Seasons of Grand-parenting

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
Ecclesiastes 3:1

This week has been interesting. The grands are struggling with some inner issues, and I can’t put my finger on it. It’s probably the approaching holidays. Each year brings its highs and lows.

Highs?

  • I’ve gotten a lot of hugs and “you’re the best Babbie” from Amari.
  • Victoria has laughed and been silly with me.
  • We went to the local trampoline park where they bounced their energy out.
  • A little guy at the trampoline park came up to me and said, “You’re beautiful, and I love you. I need to go now.”  (I didn’t know him.)

Lows?

  • School was out Monday and Tuesday making it hard to get anything done.
  • Amari told me I ruined his great day last night when I removed a privilege because he wouldn’t behave.
  • Victoria has reached the age where we hear the following when she’s upset:
    • “No one loves me.”
    • “I wish I lived with someone who loves me.”
    • “I want to go home, and I mean home where Mommy lives.”

That last one is bittersweet because, of course, Mommy doesn’t have a home. The place she longs for doesn’t exist.

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Ecclesiastes 3:4

The seasons do ebb and flow. The moods go with them. We plug on. Thank goodness it’s the weekend!

 

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Do You Have Custody? Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

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I stared at the health department employee in shock. “You can’t give me my granddaughter’s birth certificate? Why? I gave you a copy of the custody agreement.”

I had suspected something was wrong when she’d glanced at the agreement and excused herself. Several minutes passed before she returned.

“This is a temporary custody agreement,” she said. “It’s over a year old. How do we know you still have custody? We need a more current agreement.”

This scenario happened last year when I needed a copy of my granddaughter’s birth certificate. We had the one her mother gave us when the children first came to live with us. She’d pulled the flimsy, falling apart document out of a wad of papers in her wallet. I doubted it would survive any change of hands when we needed to present it to someone official. I should have replaced it then, but I hadn’t needed it until this point in time.

Our temporary custody order was two years old by the time I decided to replace the birth certificate. We were not required to return to court to renew the custody order, and it was all we had. The Health Department didn’t recognize it as official because of its age. Ironically, three years earlier, as a grandmother without custody, I had obtained Victoria’s birth certificate from the same office. No problems. No questions. Because I was the grandmother.

I pointed this out.

The clerk said, “We don’t allow that anymore.”

When Victoria was 5 and Amari 18 months, they lived with us a short time. At that time, the only mistake their mother had made was getting evicted from her home. We took the children until my daughter could find a place to live. After six weeks, Amari went back to live with her. I couldn’t cover his medical costs without insurance, and he suffered from constant sinus and ear infections. Victoria, who was in kindergarten, stayed with us for five months. Luckily, she didn’t get sick often.

This time around, I made sure we had something official. I didn’t want to pay medical expenses out-of-pocket. I didn’t want to face questions of who had the right to make decisions for the children. I wanted something to prevent my daughter from taking the children back without permission. When the social worker contacted me to see if we’d take the kids, this was my stipulation–only if we have custody. She agreed it was necessary.

When we went to court a few months later, we’d already paid a hefty amount in medical bills. After that first court date, we had what we needed–proof of temporary custody. The social worker assured us that when we came back for the follow-up hearing in two months, we’d gain full custody. But, when we returned, so did our daughter. She spun a story that the judge listened to, ignoring many significant points, and the temporary order was continued. The only end to this order will occur if and when my daughter decides to pursue custody, again. The order listed requirements for her to meet first. She has never come close to meeting them, much less trying to regain custody.

Yes, I managed to get the birth certificate, but it involved calling the out-of-state court that gave us custody and talking to person after person before I found someone who could help me. A helpful clerk came up with the only thing she could think of in the absence of a new hearing–a dated and notarized print-out of the case records. It indicated nothing else had happened with the case. I shudder to think how much time I spent working on this one problem.

We’ve discussed pursuing full custody, a decision I’ve been told would not be difficult to gain. But it’s costly. Some people have recommended having the courts remove our daughter’s parental rights. Again, it’s costly. In both cases, if their mother chooses to fight the decision, the cost could double. I’ve been advised that neither of these efforts will change things. Their mother can choose at a later time to fight for custody again.

