As I mentioned the other day, though far from painless, my mom's visit a few months ago was really important for our little monster.
Now that we live so impossibly far away, their relationship depends so much on what will be a series of much-hyped visits throughout his childhood. With letters and presents and skype sessions filling in the gaps, yes. But I suspect the love and affection - the memories - will be built primarily around these visits.
The monster really missed his grandmother, his Bubby, and leaving her was probably the hardest part about our trans-continental move for him. They had been so close, and promises of eventual visits didn't make a whole lot of sense to the 2.5-year-old he was when we left Canada.
Her real, physical presence, the coming true of when-Bubby-comes-to-visit-us, was an important piece of truth in the configuration of my little guy's brain. It made the whole thing less abstract, in the air, incomprehensible. Bubby had still existed all this time, she was just far away. Now she has come to visit, and she is still Bubby. The world makes sense. (This has also meant that other friends and relatives, along with the now mythical "Canada", have started to exist for him in more tangible ways as well).
In addition to this HUGELY important benefit, I think the monster got three additional big benefits out of his Bubby's visit:
1) Improved self-esteem, mood and behaviour
After the first 10 minutes of shyness, they were inseparable until she left, three weeks later. This was good for him in so many ways. He thrives on this kind of undivided attention from a grown-up. I'm sure all kids do, but the monster can be pulled out of cloudy weeks and even months, it seems, by the kind of devotion his best grown-up admirers have been able to dedicate to him from time to time. My mom dedicated herself to him. And he was a happy, cooperative, silly and delightful guy to be around throughout her visit.
2) Greater ease and fluency in English
All this non-stop play and loving with a non-Spanish speaker also went a long way to consolidating his English. His English has always been great, but he was starting to find it harder to switch out of Spanish, to find the right words, to speak and play with the same ease in English as in Spanish. Since my mom's visit, I haven't had to remind him to speak to me in English. When he occasionally gropes for a word, I help him, or he finds his way around the word he's missing all on his own.
Not only did he become more comfortable in English; he also picked up some new unmistakenly Bubby vocabulary. Like "super-duper" and "I think the heat is starting to get to me."
3) More meaningful long-distance communication
All this re-connecting with Bubby made all of the web-camming, skyping and Chanukah-present getting seem much more real to the monster, and even to the monkey, who was only 13 months when she was here. They have private jokes and spitting games, and Bubby knows the right questions to ask to get the monster talking about his books or his friends. It works better than it did before her visit, and it's more meaningful.
The monster talks about his Bubby all the time. She has a daily presence in our family.
We should call Bubby on the computer and tell her that I rode a horse!
I like my potatoes like this, just like Bubby.
Did you hear how loud I blew my nose? Like Bubby!
Did you know that Bubby's going to visit us again? She told me she'll come when I'm five. Isn't that great??