The NY Times reports on the growing connections between grandparents and grandchildren even though separated geographically.
Her grandfather wanted to play tea party, but Alexandra Geosits, 2½, insisted she had only apple juice. She held out a plastic cup, giggling as she waited to see if he would accept the substitute.
That they were a thousand miles apart, their weekly visit unfolding over computer screens in their respective homes, did not faze either one. Like many other grandchildren and grandparents who live far apart, Alex and Joe Geosits, 69, have become fluent in the ways of the Web cam.
“Delicious,” Mr. Geosits exclaimed from Florida, pretending to take a sip from the cup, which remained clasped here in Alex’s small hand.
Video calling, long anticipated by science fiction, is filtering into everyday use. And two demographic groups not particularly known for being high-tech are among the earliest adopters.
In a way that even e-mailed photos never could, the Web cam promises to transcend both distance and the inability of toddlers to hold up their end of a phone conversation.
Some grandparent enthusiasts say this latest form of virtual communication makes the actual separation harder. Others are so sustained by Web cam visits with services like Skype and iChat that they visit less in person. And no one quite knows what it means to a generation of 2-year-olds to have slightly pixelated versions of their grandparents as regular fixtures in their lives.
We would be strangers to them if we didn’t have the Web cam,” said Susan Pierce, 61, of Shreveport, La., who will be a virtual attendee at Thanksgiving dinner with her grandchildren in Jersey City this year.
Over the last year, Ms. Pierce and her husband watched Dylan, 17 months, learn to walk and talk over the Web cam, and witnessed his 4-year-old sister Kelsie’s drawings of people evolve from indeterminate blobs to figures with arms and fingers and toes.
But the powerful illusion of physical proximity also sharpens their ache for the real thing. “You just wish you could reach out and cuddle them,” said Ms. Pierce, a nursing professor. “Seeing them makes you miss them more.”
Nearly half of American grandparents live more than 200 miles from at least one of their grandchildren, according to AARP. Prof. Merril Silverstein, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, has found that about two-thirds of grandchildren see one set of grandparents only a few times a year, if that.
But many grandparents find that the Web cam eases the transition during in-person visits, when grandchildren may refuse to sit on their laps or may reject their hugs because they do not recognize them. As one Web cam evangelist wrote on her blog, www.nanascorner.com: “You’ll be able to pick up where you left off without those warming up to you, awkward moments.”
Did you "talk" online to your relatives over Thanksgiving?
What are the ramifications for churches? Live webcams for baptisms? Streaming video for funerals? Will it bring us closer to one another? Or give an excuse for keeping a distance?