Communicating Across the Country

My granddaughters live in another state halfway across the country. We do not get to visit them as often as we would like. However, today’s technology has made it easier to be part of our granddaughters’ lives. From the day our first granddaughter was born, we have used Facetime to connect with our son and his family. While this has been a wonderful gift, it has had some unintended consequences.

The day she was born we made arrangement to fly out and meet our first granddaughter. It was a joyous occasion. Our granddaughter was beautiful. Our son and daughter-in-law beamed with pride. Too soon it was time to leave. Children grow so fast and I knew the next time we saw them our granddaughter might be walking. My husband and I made a promise to each other that we would Facetime with our son and his wife once a week. We watched each week as our granddaughter learned to roll over, sit up and crawl. Over time our granddaughter became more aware of the people on the iPad that her parents made her wave to. She would oblige her parents and wave at the people on the iPad, then move on to more entertaining things.

Figuring Out What’s Real

We had been to their home numerous times over the next couple of years, but there was one specific visit I will never forget. Our son picked us up at the airport. We were going to stop by our granddaughter’s pre-school and pick her up on the way to their home. We walked into her classroom. When she saw us a look of total surprise and a little fear spread across her face. It was as if she was thinking, “Who let them out of the box?”

Each granddaughter has, at some point, had this reaction. They reach an age of awareness where they know the difference between reality and what they see on the screen. To our granddaughters it must have felt like magic. Someone let Nana and PopPop out of that iPad box! They come and stay for a few days and have so much fun. Then, “POOF”, they’re back in the box.

Grandchildren and Technology

Today my granddaughters fully expect that when we talk, we will see each other. In fact, my granddaughters do not think a cell phone is a phone.  This came as quite surprised to my son. We were talking on our iPhones. My son offered to let my granddaughter talk to Nana. She turned him down saying, “That’s not a phone. I can’t see Nana.” So we talk occasionally on a cell phone. Those conversations are usually short. Just checking in, need to confirm something. The calls on our iPads can last an hour. There is something about seeing each other that makes the conversation more meaningful.

Our conversations can be outside, upstairs to their bedrooms, wherever they want to take me. Remember when we got long cords so that we could go a couple feet away from the wall? I can watch them draw a picture or dance in their living room. Sometimes I am left on the floor looking at the ceiling as they run to get something they want to show me. The not so best part is looking up their noses as they carry the iPad up the stairs. I am theirs to do totally what they want, and I would have no other way.

Communicating Across the Generations

I remember the first time my Mother used an iPad to talk with her great granddaughters. My granddaughters were waving and giggling, all talking at once. My mother stared at the screen and finally said, “Can they see me?”

I realized she couldn’t decide if what she was watching was a video or real time. I answered, “Ya, Mom. They can see you and they want you to talk with them.”

My mother was so amazed by this new technology she couldn’t speak. When finally, she spoke she said, “They said someday this would happen. I just didn’t think it would be in my lifetime.” My mother eventually got used to the fact that she could see the people with whom she was speaking. Still, every conversation ended with, “It’s just wonderful that we can do this.”

What Is Real?

I was struck by how amazed my mother was, and how for granted my granddaughters took this technology.  What advances in communication technology will my granddaughters witness? I imagine someday I’ll be sitting next to a hologram of my granddaughter who might live halfway around the world or in outer space. And I will be asking, “Honey? Is this the real world or the virtual world?” I tell my son this and he laughs. But it occurred to me, no matter the generation or what advances are made in communications we humans are finding it difficult to discern what is real and what is not.