible. Thank you, grandparents, for still supporting our families—even from a distance.