Virtual Babies

22 Nov

Raising Max without the love and support of our family has not been easy. There are the practical challenges of not being able to call up the grandparents to grant us a much needed parental time out and we’ve had to learn things on the job so to speak rather than benefit from the wise words of those who have been there and done that. But far more gut wrenching than that is that we know they are missing out on Max growing up and Max misses out on their wrinkly smiles.

Max is a virtual baby growing up in front of their eyes on a computer screen. They see him smile, laugh and cry, but miss the small habits and behaviours that he shares only with us and make him Max. He recognises the Skype ringtone and comes bounding into the room to see who it is who wants to see him point, dance, wave and peek-a-boo for their amusement. It’s fair to say Max has gone viral, like the cat that plays the keyboard. I made the mistake of Skyping my parents recently without Max, thinking it would be nice to have a little catch up minus the main attraction, and was politely but promptly asked to beckon the boy. 

Max is now so familiar with the virtual wrinklies that he will say “nanna” and point at the computer screen, this habit is equal parts adorable and heart breaking. To their credit the grandparents are doing what grandparents should and spoiling him at every opportunity, he receives brown packages at regular intervals (and they don’t smell like his brown packages), I’m sure the postman suspects we are running an elaborate drugs cartel, chock full of toys, books and clothes.

We braved the 30 hour flights to Good Ol Blighty in the early days when Max was 6 months and was largely mute and immobile, he is neither now. What was meant to be a beautiful moment at the airport when my Dad (who has opted for the unconventional title of G-Paps) was handed Max for the first time was ruined by Max howling like a hostage. We had 4 weeks with our families and it was such a welcome novelty to hand him over to someone else, pour a stiff gin and tonic, sit back and enjoy watching on as everyone got acquainted.

One of the few positives to come out of the situation is knowing that we have shaped this amazing little boy, just the two of us all on our own, and that makes us immensely proud. From a personal point of view I have dodged any well intentioned tutorials on nappy changing or bath time, I’m a graduate of the school of stubborn and like to make my own mistakes, and as you’ve probably noticed I’ve made a few.

The Mother-in-Law is making the long journey next month and it will be fantastic to see the two of them enjoying one another’s company. I’m sure when it comes time to saying goodbye again we will be left asking “why does Australia have to be so far from everywhere else?” After all I have firsthand experience of how special the relationship with grandparents can be.  

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24 Responses to “Virtual Babies”

  1. Vicky Finch (@Vicfinch) November 22, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    My little boy, who is about to turn six, has been skyping since he was a newborn with his pappy in Northampton. The beautiful thing about it is that they have a relationship, and each time pappy has come to Australia, Aston just takes to him straight away. No warming up to him, just acceptance that pappy is right in front of him , instead of on the computer. I’m grateful for the technology, I lived on the other side of Australia to my grandmother, and rarely saw her, and are very envious of the relationship that my cousins had with her.

    While its not quite the same, as being just around the corner, it is the next best thing.

    Enjoy having you MIL here, I’m sure that max will love it.

    • daddownunder November 22, 2012 at 2:01 am #

      It certainly takes the edge off Vicky – thanks people of Skype!

  2. Krystle_Sky November 22, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    It’s so difficult to parent without the help and support of family. We live rural while all our family are in cities. It can seem overwhelming how difficult it is to parent with zero help from those such as grandparents. Sounds like Max gets a unique experience of grandparents through Skype and special visits, even if they are rare :)

    • daddownunder November 22, 2012 at 2:02 am #

      He certainly doesn’t miss out Krystle, his Skype’s are virtually (pun intended) every day

  3. Grace November 22, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    My parents are a 4 hour drive away and that’s tough enough for me, I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is for you guys.
    The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is an amazing one, though. It has an incredible way of breaking through time and distance. I know it’s not quite the same as having them a short 10 minute drive away…

    • daddownunder November 22, 2012 at 2:04 am #

      Thanks Grace, everyone has their little hurdles to overcome and this seems to be ours. Hopefully we can keep the visits up every year or two. In the mean time he gets long distance spoilt

  4. Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions November 22, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    I couldn’t imagine not having my parents more than an hour away, I don’t think I would have coped in those first early weeks without seeing my Mum on a regular weekly basis, if not more if I was having a hard time.

    It’s so good that we have the technology now that your family can still see and hear their grandchild, even if it isn’t as good as being there in person, its certainly better than what people had even 10 years ago. Even with my family so close my sisters and SIL’s love it when I skype them or facetime them with Mia, and Mia gets a kick out of seeing them on the screen talking to her. When Mia was first born one of her Aunty’s was living in Canada and if it wasn’t for Skype I think she would have jumped on a plane and come home much earlier than she did!

    Love that photo of Max in the goggles!

    • daddownunder November 22, 2012 at 1:49 am #

      Skype definitely takes the edge off. Thanks for the ongoing comments Kylez, they are always good to read.

