“Well, my mom had 14 kids, her mom had 14 kids, and her mom had 11 kids, and her mom had 12 kids. . .” Shayne Packer said jokingly when Tanda, his newly engaged fiancé, brought up the topic of how many children they would have.
Tanda’s gleaming blue eyes shot sideways as she interrupted with a firm tone, “That’s where tradition stops right there, buddy!”
Today, Tanda works hard to keep up with her three grown girls, two grown boys and eight grandchildren. Being a modern grandma, she uses whatever technology she can find to connect across the four times zones containing her loved ones. In fact, the Packers are writing a book on grandparents connecting with their grandchildren through technology. They also created two websites to encourage and promote activities and technological devices that allow families to connect in today’s world. Their websites, called Grandparents TLC and The Grandparent Project, educate other grandparents from what they have learned. The Grandparent Project allows grandparents all over the world to create their own sites for reaching out across the wires and bonding with grandchildren in a whole new way.
This new world of iPhones and video conferencing are very different from the childhood Tanda remembers. Raised on a 1,000-acre cattle ranch in Idaho, Tanda learned young the value of hard work, knowing how to ride a horse, and relying on family connectedness to make ends meet. She also learned to “reuse and repurpose” as only a farmer’s daughter and member of a large family would know. Farmers had to be creative – as they say, “we fixed it with spit and wire.” Growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Tanda embraced the strong emphasis on family and faith, which served her well over the years.
“We were your average Western family,” states Tanda, humbly. “Walking into the nearby town, they knew what you were going to do before you did it.”
“Tanda emphasizes the importance of better social skills and etiquette, things that aren’t learned over the internet. ‘Too much training is being left to the schools to teach. MBA’s are losing jobs over their meal habits.’”
Despite her tomboy tendencies at home, Tanda’s mother taught her to sew, cook, and value education. After high school, Tanda started a career in nursing but realized she was afraid of shots, which made that profession quite unappealing. As nurses’ aid, Tanda witnessed a live birth. She attributes this experience to her reticence regarding childbirth. Anything you might have glamorized about the process flies right out the hospital window. She still wanted to work with people, teaching family and home values. After her mother died and her fifth and last child was born, Tanda used money left to her to go back to school for teaching.
As a teacher of Family & Consumer Science, renamed and modernized from the more traditional Home Economics, Tanda is reminded daily of the increasing role of technology in the world of her students and in her own life.
Today, Tanda calls herself bi-lingual. “I use a Mac [computer] at home and a PC at work.” At work, she emphasizes the lessons she learned growing up, that “no success compensates for value in the home.” Technology is changing family and relationships. Tanda sees too much emphasis on the computer time, while family time suffers. Computer users, young and old, need to balance time spent facing a little colorful screen with real face-to-face time.
For this reason, Tanda works with Shane to review the available technology to help grandparents connect to their grandchildren rather than separating them. If your grandchildren are going to be surfing the web, why not talk to Grandma over videochat? Grandparents long for those lost moments that distance separates. Seeing the children online doesn’t replace the touch of precious little fingers but pictures and heart-to-heart conversations go a long way to bridging the gap.
Recently, Tanda created a webpost of both projects to do online (through e-cards, etc.) and to print off and do together. The web is a great resource for reasons to get off the computer – like finding recipes to cook together and doing projects together. Sometimes grandparents can fill in the teaching gap that parents get too busy to realize is missing. Parents today are going in so many different directions and sometimes basic disciplines are lost.
While learning the latest technologies is important to any new graduate, Tanda emphasizes the importance of better social skills and etiquette, things that aren’t learned over the internet. “Too much training is being left to the schools to teach. MBA’s are losing jobs over their meal habits.”
Tanda pulls from what she teaches at school for the websites and vice versa. Some of the subjects she teaches in school include nutrition and food science, interior design, finance, social & physical sciences, and family relationships.
From her own farming background, she teaches students sewing the hem in pants to prolong the garment’s life, repairing and repurposing household items to stay in one’s budget and using leftovers creatively rather than always going out to eat. Tanda adds, from her years of training, “80-90% of diseases are lifestyle related: obesity, heart disease, diabetes. Children need to know how to make good food choices, how to plan a nutritious meal and how to live on their own when the time comes.”
With the world becoming a global economy, Tanda teaches students to appreciate other types of food and where they come from culturally. Technology is making the world a smaller place so people are traveling farther -- but the family is suffering. Children are not raised around extended family, learning to laugh with a silly uncle or take lessons from the crafty aunt. Adequate websites that share ideas and keep family traditions documented are increasingly useful in bringing together family from all over the world.
With a renewed vision to help connect loved ones, Tanda and Shayne have learned to look at all technology through “grandparent glasses” and to provide a valuable resource for everyone for years to come. Their articles and advice all stem from their desire to promote family values and bring families closer together where they can love and learn from each other. Tanda coined the term TLC because it represents the “tender loving care” a grandparent has for a grandchild and the “Technology” used for “Loving” and Connecting.”
Tanda Packer (Grammy Tanda) has a degree in Home Economics Education, and has been teaching high school since 1988. She enjoys keeping current with teen lives of today and keeping in touch with her own family of 5 children and 8 grandchildren through any and all available technologies She and her husband, Shayne, are co-authoring a book on connecting grandparents and their grandchildren through technology.
GrandparentsTLC.com is a website about grandparenting and technology. It's where grandparents can discover technologies that will help them connect with their grandchildren in new ways. The Grandparent Project allows other grandparents to join the fun!
Thank you Tanda, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Sarah Peppel and Story of My Life®
And don't forget to read Shayne Packer's Story as well!