My family is very spread out. I have three sisters in Spokane, Washington, my mother, father and four siblings in Port Orchard, many extended family members including grandparents in San Diego, as well as friends and family around the world. Keeping up with everyone, especially the over fifty crowd, can be a bit challenging. We’re very close though. Here’s how we do it.
1. Smart phones.
All my siblings except the baby of the family have smart phones and we use them, constantly. Chain texts get passed around, often several times a day. We encourage each other before a test, doctor appointments or a date and it only takes a moment to have a chorus of people cheering you on.
2. We gave Grandma an iPad.
Not kidding. My grandmother is over seventy and it was a bit of a learning curve but now she’s on it every day, sometimes for several hours. She can blow up her reading material until its easy to read and she can instantly watch short videos and see pictures of everyone from wherever they are. Even though we’re far away, she sometimes know about things before my mother and father. The start up effort with this was some what significant but the pay back has more than made up for it!
3. Google Docs
When we were planning my wedding, this was an invaluable resource. We passed plans, kept everyone updated and everyone could get to it from their smart phone and handles things in real time, generally. Some of us also use it to help the younger kids with homework. Mom and Dad don’t always have time, so the rest of us pitch in. I tutored my brother from my smart phone on a bus in Japan while he was studying and commenting in Port Orchard. The chat feature is really helpful.
We were all reluctant to get on this and it remains a “kids” only domain but we have given in and done it. Not our primary interaction but more like general socialization. We keep personal matter more private, which has been healthy.
5. Photo streams.
This has been most popular with sharing with older relatives. We pop out an invitation for a new stream and suddenly Grandma or Auntie can see our whole hiking trip, or salmon fishing adventure.
6. We make it a priority but hold loosely.
Honestly, you can talk tools forever, but it comes down to making it a priority. So if people aren’t paying attention to you, just drop a line, include them. We’ve learned to give everyone their space even with all these forms of connection. If someone drops off the map too long, we’ll gang up and message them or physically try to locate them, but we don’t take silence after a text as a cause for worry. Holding loosely is the best way. Even the unsocial members can participate this way, without feeling the requirement to participate all the time. We all have days we don’t feel like talking. I know I have!
Do you have any routines or tools you use to keep family together, even as life seems to go faster and faster? Please drop in the comments and let us know!