Baby / Family / India

I don’t despair for our touchscreen kids

Will looking up-1
I’m fairly sure I mentioned something about an airplane right before I snapped this photo–that or Will realized that my phone was sitting on the table.

Last night as Will and I were reading, we came across the words “grandmother” and “grandfather.” Suddenly Will looked crestfallen and began furiously signing his own person version of “want.”

“Should we call Grandpa?” I asked him. His face melted with relief.

We skyped out to my Dad’s cell phone and caught him on his way home from the dry cleaners. Will beamed at the sound of his grandfather’s voice–until he realized that he could not see him.

His lower lip quivered, his shoulders shook and suddenly he was crying–those deep, hacking, gut-wrenching sobs of a kid who rightfully wants something they can’t have. My dad hung up to drive home and promised to be on the computer in 5 minutes. Will gulped back tears and tried very bravely to be patient while we waited.

Then Skype rang and there was grandpa, grinning goofily on the screen. Will smiled and giggled and waved. Suddenly all was perfectly right in the world–for both Will and my dad.

We chatted for awhile while Will flitted in and out of view playing with toys, bringing books over to show my dad. After about ten minutes, Will happily blew kisses and waved his smelly feet under his grandpa’s nose on the screen to say good night.

I realized this morning that my Dad and Will have only spent about 5 weeks together since we left Green Bay when Will was 7 weeks old. And yet, Will only grows more and more attached to him and his other grandparents the older he gets

At not even 2 years old, he has already formed a far stronger bond with his grandparents than I ever experienced with my own growing up. I think that is amazing.

Every time we visit my parents or Chris’ parents I’m seized by guilt over the lack of quality time they get to have Will. But then there are nights like last night when I think that perhaps we have nothing to worry about. Will will grow up interacting with his grandparents in a way I never did back when stilted phone calls and birthday cards were the extent of a long-distance grandparent relationship.  Via the power of the Internet, our parents will likely always know Will’s favorite toys, his new tricks, they may even eventually read books together across their video screens if they want to. It pains me to think of the hugs and snuggles my parents miss with Will, but at the same time, I’m so grateful and still a bit awe-struck at how little else they miss out on.

I’ve been talking with Will a lot about our upcoming trip to the US to visit all of the grandparents. We’ve also discussed at length the long, long, long airplane ride (15 hours + a 6 hour layover + a 2 hour flight + a 2 hour drive) we will take to get there. At this point, all I have to do is say “we are going to visit grandpa and grandma soon” and he points to the sky or finds his toy airplane.

I’m realizing though that there are other things I’m going to have to prep him on for our trip to America. Tonight as we wandered the neighborhood across the street from the Embassy, we realized that Will has no concept of the boundary between sidewalks and streets. On our compound there are, essentially, no sidewalks. Out around town in Delhi, Will watches people walk in the street all the time. We practiced tonight staying on the sidewalks, warily dodging downed electrical wires and looking up for monkeys in the trees as we did so.

I’ve also never been to a store like Target with a toddler. One of the beautiful things about living overseas is the blessed lack of marketing to small children. Quite simply, there is very little going on down at toddler eye level here besides dirt and trash and stray dogs–all very appealing options for a small child of course–but probably not quite as challenging for a parent as, say, an entire store aisle lined with toys or enticingly-packaged boxes of cereal.

Still, we are so looking forward to the trip.  We are still very happy to be living in Delhi, but America will always be home.  We can’t wait for grandparents, grocery stores, seafood, hiking and restaurants that open before 7pm. There will be water that’s safe to drink from the tap and plentiful fruits and vegetables that we can eat without first soaking in bleach. The dirt in my parents’ backyard won’t give Will worms and we’ll play outside at whatever hour of the day we feel like.

I’m looking forward to clean, crisp air and hopefully a few good thunderstorms while we are in the States. After Chengdu, I wake up every day so grateful for Delhi’s constant sunshine, but I do miss the occasional rainy day.

We’ve begun having dust storms here in Delhi lately, I’ve never seen anything like them. On the hottest days, the air will go oppressively still–as if we were all sitting in a Delhi-sized oven. The sky darkens as if it’s about to pour rain, but instead a cloud of yellow dust suddenly appears on the horizon and, as fast as we can run to the house, everything goes dark and dusty, the wind whipping sand and debris through the air. 10 minutes later, the sun is back out and, if we are lucky, the temperature has dropped 10 or 20 degrees to the low 90’s. It’s the strangest thing.

I’m finally out of random tidbits to share for now I think.  Coming up next post will be some shots from a newborn photo session I did for a friend here last week.  How was your weekend?

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4 thoughts on “I don’t despair for our touchscreen kids

  1. I could have written a post very similar to this! We are with the Consulate in Chennai and currently on R&R with our family in the US. My son is 2 years old and Skype has really helped to keep us closer to our family while living abroad! My son knows his family and it really does make these relatively short visits that much better. Of course, we are winding things down this week and you realize just how much those cuddles and other ‘in-person’ events mean to the grandparents and their grandson.

  2. that’s so interesting to see your son’s relationship with your father grow, despite the distance. my friend also does the same, she and her kids live here in america but her parents live in SE Asia and her kids talk to the grandparents via skype. what a blessing it is to have technology that allows us to see one another’s face even if they’re across the globe.

  3. I so agree with you. I’m actually in the middle of trying to articulate something similar myself! I do think face-to-face contact is important to sustain the relationships (as I’m learning now with my husband being gone and my son missing him a ton), but still, there’s a shockingly large amount you can do via video chat. And what truly amazes me is how useful of a tool it is even for kids who are so young. How do they understand that face on the screen is the same one that kissed them across the world, and that their relationship with it is different somehow than with the face of Mickey Mouse or whoever they see on TV? I have no idea, but it’s incredible to witness.

  4. I totally agree! My super shy daughter will hang back behind me when seeing, for the first time in a year, the grandparents who don’t video chat. However, she is all hugs and kisses for the ones she “sees” every week. Bless the internets 🙂

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