The One Trick Grandparents Need to Bond with Long Distance Grandchildren – Kveller
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The One Trick Grandparents Need to Bond with Long Distance Grandchildren

I made a whopping fiscal planning error when I laid out my retirement budget. I neglected to figure in the probability that my granddaughter—our first one—would return to Israel, the land of our forefathers and foremothers. Who could know?

How does that affect my budget, you ask? Well, a one-ounce letter costs a buck to ship overseas.

Me and my Israeli granddaughter have long been pen pals. She and her family have always lived far away. And aside from occasional phone calls, I’ve always resorted to the written word to gain her attention and smooth the rough edges of her juvenile persona. Didn’t the Creator put us grandparents here to critique our kids’ child rearing mistakes? Isn’t our ultimate responsibility—besides cooking for Passover (that’s Bubbe’s job) and running the seder (my assignment)—the civilization of our grandchildren, who are trying to mature in a world that seems to be ruled by the Philistine gods of pre-Israelite Canaan? They need all the help they can get.

Even when she was a toddler, I’d send her outlandish pictures or a flat stick of gum. Her absentee father had a bad case of shpilkes of the soul. Spellbound by the open road, he’d left soon after her birth. She needed an older man in her life.

We were bonded, you might say, by my early packages containing treats. Sort of a form of imprinting.

Kids are fascinated by this form of communication, ranking it well above that plastic thing that rings all day long and interrupts their TV dependence and never yields candy, pictures clipped from the newspapers, or mystery gifts. Letters are a vestige of civilization, which may disappear in a decade or two as postal rates rise and internet, email, and electronic bulletin boards finally replace those folded, rectangular pieces of paper.

But none of those electronic vehicles work with grandkids. You can’t enclose a reward in an electronic message or push a nice, flat Hershey Bar through the internet. That’s what I do with my letters. I always include something—candy, gum, pictures.

The trick is in the packaging—the combination of letter and treat. You say a smart grandchild will lap up the sweets and not read the letter? Not if you’re smarter than she is and make part of the letter a COUPON that she must mail back for a bonus chocolate!

Post-epistle phone call: “Sarah, did you like the candy?”

“Yes, I like candy.”

“Great. You know I had another one here, but you didn’t send me back the coupon for another candy. So, I gave it to the cat. She loved it.”

Long pause while the full horror of this error of omission sinks in. Then an aside to her mother: “Mommy, where’s the coupon?”

I’ve never known a kid—at least not one of my team—to make that mistake a second time.

My critics in the family call my technique bribery—like paying for good grades. So? Life rewards courtesy, kindness, and attentiveness to one’s fellow man or woman as well as communication skills. Kids need to learn this as soon as possible.

Plus, there’s a payoff to my letter writing campaigns: I like the return mail, even the post cards. And maybe decades from now when I’m old and feeble and full of sleep—and my poor old grinders are loose and wobbly—my mail will be full of attentive notes, soft, easy to chew gum, and Hershey Bars.

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