Proceeding With Caution

Last week my daughter went to her court hearing and was released. I learned of it the day before, but I couldn’t be there. We had dental appointments and dance class. I stayed busy, but I wondered if she would disappear or stay on the track available to her–moving into a recovery house. I’m relieved to say, she did go to the recovery house. So far, she’s still there, but the last time she went from jail to a recovery program, she lost her cool over some minor issue and was asked to leave. I revisited this event with her the day before her hearing, stressing that she needed to listen and stay calm in dealing with rules and consequences. We will see.

After her first full day in the house, she called me to tell me she loved me and to thank me for the few clothes items I took to her. Unlike some shelters, she’s given a job with a wage, so she can pay for the program and her food and clothing. I like that, but she did need a few things to get started, so I gave her some items I no longer needed.

She called around 10 pm–the first free moment she’d had. She’d spent the majority of the day getting new copies of documents that most of us have without thinking about it. People on the street lose these documents.

Later in the day, they went to a recovery meeting. She still needed to speak with a caseworker before going to bed but grabbed a second to call me. As we were talking, she said, “Guess where our meeting was.”

Turns out she ended up at our church. Many programs use our facility, but I was surprised the recovery house took them across town instead of to a program closer to the house. Prior to the meeting, she was praying for God to give her some sign that she was doing the right thing. I have no idea why she questioned her current plan. Maybe it was a tough day. As in Proverbs 22:3, the path she was on is the safe one if she’ll take refuge in it. To walk away would be to continue on her old path. That  path is dangerous.  She said he answered her by sending her to our church. She was so excited that she bounced through the halls exclaiming, “My kids go here. My kids walk these halls.”

I’ll take any good sign I can get right now, but I’m waiting for something to go wrong, too.

I pray she’ll stick it out. I pray she’ll get on track. I pray she’ll take the time to get her act together before she asks the courts to give her custody of her children again. And there’s the conundrum. That last prayer terrifies me.

The prudent take refuge. The simple fall into danger.

The courts will look at housing, income, and her participation in a recovery program when deciding whether to reunite the grands with their mother. These decisions happen too quickly, seeking a misguided goal of reuniting children with their parents as soon as possible. Many children return to parents who aren’t prepared for the responsibilities of raising children. The world our children grow up in today contains so many dangers, and the courts exacerbate the situation by using a lack of prudence in their decisions. My daughter attempts to be a buddy to her son and daughter rather than a mother. She discounts our rules and suggests things I feel are inappropriate. Parenting is a skill she should have developed a long time ago.

She didn’t or the streets took it from her. Either way, this scares me.

Another Year Without Their Mother

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I’ve tried twice to write a post today; one that expresses my feelings and what’s happening in our lives right now. The two posts I started to write morphed into something else. One of them has potential, but I saved it for some other time. The other one was whiny. I feared people might misunderstand my message, so I deleted it. So, here I go again. Maybe there’ll be some message worth sharing in this one.

We spent crazy, busy, hectic days with various parts of our family over the Christmas break. We made the trip to Charleston to celebrate our youngest granddaughter’s first birthday. We cooked, we gifted, we overindulged, and we got very little rest. That’s probably why I’m not on my game today. The first week back on a normal schedule has been tough.

The grands are showing a bit of wear and tear, too. It’s hard to come down from the highs of the holidays and return to the routine. I’m glad for the return to schedules, but I’m struggling to get moving. For the grands, there’s the added grief of not spending Christmas with their mother. We know where she is—jail again—but we don’t dare form any expectations as she awaits her latest hearing.

The grands have spoken to her several times, and she made some promises that upset my granddaughter. She wants to believe her mother, but she’s finding that hard to do. Her brother falls for the promises. He doesn’t really remember life with their mom, so he clings to an ideal that he thinks he remembers.

I hope and pray she doesn’t break their hearts this time. Every time she’s incarcerated and removed from the elements of addiction and the people who she associates with in that life, she cleans up (not by choice though she seems glad to do it) and makes plans to get better and restore her family. I really want her to do that, but I find it hard to believe that she will. Her daughter has come to the same conclusion. Her son? He’s planning for the day when they’re a happy family again.

Neither of them mentioned buying her a Christmas gift this year. When I suggested we visit her, they didn’t jump at the chance.

Yet, one of the points Victoria reminded me of this Christmas was that there were good times with their mom. They did laugh and have fun. It wasn’t always bad. She sometimes even has good things to say about Amari’s father. She misses those times. She yearns for that life. And I can’t fix that. How she expresses this, at her age, is often through yelling and disrespectful behavior. We’ve struggled to find a way to help her change her attitude when speaking to us, but it’s not working. When I stop and think about it, I know there’s more going on inside her than she can tell us. But what can we do? If we let her verbally berate us, we allow her to develop poor social habits. If we punish every occurrence, she’ll never experience any joys in life. She’s in counseling, but as the counselor has told us, it’s not a quick fix. There’s work to be done.

But what heartbreak to start the new year without your mother…again. This is their 5th Christmas and New Year without her.

