Family,  Miscellaneous

One unique way for kids to stay connected to long-distance grandparents

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It’s a bit before 7am, coffee has brewed, and my mother’s voice is floating through my house. It’s a comforting sound on an early Sunday morning. What is unique about this situation is that my children’s grandparents live over 700 miles away.

Today’s technology affords us many comforts – one of the many reasons I love being a millennial parent. Facebook, FaceTime, and Skype allow my children to stay connected to their grandparents far better than kids did a generation or two ago.

It all started when I mentioned casually to my mom that Ezra enjoys listening to stories on Audible. My mom always loved reading to us as kids, but I didn’t seem to inherit that gene from her. It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy reading to my kids on occasion, but not for hours on end or every day. I have my favorite two or three books that I enjoy reading to them – the ones that rhyme and I have practically memorized, like Little Blue Truck.

So my mom asked if she could read books and send them to Ezra on CD. She spent hours recording a few chapter books (the Ralph S. Mouse series) and Ezra just loved them!

Unfortunately, CDs don’t last too long in our house. It finally occurred to me that rather than waiting for CDs in the mail or having my mom go through the hassle of burning and shipping CDs, I should just ask for the digital files. Cuz, duh.

Since then, there’s been a steady stream of Mp3 files I’ve been receiving over email of stories and audiobooks for Ezra to listen to. A few weeks ago, I texted my mom and asked if she could record some shorter stories for LB to listen to, as we’ve started the stories-at-naptime-and-bedtime tradition with him as well. She was more than happy to oblige. We now have one of my all-time favorite bedtime stories for LB (Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?), read just as I remember it!

My mom uses the program Audacity along with a microphone for recording. She says that the longer chapter books require some editing, but the shorter ones she is able to record with minimal editing.

One unique way for kids to stay connected to long-distance grandparents | Today's technology allows my children to stay connected to their grandparents far better than kids did a generation or two ago. | Grandma records stories and sends the digital files, which my kids listen to at bedtime and naptime.

Reasons that grandparents recording and sending story books to their grandkids is so awesome:

It allows my kids to stay connected to their grandparents on a daily basis (even if I’m too busy to call or text). (Just as a side note – while grandpa hasn’t recorded any stories, he did Dropbox me a story for Ezra that he listened too on record when he was a kid and it was a HUGE hit!)

It allows their grandparents to stay connected to my kids – doing something that they love! My mom has the time to sit down and read to my kids and she loves to do it – whereas I’m very busy and don’t LOVE reading to my kids in the same way that she does.

Everything is digital – which means ease and low-cost. She can get books from her local library. (I even sent her a list of titles we own so that she can record books and the kids can follow along and see the pictures.) She sends me the digital files, and I load them onto my kids iPad and iPod (both of which are 1st generation = ancient). I also suspended our Audible subscription because we no longer need it!

It gives my kids something to talk about with their grandparents when we are able to connect over phone or FaceTime. Ezra regularly tells the stories back to grandma, giggling excitedly about all of the funny parts.

Um, built-in-babysitter for mama! Our routine for Ezra on weekends and school breaks is for him to have a designated “quiet time” in his room after lunch. With some “Grandma Jeannie Stories” and K’nex – he’s all set for a few hours!

LB has only been listening to “Grandma Jeannie Stories” for about two weeks now, but I often hear him talking to himself reciting the words to the books. Last night at bedtime, he asked to listen to “Sam I Am” (aka Green Eggs and Ham). So this fills up entertainment hours for my kids (which ultimately means less TV) and fills a gap in my parenting which I feel is a weak spot.

Digital means it will last for generations. Not only are our days of scratched CDs over, these files can be passed down to the next generation indefinitely. My grandma will be leaving this earth soon, so I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy and the way generations connect with one another. I think that technology has created a really big gap between millennials (and their kids) and prior generations who are completely lost when it comes to technology. Thankfully, my parents are doing their best to stay current with the trends. These files can be stored on a cloud somewhere and accessed by my kids’ kids and their grand kids, etc. to infinity and beyond! Isn’t that the coolest?!?!?!

Here, my mom shares her perspective:

I have always enjoyed reading. As a young girl I would spend hours in the summer, laying outside on a blanket reading. It would take me to places I had never been, meeting people I could never know, and explore ideas outside of my own sphere of influence.

As a mom it was natural for me to want to share my love of reading with my children. It started with Winnie the Pooh and grew from there. One day “just one more chapter” found us reading for five hours straight! One summer I had three kids in casts. We spent the entire summer sitting on the swing-set pouring through Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie.

It has long been my dream to record stories for my grandsons. When Aprille brought up the idea last year, I was thrilled! I honestly think I enjoy it more than the boys. I love doing all of the funny voices and expressions. Though I wish they could be sitting on my lap when I read, I am so thankful for the opportunity to reach out through technology and share this special time with these little boys that I love so much!

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What ways have you found for your kids to stay connected to their long-distance grandparents?

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