How to Bridge the Gap With Out-of-Town Family Members

image courtesy of Jon Ovington via Flickr (CC)

There are days when I curse technology. I’ve been known to sulk when the PVR cuts off the last five minutes of Modern Family and don’t even get me started on the digital thermostat control that requires a degree in computer science to be able to stop me from seeing my breath when I wake up in February.

But then there are times when I find myself marvelling over some technological advancement that I’ve taken for granted until that point. On those days, I whisper a little thank-you to the unsung heroes who sit in small rooms writing codes that will impact my life in a most positive way.

Let me tell you about one such occasion:

My in-laws, like many Canadians of their generation, spend a good part of the year at their place in Florida. We had a nice family visit over the Christmas holidays, but then we didn’t see them again for another four months. My daughter, Ava, who was 14 months old by that point, spent most of the visit clinging to me and making strange with her grandparents who she wasn’t used to seeing. Luckily, my in-laws took it in stride and managed to get her to warm up a little bit by the time they left.

Fast-forward to a month later when Ava’s uncle (my brother) returned home from Germany, where he lives, for a brief visit. Ava was doing her best work, removing every utensil from the kitchen drawer, when she heard a tap on the window at the front door. She peeked around the corner to see who was there and then bolted for the front door, shrieking with glee.

Like her grandparents, Ava hadn’t seen her uncle since Christmas but the recognition was instantaneous and the two of them wasted no time launching into a tickle fight of epic proportions.

The difference? Weekly Skype dates with her far-away uncle during which the two of them would play peek-a-boo, share a favourite book and finish off with a few rounds of Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes. And while her attention span, much like that of a fruit fly, doesn’t always hold the course of an entire conversation, there’s something to be said for hearing a person’s voice and seeing their face—even when it’s just idle chit-chat about the weather and the latest shenanigans at the local bier garden.

Since then, we’ve made a pact with the in-laws to schedule our own weekly video conferences. What’s not to love? It’s free, it’s easy and creates a bond that bridges thousands of kilometres

—Christina, CF‘s managing editor

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