It’s not been worth the expense and headache. As our temporary custody order gets older, I fear that might change.

What Do We Give Up to Raise Grandchildren?

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Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Not long after the grandchildren came to live with us, a fellow writer asked me how I was going to manage with so many irons in the fire. What would I give up? That’s a tough question. I have devoted much of my life to the care of others, shelving the things I wanted to do with my career and life. He was right, though, something had to go.

First, I dropped the work requiring travel. I worked locally, but, also, traveled to training events in other states. I wasn’t doing a lot of travel at the time, so this one didn’t hurt as much when I took it off my plate. I do miss my travel training family, though.

Over the two years prior to the arrival of our grands, I’d begun speaking at conferences and retreats. These occurred on weekends, so I backed off of them, too. That one did hurt because I’d spent two years developing those connections. My work had just begun to pay off. I will occasionally take a speaking opportunity. I just need to limit the numbers, and they don’t surface on their own, usually. You have to market yourself. That’s really what I stopped doing–marketing myself.

A few months later, I stepped away from our local technical college after fifteen years of developing and conducting training workshops for their continuing education department. This had been my primary source of income, but after changes in management the year before, I went from averaging eighty hours a month with them to less than eight hours. I hated giving that one up, but when you block out dates on your calendar for someone who always cancels on you or gives the work to someone else, it’s time to step away. On a side note, I did return to working for them last November but not at the same volume as before.

You might wonder what I did with my time. I still have several training clients. One of them, an e-training company called Bigger Brains, began to show large increases in business, so it filled the gap while allowing me the freedom I needed with the children. This company pays residuals, so I earned money while I wasn’t in the studio filming, a definite bonus.

God did provide other work for me, too. I began to get referrals from some of my clients, but, yes, I did back off of a lot of work and income. I had to.

Why? When you bring two children into your home, there’s so much to do.

We had to get them enrolled in school. In Amari’s case, I had to find a good daycare for him and get him lined up for testing for learning disabilities with the school district. I looked at nine pre-schools before picking one. God moved in that decision, too. The one I picked, the perfect one for us, had just opened the month before. They didn’t have a sign posted in front of their building or an obvious web presence, so I learned about them from a neighbor. Even then, it took a few days to connect with the owner and visit the facility. It wasn’t the least expensive…or the most expensive, either, but it was the right one for Amari. He still talks about it even though he’s not attended since he started regular school. As for the testing, that took time to set up, to take him to the testing facilities, and to evaluate what he needed. He’s come a long way since then. He has an IEP (Individual Education Plan), and currently is making straight A’s in the second grade.

This change in living arrangements affected the children probably more than us. That meant I had to find a counselor for them, not an easy task when one of them is four. Most counselors wouldn’t take them until they were six. It took a few months, but we found a woman who works with younger children. The kids love her, so even though they’re older now and her office is forty-five minutes from here, we continue to see her.

Don’t forget the legal issues! We had to jump through hoops in another state in order to gain legal custody of the children, a process that took several months, and even then, we only received temporary custody. Meanwhile, we paid out of pocket for medical care. Since Victoria takes an ADHD medication, we spent a lot of money on prescriptions before we received custody . Before you ask, yes, we applied for Medicaid, but they didn’t respond to our application until months after we gained temporary custody. By then, our insurance covered the children.

What else? You name it. There was a lot going on. It took a huge hunk of my time and money.

So, I gave up a lot.

Bruce and I gave up a lot, too. We gave up our plans to go to Africa this year for our anniversary, something we started planning for five years ago. Who would watch the children while we did that? We can’t use our money the way we planned to either. Our retirement plans changed from what they were five years ago.

It’s not what we planned on, but we have two beautiful treasures who need us. They bring life and energy to our home. They’ve introduced us to people we’d never meet otherwise. The circle of people in our lives grows larger, not smaller. Most importantly, they’re getting a chance at a decent life because of us. Victoria makes me laugh. Amari gives me cuddles and winks. We have our rituals, our traditions. It’s far different from what we imagined for ourselves at this point in life.

I have to remind myself that God never promises us an easy life. This world is not our home.

But, if I’m being honest, it’s hard to focus on that when your world shifts on you in such a drastic way. The situation is not dire. It’s just not what we planned.