Grandparents – love from afar

34025.997 Kilometres as the crow flies, 24 hours as the aeroplane flies and a few weeks as the boat sails, we couldn’t live much further away from our families in England if we tried. While I do know of many people who’d jump at the chance to live so far away from certain family members or their interfering in-laws, this is not the case for us. We came to Sydney, Australia, a newly loved-up couple with a 2 year plan. Two children, now married and 4 years later, we’re still here.

When I fell pregnant the first time, as soon as I hit the supposed 12 week safety net, Mum’s flight was booked (Dad is on a cloud somewhere sipping whisky). Previously no real desire to come to Australia, the minute she discovered she was to be a Nanny again, there was no stopping her. Coincidentally my in-laws had already planned a holiday around that time (I’m sure they would have done the same if they hadn’t already booked).

I vividly remember the day our first daughter was born. She was tiny, like a sparrow, limbs so delicate and fragile my husband and I were petrified of breaking her. We gingerly passed our precious bundle into the warm, loving, safe arms of experience – THE GRANDPARENTS.

Warm, loving, safe Grandpa arms

For the next 10 weeks, Mum lived with us. What she did in those 10 weeks was above and beyond what we could have ever imagined.

On the first night, after arriving home from hospital, the baby was screaming and wouldn’t settle. Suddenly the enormity of the responsibility I had for this baby struck me. I freaked. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL I’M DOING. I burst into Mum’s room, tears streaming down my face in despair and desperation. For the next 10 weeks, the baby and I moved into that room – with Nanny.

Nanny rocked her grandchild to sleep, held her, sang to her, bathed her, changed her dirty nappies, dressed her, had broken sleep because of her, was thrown up on many times by her and treated her as though she was her own. We were so lucky to share this precious time.

Nanny soothing baby
Yes, that is sick on Nanny’s shoulder

I was concerned my daughter wouldn’t remember Nanny when we saw her 6 months later in England. My concern was unnecessary. The connection was immediate, only this time stronger with her old enough to display more clearly her emotions. Six months later, Nanny visited Australia again and the love and bond between them continued to develop.

Eleven months later, when our eldest was 18 months old, our second daughter was born. All 3 Grandparents returned to Australia. Despite the fact our eldest daughter hadn’t seen them for a significant amount of time, quicker than a heartbeat she burst into their arms, hanging herself from their necks as she wrapped her body around them. The sound of her ecstatic, heart-felt giggles filled the house as she climbed all over them, tugged at their arms and legs for attention and snuggled into them with familiarity and trust. A comfort, connection and contentment she hadn’t shown with anyone else.

Cuddles with Grandma
Besties with Grandma

The Grandparents looked pretty happy too. Their glistening eyes smiling fondly as they laughed, played with and cuddled our girls, soaking up their adoration.

Our parents respect, encourage and understand our decision to be here. The outdoors lifestyle Australia offers us as a young family is one they have been able to see and enjoy for themselves first-hand. However I sense a feeling of relief from them that they have not been forgotten by these little people.

I asked Mum (Nanny to 8) what it was like to be a Nanny. She explained to me how it was almost better than being a Mum. All the love and joy minus the anxiety, intensity and exhaustion of being a new parent. Plus that precious ‘time-out’ all of us parents desperately crave at times.

This time when the Grandparents left, it was harder for everyone.

The Grandparents were sad to say goodbye.

The girls didn’t understand why Nanny, Grandma and Grandpa were here one minute, living in the iPad again the next. The first few days our eldest was confused, continually asking to see them. Luckily, Peppa Pig and ice-cream provided a good distraction, she soon got used to seeing them back in the iPad. However, I’m sure her preference would be the non-cyber, cake-buying, patient, cuddly version. My concern for the girls is as they get older – how will they cope when they are able to understand the emotions of missing, or worse, losing someone?

My husband and I, of course, miss the help and an opportunity to go out together instead of playing tag team.

But it’s so much more than that.

We miss them, they are our parents.

The unconditional love they have for our girls is beautiful. We know that whilst they may not do everything exactly how we do, when the girls are with them they are loved. I can’t imagine any friend, babysitter or carer could love our children as much.

As time ticks by, the Grandparents are getting older -we have to accept they will not live forever.

I didn’t get the opportunity to know my Grandparents well. Dad lost touch with his parents when I was very young. Mum’s dad died before I was born and Mum’s Mum – of whom I have very fond memories, sadly left the world when I was 10.

Growing up I remember feeling envious when friends chatted about their grandparents (jealous of the presents but also feeling a sense of missing out). It somehow felt a bit unfair.

Recently I started to wonder if we are being unfair to both our children and parents, depriving them of precious time together, especially given they won’t be around forever.

The unique bond they have with our children seems to stand the test of time and distance. No matter how long they are apart, they pick up where they left off. The only thing that changes is the bond strengthens.

But knowing all that doesn’t make it easier when it’s time to say goodbye. I know what it feels like to experience the loss of a parent. The sadness I felt when Dad died has re-emerged since having the girls. Oh, how he’d chuckle at how utterly bonkers they are.

Learning to walk with Nanny

Could this goodbye be the last? The final time our girls see one of their grandparents? Should we be making more of their last few years? Would the relationship be as strong if we didn’t live far away and they didn’t get concentrated time together? Or is it possible it could be even stronger if we lived closer and saw them more often?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. What I do know is this:

  • No matter how long the gaps are between seeing each other, the connection has been there since the beginning –it’s in their blood.
  • When they are together my heart melts.
  • The love between them is reciprocated and unconditional.
  • Thank you apple for Facetime – the 34025.997 Kilometres as the crow flies, 24 hours as the aeroplane flies and good few weeks as the boat sails, somehow doesn’t feel so far with you around.
Fun times with Nanny