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Being A Global Grandparent

Being A Global Grandparent

Eventually the day came when our daughter announced that she was going to get married. Naturally we were thrilled and excited, until she told us that she and her new husband were going to live abroad. Before long two grandchildren were born in their new country and suddenly we discovered that we had become a Global Family and we were Global Grandparents.

Eventually the day came when our daughter announced that she was going to get married. Naturally we were thrilled and excited, until she told us that she and her new husband were going to live abroad, very abroad, not France or Italy or some country where we had spent many happy holidays. It was several thousand miles away and very much, to us at least, FOREIGN. Not only did this all come as a surprise but the wedding was to be just before Christmas and they were flying off to their new home two days after the ceremony. It was then that we realised that what was happening was not only going to change her life but our lives as well. That was twenty years ago and now we look back on what was probably the best thing that ever happened to us. Before long two grandchildren were born in their new country and suddenly we discovered that we had become a Global Family and we were Global Grandparents.

As we look back over the last twenty years we realise just how privileged we have been. During those years our global family has moved around the world and we, naturally, have followed them. We have visited countries that we would never had even considered as holiday destinations and each one has given us new experiences, particularly because we have lived as a family out there for anything from two weeks to a month at time. Nobody whose experience of another country has been through the good offices of a tour operator and seeing the sights through the windows of a tour coach has had the opportunities we have had. How many tours offer you chance of seeing the New Year in on a deserted beach on the edge of the Indian Ocean? Would you venture out one evening from your five star hotel to enjoy a barbecue in a desert oasis under a sky studded with more stars than you thought existed? Or would you experience floating over the desert in a hot air balloon just as the sun was coming up?

These are, of course, very much the plus side of having your global family. There are many other things to consider. It takes hard work to strengthen the family ties when your loved ones are at a distance. Twenty years ago we had to rely on letters and the telephone, then the fax machine arrived for the weekly letters and now, of course we have the Internet. As something to provide us with a simple means of communication it cannot be bettered; whether you send e-mails flashing around the world in order to keep in touch, posting photographs on blogs or having face to face chats using the wonderful Skype system. Having a tour of our daughter’s new kitchen in Holland while sitting at my computer is something that even I, as a hardened computer user, finds exciting.

But strengthening the ties is something that has to be worked at and involves pulling a series of differing threads together. For example: your daughter is on the point of having her first child so excited grandma-to-be hops onto the first plane to be there for the great moment. Within a couple of weeks new grandma-in-law arrives. There could be some rivalry in the cooing over the baby and deciding who should feed him stakes. That’s OK from our point of view as the maternal line is very strong in that situation. But look at it the other way round when your son marries and goes abroad and his wife has her first child. Grandma-in-law has to take precedence so it’s a matter of `family hold back’, very difficult under the circumstances,

Then there is the problem arising from visits, especially that first visit. Are you going to be a high maintenance or low maintenance visitor? If you are the former you will expect to be taken about, shown the sights and waited on. If you are the latter then you, with appropriate help, get to know the local bus and train arrangements so that with the aid of guide books and the tourist offices you can wander at will. Offering to help with some of the household chores will often go down well as is the offer to take them out to a meal or help with the cooking. You must remember that your Global Daughter may well have a job out there and so needs some help keeping the family life going.

{mosbanner right}Another problem that raises its ugly head is that of the sleeping arrangements. A growing family may not have much in the way of spare sleeping accommodation. Put-you-up beds are not uncommon as is sleeping in some of the strangest rooms. We ourselves have regularly shared a room with a drum kit, a sound system and a computer. Other families have other ways of coping with this problem. Some decide that it not practical to stay in the same house as the family as prefer to stay overnight in a nearby hotel or B and B. One family we know of who go to visit for three months at a time decided to buy a small flat out there. They use it on their visits and rent it out for the rest of the year.

Then there is the Culture Shock. We have come across families where the son has gone to live in, say, Germany with his German wife. The children must be uncertain as whether they are British or German, especially if they speak German at school and at home. This can be of great concern to the English grandparents as there is every chance that their overseas family will never come back to England whereas the expat families we have met in our travels and the researches for our book are more than likely to come back to their roots when their contract run out.

Having a global family can be a very enriching experience, but it has to be constantly worked at. But the rewards are well worth the effort.

For more about Global Grandparenting visit www.theglobalparent.com

 

©Peter Gosling