I don’t let myself dwell on these dismal points often. Probably why I had two false starts to my post today. It’s enough to make you want to give up. I’m not a giving-up kind of person, so I move forward. Which reminds me of a statement I heard in a recent audiobook, The Wisdom of Wolves, Lesson from the Sawtooth Pack by Jim Dutcher and Jamie Dutcher. Jamie is talking about grief and mourning in regards to humans versus wolves and makes this clarification (paraphrased):

Either you move on or you move forward. Moving on means you choose to shove the grief behind you. Moving forward means you embrace the grief and let it be part of who you are but not all of who you are. You allow the grief but don’t let it control you. 

I’m probably not saying it perfectly, but the wisdom of these words strike to the heart of what the grands must be dealing with. I believe I’m in the moving forward approach in relation to my daughter’s choices. I’m not sure where they are. I hope they’re moving forward, but I have a feeling they may be trying to move on because that’s what the world tells them to do. (Wolves are much better at moving forward than humans.)

Victoria confided in me recently that she’s gotten mad at friends who tug at her clothes or mess with something of hers. She told me they don’t understand that at several points in her life, she lost everything she had because they got evicted from their homes and her belongings disappeared. She treasures what she has now, and she hates when they disrespect it.  I’ve said it before, but the last time this happened was when they came to live with us. She’d lost everything but a few small bags of things. She knows she’s never getting any of that back. Her friends don’t get it. They tell her that her grandparents can buy her a new one. This brief glimpse into her feelings, a rare occurrence, reminds me how hard it is for them.

Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I can’t relate. Somehow I must find a way to relate and not forget. I just don’t know how.

NOTE:  I highly recommend The Wisdom of Wolves by the Dutchers. It’s an entertaining and enlightening read into the true nature of wolves, who by the way, move forward instead of moving on.

Grand-parenting: What Others Don’t Understand

Most grandparents who end up raising their grandchildren don’t know others who are doing the same thing…at first. As time passes, you begin to to discover who else is in this late-in-life adventure with you. I only knew of a few people who were raising grandchildren before Victoria and Amari landed on our doorstep. I didn’t know them well, though.

It took time, but slowly I learned which of their classmates lived with someone other than their mother and father. And then I got to know the people who stepped up to parent them. The majority of us accept the responsibility of raising a family member’s child because their mother and father are absent, on drugs, or in jail. The alternative to taking them in is foster care. I’m not knocking foster care. I know the system has many who truly care for the children in their custody, but the system isn’t perfect. Children in foster care lose family. They lose connection to the only close people they’ve known.

One couple I’ve gotten to know is raising their niece’s child. Due to our shared experiences, we talk often and try to hold each other up. They’re dealing with the courts and the legal system’s steadfast belief that a child belongs with the parents even when overwhelming evidence indicates otherwise. It’s hard. You lose faith in the legal system quickly when you see the steps it takes to reunite a child with their parents despite the mountain of evidence that proves it’s not a good idea.

The struggles they’re facing are the reason I haven’t pursued asking for full custody or adoption. I’m pretty sure the children will live with us the rest of their lives, but if I push for a ruling on this, I’m positive my daughter will fight it with every tool she has available to her. People in the drug culture know the ways to dig at you, to try and make you look bad. For what? To avoid losing, I guess. I’m not really sure. My daughter says she misses and wants her children. I don’t know if I believe her. Her life choices don’t support this assertion. In fact, after months of absence, she resurfaced a few weeks ago…in jail, again.

The story she tells me is heartbreaking, but I’m not sure what or how much to believe. According to her, she couldn’t contact us because the boy (he may be chronologically a man, but I refuse to see him as such) kept her away from us on purpose. Considering the type of people she continually chooses to associate with, I don’t doubt there’s  truth in her statements. But I don’t believe it’s the full truth.

When I spoke to my friend the other day, after empathizing over their recent court experiences, she asked about us. I told her what my daughter claimed. She said, “That’s got to be hard to see your daughter in that situation.”

My response? “No. I’m mad. I can’t believe she keeps going back to the kind of men who will mistreat her.” I raised my children to not let a man abuse them. I taught them to avoid the situation I found myself in early in life…a situation I’ve steered clear of ever since. It makes me angry that she refuses to recognize and avoid the signs I taught her. So, saying it’s hard isn’t true. Saying I don’t feel anything is closer to the truth. It’s hard to put a word to the emotion I feel after all these years.

My friend understood. She’s living it, and seeing her sister deal with crises in her daughter’s life.

Not everyone gets this.

You move past sorrow and concern for your adult child. The scar tissue from their earlier exploits reminds you of the futility of getting caught up in their issues. Yes, you care for them. Yes, you pray for them. But you do stop letting them affect how you feel daily. If someone knocks you down enough, you steer clear of them. You don’t hover nearby waiting for the next punch. This change in attitude happens to most of us in this situation, whether or not we’re raising our loved one’s children or not.  We don’t decide one day to change our attitude toward our loved one. It just happens.

It probably sounds heartless to those of you who can’t imagine feeling nothing or little about your child. I hope and pray you never have a reason to experience it.

For those of you who know this feeling, you are not alone.