Skyping and Facebooking – An Expats Lifeline

August 9, 2010

You know something has become popular when it starts out as a noun and becomes a verb.  Skype, especially for those of us living abroad, has become one of those verbs.  Facebook is another.  I also think that these have become features of life for some retirees that make deciding to retire overseas much easier than it was before.

Case in point:

I ran into a man on the golf course the other day, a Thai living in Wichita, Kansas.  His one dream was to retire and move on back to Thailand.  “Why don’t you, I asked.”  “I have three grandchildren back in Kansas” he said.  “I want to watch them as they grow up.”  (As I write this Wichita is 38°C –  not a place I want to be in the summertime.)

“Being around” for your children and grandchildren is one of the reasons many people give for not picking up and starting a new life abroad.  I can understand that, having recently become a grandpa myself.  So I did like I always do when I am faced with a conundrum.  I presented my question to my personal oracle, “Google”.  “What do parents think about having grandparents around” I asked the holder of all knowledge.

Here is what my Oracle said.  There were lots of complaints that many new parents see “ too much of the grandparents”.  One who was being pressured by her parents to see more of their grandchild said, “I had a child for me and my husband, not for the grandparents.”  When ask the question of “Who knows better?” the answers were pretty mixed “Grandparents. They are older and wiser and are just trying to help.” and “Parents. While grandparents may be older and wiser, they can keep their opinions to themselves.”  It is funny but the first answer seemed to be given mostly by grandparents, the second, by the parents of the child.  I wonder why.  One parent’s response got a little more detailed, “My mom managed to completely UN-potty-train and UN-sleep-train my kid.   In the course of two days, my previously well-disciplined 3-year-old was suddenly pooping in her pants and waking up at all hours of the night.

By the way, there were also lots of children who loved having their parents around to help with the new grandchild.

I don’t want to be considered one of those overbearing, pushy grandparents, and I certainly don’t want to un-potty-train anyone.  But I would like to see my new granddaughter once in a while, and at the same time live my retired years in a place I can afford and which has a lifestyle I love, and never sees a below freezing or a snowy day.

Skype them.

On the day my new granddaughter was born my son called us from his laptop, right from the hospital room.  Right there was my son, our very tired looking daughter-in-law, and little Natalie.

We couldn’t touch her of course, which is probably a good thing.  But we had a nice long talk with the children and lots of “Goo goos”, and “Hellooooos”, and “I’m your Grandpas” to little Natalie.  And if her eyes were working yet she would have seen how happy we were.

Goo goo, gaa ga, Hi, I'm your Grandpa - Skyping Natalie

My children and I Skype each other frequently, but not too much to get old.  I also Skype with friends, and lately people I know are using Skype to hook up with Thai teachers and Skype-study Thai.

Facebook them.

There are about 100 pictures of my granddaughter on Facebook.  In 98 of them she is sleeping, which is what newborns do a lot of (except at night).  I am a big user of Facebook.  Every time something interesting happens, I post a picture of it, or I link to a song that I am reminded of, or I pontificate on something in the news.  I communicate with friends and family more now than I did before I left the States.

From my Facebook album - another addition to the family

So if you are putting off that retirement-jump because you feel you might be left isolated and alone, think again.  I have over 100 Facebook friends and Skype all over the world (and my son just bought me a new camera so Natalie will get a better look at us once her eyes begin to work).  We are more in touch than we have ever been.

When Natalie is old enough to understand “I’m your Grandpa.” then we’ll get on a plane and do a visit.  Until then we will be Skyping and Facebooking.

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2 Responses to “Skyping and Facebooking – An Expats Lifeline”

  1. Sychronicity: National Public Radio had a story this morning on human voice production called “From Grunting to Gabbing: Why Humans Can Talk”. You can listen to it here http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=129083762&m=129135336

  2. Catherine said

    I’m another grandparent far away from the munchkins. But the thing is, even if I lived in the same country as them, I seriously doubt that I’d be close by. My son lives where he does for employment and I’d choose a location for other reasons. Not liking his area (too cold) I’d still need to travel a fair distance to reach them.

    But how you relate to your family (father, mother, kids, grandkids, etc) will come into it as well. I have a dear friend who is very close with her sisters, parents, and friends even. She now lives in the UK with her main family being in Malaysia, so she makes a huge effort to see them often. She also wants to see me often as well. But I was raised overseas, so not being around family and friends was the way life was. So going several years without meeting up with anyone is not a drain on my emotions.

    When my granddaughter was born, I didn’t go rushing across the world to see her. Like you, I don’t get a great deal out of sleeping babies (that’s what cameras are for 😉

    I chose not to ‘friend’ my son on Facebook for privacy reasons (both his and my own). But he does send oodles of photos (not enough some times) via email and his phone’s camera. And when the girls get big enough, I’ll bring them to Thailand for their summer holidays to have a whale of a time. But until then, I’m a once a year nanna – and they know that I’m as close as the other end of the phone.

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