My kids stood by in anticipation while the familiar sound of the FaceTime dial rang through the kitchen. 

My mom—with her wet-from-her-morning-shower hair and coffee steam rising onto her face—answered with joy.

“Good morning, everybody!” she said.

“NANAAAA!” the kids screamed in unison, bringing an even bigger smile to her face. “Where’s Papa?” my son asked immediately . . . knowing that it’s a rare occasion that the kids talk to one grandparent without the other one in the screen, too.

“He’s right here, hold on one second,” she said as she moved her chair around the kitchen table to where my dad was sitting with his typical seat across from her with his own morning brew and the local paper.

“PAPAAAAA!” the kids screamed when he came into view.

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The usual commotion ensued as each kid tried to get in their update. My 8-year-old daughter negotiated her way to holding the phone so she could show a drawing she had done. Off to the side, my son jumped around waiting for his turn to show them the character he had created on his video game to look like Papa. Our preschooler proudly shared how she’s been washing her hands like she’s supposed to.

My mom and dad—in full grandparent mode—matched their excitement over each of their announcements.  

It’s a scene that always makes me smile. Watching my parents feel the joy of being grandparents . . . and seeing my kids adore them in return the way that I adored mine . . . is one of my life’s greatest blessings.

Eventually, the lovefest started to fade as the fighting over the phone on our side of the connection began, so I interrupted the chaos.

“Alright, kiddos, it’s Mommy’s turn to talk,” I said as I took the phone and turned the screen to make sure they were all in view. “What do you say to Nana and Papa?” I asked them.

“We love you!” one said. “We miss you!” screamed another. “BYEEEEE!” yelled another as he did his 1,253th jump off the couch for the day.

I turned the screen back and both of them went from grandparent mode to being my mom and dad.

“So how are YOU doing with all of this?” they asked.

I went through all the things: the anxiety and the fear combined with the perspective and positivity . . . and the way that I was trying to take this “new normal” head-on with a day-by-day approach of focusing on what I COULD control.

What I didn’t share with them was how I couldn’t shake how I was feeling about THEM.

How I was worried. About their health. About keeping them safe. About them FEELING safe.

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But just as much, I was feeling overwhelmingly sad thinking about when I would be able to hug them again. When I’d be able to see my kids sprint to the door to greet them when they made the 1.5-hour trip to see us. When I’d be able to drive up to my childhood home and sit with my parents at our kitchen table while the kids played hide and seek. When I’d be able to watch my mom plant flowers with my daughter, or my dad lead a game of cards with all of us.

Even though I know that all of this is a sacrifice to keep THEM (and everyone else) safe, it was still hard on my heart.

At the end of the call, we said our I love yous and Facetime-you-laters and hung up. I set my phone down and I went over to brew my own morning coffee with my remained-unsaid words going through my thoughts. When I went to make my cup selection I saw the mug out of which my mom used to drink when I was a little kid. It’s the one that I go to when I want to feel close to home. And that day, I really needed it. 

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I took my first sip with tears in my eyes . . . but with a mission in my heart to remain GRATEFUL.

Grateful that I’ve learned that every interaction with them is a blessing . . . in-person or not. Grateful for technology that can make us FEEL like we’re in the same room. Grateful for sweet text messages from my mom and funny GIFs from my dad. Grateful for their current health and our family’s as well. Grateful for virtual masses we can “attend” together and discuss later. Grateful they have each other.

Gratitude.

It’s what I’ll hold onto until we all get through this together . . . and can finally hold on to each other again.

Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is a writer, photographer and speaker who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch. She also owns newborn, children and family photography business Photography by Brea. She and her husband raise their three young children in Pittsburgh, PA.