The majority of our twenty grandchildren live too far away. We're thinking it ought to be against the law for married kids to move out of state. Don't they know their children need their grandparents to survive?

Actually, we're finding fun ways to create a close relationship with them even though we can't hop in the car and be there in minutes. A friend once said to us, "You're closer to your grandkids who live far away than I am to mine who live only a few miles away. How do you do that?" We're not sure we believe that, but here are some things we've learned that work for us.

1. Stay in touch

Text messages and emails

There's a pretty good pay-off to being at least a little tech-savvy. So we're getting good at texting messages to our grandkids. They seem to like this. Only difference between them and us is that we slowly peck out our messages, and theirs come flashing back with lightning speed. How do they do that?! Our aging thumbs remind us of the old grey mare: "She ain't what she used to be." Still, they work well enough to get the message there. It's also fun to follow them on Facebook.

We made a deal with our grandkids: Answer our emails and text messages even if it's only a three or four word reply. Otherwise we don't know they received it, and we want to know they read it. Today we forwarded an email to our college granddaughter about how to ward off colds and flu. Her reply was simply, "Those were surprising! Thanks gramma!" That works for us.

Phone calls

The best thing we do when we call is ask a question like, "What happened at school this week?" or "What have you done lately that was really fun?" Then just listen with an occasional, "Wow," or "Sounds fun," or "That would have been so hard." We find they enjoy talking with someone who cares enough to listen without giving instructions or reprimands. We have noticed that the girls rattle on easier than the boys, but the boys still seem to enjoy our calls; they're just shorter. These calls aren't often, just enough to let them know we're thinking about them.

Cards and letters

They like to receive post cards when we're traveling. Or just a fun greeting card periodically can be fun. If they're sick, they like a get well card as much as adults do, maybe more. Sometimes we'll tuck in a short article or story that we think will interest them. Sometimes a spiritual message, as long as it's short, will give them a boost.

2. Plan visits

We love visiting them and having them visit us. These don't happen often, but we make sure they're often enough to keep them assured of our love. Sometimes we have flown just one child here to celebrate a special occasion. (SkyMiles have really helped with this.) They all know it will one day be their turn. We plan events around the visiting child's interest. It makes the visit even more fun to include a day or an event with cousins their age. That way we keep our families close. We ask the child what they would like to do while they're here. On one occasion a granddaughter said, "I mostly just want to hang out with you guys and be in your house. And making those gingerbread cookies again would be fun."

3. Make simple memory books

After the visit is over and they're back home, we enjoy making a memory book that highlights what we did with the child and send it as a surprise. On one trip we did a tour of our city and had the child pose in front of her favorite landmarks so we'd have them for the book. We included ticket stubs, photos in a restaurant of her choice as we ate (waiters are good at taking those). Wherever we go we snap a photo for the memory book. We make sure we're in several of the photos so there is no mistaking we were there. We want them to remember us.

4. Send gifts

We always remember their birthdays with gifts. When they're little they get a toy, but when they're over 10 we've learned they really like getting money so they can buy what they want. We look for cute cards that just seem to fit that particular child. Our message inside the card lets them know we're proud of them and that we absolutely adore them. We always tell them to have fun spending this birthday money and then let us know what they bought.

The efforts you put into keeping close to your grandchildren will be well worth it. A few of ours are now adults, married with young children. These grown up grandkids now feel loved enough to call us when they need an encouraging word of advice or to share an exciting event. It's a sweet time of life, resulting from building a close relationship with them through the years.

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