  5. Catherine Rodie Blagg (Cup of Tea and a Blog) November 22, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I’m also from the uk so totally relate to this post. My husband is an Aussie through so so we see his parents a few times a year – they’re just in another state rather than the other side of the world. My girls have virtual relationships with their grand parents too and ‘see’ them often. They also talk to their cousins who are a similar age – it’s pretty amazing to see them interacting, but bitter sweet as would love to see them play.
    I think I find it especially hard at this time of year in the run up to Christmas :-(

    • daddownunder November 22, 2012 at 2:07 am #

      Its a real conundrum Catherine, but hopefully we are both doing right by them in raising them Down Under, its not too pretty back home I dont think.

  6. always josefa (@always_josefa) November 22, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    distance does make the heart ache, especially such a long distance
    gorgeous pics
    he is adorable

    ps love the “school of stubborn”
    xx

  7. mumabulous November 22, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    There’s no substitute for being able to give the littlies a big hug. Still think of how much worse the situation would be without Skype.

    • daddownunder November 22, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      Your right. We get a daily dose of grandparents on skype and sometimes a double serve. I definitely see them more now than when I lived in the UK ; )

  8. shambolicliving November 22, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Our families were all interstate when my kids were little and it was so hard. There were days I would have killed for someone to walk in and mind the girls for an hour so I could do the grocery shopping by myself, or have a hair cut or… I could go on. We have sinced moved to the same town as my Mum and it is lovely to see the different relationship that has been created by living in the same town. However, with no family nearby, my husband and I had to be a strong team, sharing the responsibilities and on the plus side we were the only influence on the kids and so had a pretty straight run in shaping their lives. There have been moments where I’ve disagreed with my mum’s opinions or approaches and found myself presenting an alternative viewpoint to the girls. But all credit to you and your wife, living in a different country to your folks must be so difficult. Thank goodness for the technology and enjoy the special times you do get to spend together.

    • daddownunder November 23, 2012 at 5:59 am #

      Thnaks for dropping in and sharing your story. I think its that first year, especially for the first one where a bit of help would be very welcome. There are definitely pro’s and cons though, its nice being able to learn on the job without interference ; )

  9. Poppy November 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    My parents “only” live on another part of Europe, not the World, but I can totally relate to this post. Our kids are virtual too. And yes, it is great that we have all the high-tech solutions, skype and everything, and my parents can be a virtual part of our everydays. But, as you also said, it is somewhat heartbreaking. Because my parents are so full of love for their grandchildren, and so happy when watching them dancing and waving on the screen, but cannot hug them or tickle them or kiss them.
    I sometimes wonder, how nice it would be to raise my kids surrounded by a large family, like I was raised, with grandparents, aunts, cousins. It would be wonderful not just for the children, but also for my husband and me. Can you imagine, going out to the cinema one evening? No, me neither :)
    But I think we are trying to get the maximum out of the situation, and based on your posts, you guys too.

    • daddownunder November 23, 2012 at 6:02 am #

      I think in years to come its going to be less and less common to have the big families you speak of, its the way of the world. Like you say Poppy we are both trying to do the best thing for our families. Thanks for the comment ; )

  10. C J November 23, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    I think my children will all have to move closer to me when they have offspring. It will give me lots of things to do… and keep me bus… umm out of trouble. :D
    *Note to self: I need to learn to skype…

  11. Me November 23, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    When we moved to Australia nearly 13 years ago I was lost without being able to talk to my folks every day. But before we left we taught my Mom how to use e-mail (my Dad was already relatively computer literate – my Mom – not so much – she used an electric typewriter !!) and we would mail every day and telephone once a week on the weekend. K was 7 and it was hard on her.
    My folks would holiday once a year for 4 weeks and then 6 years ago they came in on a Parent Contributory Visa at a cost of $65k and it was the best money they ever spent. It is so good to have them close by. We get to celebrate birthdays and Christmas’ with them and I love that I can pop in and see them on my way home from work.
    Have the best day !
    Me

    • daddownunder November 23, 2012 at 6:04 am #

      I’m very jealous Me, we just need to work out a way of moving Australia closer to the rest of the world : )

  12. Debbie November 23, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Hearing you loud and clear. I had three kids in three years and all my family are in Scotland. It was tough (it still can be tough) technology has bridged the gap and it was wonderful last year when we made the trip home and all 3 of my kids wrapped their arms around my parents and greeted them like they saw them everyday – not strangers thanks to technology.. Now my son can’t wait till he’s old enough to travel, I fear that I came here to give him a good life and he’ll hot trot it back to the UK as soon as he can.. would be just my luck!

    • daddownunder November 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      Hey Debbie, Scotland definitely has things that Asutralia could never offer. I love it up there, even honeymooned on the Isle of Mull. I suspect you might be right about the exodus back to BLighty at the ealriest opportunity – ungrateful little buggers ; )

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