We have a weekly web cam session with my in-laws, who live 3000 miles away, during which the kids get to ham it up for a captive audience and the grandparents get to witness all of those little milestones first-hand. They can hear how much the toddler’s vocabulary has grown as they listen to her recount in great detail the highlights of her day (the slide! the swing!). They can see how much taller the 4-year-old is as she prances about for them, or, like last week, they can patiently watch as she devours one of those huge ice cream cones (growing up, we called them Drumsticks, my in-laws call them Nutty Buddys). Only grandparents could be entertained by something like that.
My in-laws are visiting for a week, and I was pleased to notice that, regardless of how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other in person, the kids no longer need a warm-up period with them. Sure, as soon as they walked in, our youngest pointed first at the computer, then at her grandpa, before saying hello, but the sense the kids have is that their grandparents are a regular part of their daily life, not long-distance relatives at all.
Growing up, I had one set of grandparents that lived in the same city as I did without ever feeling close, and another set that we saw for every holiday and most vacations, but who always felt new to me at the beginning of each encounter. I don’t remember ever feeling comfortable talking to them on the phone, like there was a formality there that I wasn’t properly trained on. The dead air at the end of every answered question made me intensely uncomfortable.
The web cam has been a great tool for overcoming all of those obstacles with this next generation. And so far, the only drawback is that we have a difficult time getting the toddler to talk on the phone, as she keeps turning the handset around looking for the video feed to accompany the voice.