The Friday morning that I went into labor, my mother called my grandparents to say that it was time for them to get that phone upgrade they’d been talking about—which was code for: Your granddaughter’s about to have a baby. By Erev Shabbat (Friday afternoon), my grandparents had two new additions to their family: an iPhone and a great-grandchild.
Thanks to their new smartphone, Grandma and Zayde (my Saba took on this new title after becoming a great-grandfather) got to “meet” their first great-grandchild within minutes of his birth. They would soon receive a flood of daily images of our baby. Despite some initial technological hurdles, my grandparents learned to embrace this new medium of communication. As my son grew, I texted photos to my grandparents every day and tried to video chat with them when I could. On days when I was late to send a photo or didn’t have a chance to call, I would receive a gentle reminder in the form of a phone call from Zayde about how much he loves seeing photos of the baby (hint, hint).
When I went back to work, I asked our nanny if she could try to occasionally FaceTime with Grandma and Zayde. I knew that getting a dose of that cute little punim in real-time would mean the world to them.
I knew it would make them happy, but what I didn’t realize was the benefits for my son. What I had at first construed as a one-way benefit for my grandparents has turned into a magical two-way interaction.
My son, who turned one last month, clearly recognizes Grandma and Zayde’s faces and voices. He loves hearing Zayde sing the Hebrew song “Zoom gali gali gali,” with the humming noise of his oxygen tank in the background. And, if my son is across the room when they are speaking with him, he toddles right over to them on the screen when they ask him to come over. He doesn’t even do that for me!
As it turns out, my son even keeps secrets with Grandma and Zayde. On a recent Sunday, I was video-chatting with my grandmother when she told my son to “make clap hands.” To which, he proudly clapped his hands. I thought that this was something he could only do when mimicking a clapping grownup. My grandmother chuckled and noted that my son had been doing this with her for at least a week, if not longer.
While I could have experienced this moment as a “working mommy” failure, I instead appreciated how this technology allows my grandparents to be an integral part of my son’s development. I then of course forgot to tell my husband about this interaction, so his response to seeing our son clap on command on another FaceTime call a few days later was as noteworthy as mine.
My husband and I had originally wanted to wait until our baby was older before letting him have a lot of screen time. However, the blessings of the relationship he now has with his great-grandparents surpass any initial reservations we had about his use of a smartphone. Though we are still holding off on TV shows and YouTube channels for now, technology has allowed my son to connect with his family in a beautiful way.