Can the Grandparents’ House Be Home?

 

Photo by Kha Ruxury from Pexels

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

 

My granddaughter turned twelve this week. As I looked over pictures of her, I was struck at how much she’s changed, especially in the last year. She prefers sitting in her room listening to music or watching YouTube over spending time with us. Her voice has a sharp edge to it that we’re trying to help her soften. Hormones are raging. She’s obsessed with a boy band.

The images of her past reminded me that she’s spent a large portion of her twelve years living with us. I don’t recall whether I’ve spoken about this here, but this is the third time Victoria has lived with us. It’s Amari’s second.

When my daughter was pregnant with Victoria, she violated her probation. Eventually, it caught up with her, and the probation officer gave her a drug test. When they discovered her pregnancy and drugs in her system, she went to jail. We’d refused to bail her out for her legal mistakes in the past, so, she remained in the detention center awaiting her hearing. After several months, this changed because her cellmate became violent toward her. She feared for the baby and begged us to help her. She, also, only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because she’s a vegetarian. After hearing these stories for several months (to this day, I can’t verify their truth) , we broke our rules and bailed her out solely out of concern for our unborn grandchild.

For once, she stuck to her promises and steered clear of the wrong influences. We got her into an outpatient addiction treatment program and helped her find a job. When her hearing came around, the only reason the judge didn’t put her in jail was me. I told him why we’d broken our resolve to not bail her out and confirmed that she was in rehab and working. He put her under house arrest. She was allowed to go to work, medical appointments, and church. Nothing else.

My granddaughter began her life in my home. She and her mother stayed with us until she was 18 months old, but, even after that she visited with us a lot.

When Victoria was five and Amari eighteen months, they came to live with us again. This time their parents were getting evicted and didn’t want to raise them in a motel room. We took the children in, but not my daughter and Amari’s father. We knew we could never have our daughter live with us again after the previous time. She disrupted our household too much. Amari stayed for six weeks, but without custody, I couldn’t handle his medical needs. Victoria stayed with us for five months since she was enrolled in K5.

The last few weeks Victoria lived with us, I became sick and could not get better. I hoped and prayed when she went back to her parents that we wouldn’t have to do this again. For awhile, things went well. We thought they might make it, but three years later, social services contacted me about taking the grandchildren.

If you add it up, Victoria has spent half of her life in our home. Amari, too, for that matter. You would think they would see this as their home. I’m not sure that they do, though. Their mother wasn’t always on drugs. She might not have been the kind of mother I’d prefer, but she wasn’t always messing it up, either. They miss her. Victoria, who at first had nothing positive to say about Amari’s father, told me the other day, “It’s weird, but I miss him sometimes.”

Amari knows where his dad is, but his dad hasn’t bothered to contact him in three years. I’m pretty sure this is the only home he remembers. It’s not the only one Victoria remembers, though.

I wonder if she’ll ever see this as her home without wondering about the one she missed out on?

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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: What Are They Feeling?

domestic violence

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

As promised last week, this week’s post continues the idea of providing empathetic support to grandparents raising grandchildren.

What is empathy?

Empathy is acknowledging what the person is feeling. You do not have to agree or feel the same thing. You just need to recognize and acknowledge it. Empathy is NOT sympathy. When you reflect your own pity or sorrow onto the person’s situation, you are sympathizing not empathizing.

As I tell the participants in my communication and customer service training workshops, empathy is the most important tool you have to connect with another person. Just the effort of trying to see where they are helps. When someone empathizes with your situation, they build rapport with you. You feel a connection AND relief that someone gets it.

How do you empathize?

Words that should never come out of your mouth include:

  • I know exactly how you feel
  • I  understand

Why? Because you don’t. You might come close to understanding based on what you’ve experienced in your own life, but no one can fully understand what someone else feels in relation to a situation. If you listen to the person, often you’ll gain clues of what they’re feeling. It’s ok to express what you think is going on in them. If you get it wrong, they’ll correct you and still appreciate the effort.

Another phrase that doesn’t empathize is I’m sorry. That’s sympathy, not empathy.

It takes some practice to change the way you respond, but some of the easiest ways to express empathy are:

  • It sounds like you’re feeling ___________.
  • I’m sensing that you might be _____________.

Identify the emotion you think they’re feeling and insert it in the blank. That’s where the hard part comes in—trying to identify that emotion. Again, if you listen, you will gain clues from what the person says.

In business, I suggest you don’t use the words angry, mad, or upset. These tend to add fuel to the fire. In a personal relationship, you want to be careful about using these words, too.

What do grandparents raising grandchildren feel?

When I wrote my post, Don’t Throw Me a Pity Party, I spoke for myself, providing insight to my own journey; however, I received enthusiastice responses from several people in the same situation. One person’s comment was: “Nailed it!” Believe it or not, I needed to hear that because I feared people might judge me as uncaring.

So keeping in mind that I’m writing this from my own perspecitive, I am going to suggest some of the emotions grandparents raising grandchildren feel.

Tired and Exhausted: We are not as young as we were when we raised our children. It had been thirty years since I’d had a four-year-old in my home when the grands came to live with us. Yes, we’ve adapted over the last three years, but we’re still bone-tired. We don’t bounce back like we did in our twenties and thirties.

Worried about finances: We’re nearing the end of our careers if we’re not already retired. That means there’s a limit to the income coming in and the income we will have to support the kids. Our bank accounts hemorrage money at a time when we can least afford it.

Distanced or separated: Because we’re focused on children, school, homework, activities, we’re thrown into a world far different than the friends we’ve had. I’ve discovered some friends disappear. They don’t try to stay in contact. That hurts. I make an effort to spend time with friends when I can, but it’s a two-way street. I really appreciate the ones who reach out to me instead of waiting for me to contact them. I am making new friends among the parents of the kids classmates, but it takes time.

Alone: This is related to the one above, but it includes the relationship with our spouse. At a time when we’re supposed to be doing the things we’d planned to do once the children moved out, we’ve taken multiple steps backward. By the time we will have the freedom to do those things, we probably won’t have the energy, health, or money. Plus, babysitters are $10/hour! That’s more than minimum wage. When my children were young, babysitters did not make more than minimum wage. We need time to ourselves, but often we can’t afford it.Between exhaustion and the need to keep an income source going longer, we’re missing out on what was supposed to be our time.

So, there you have it. There are more emotions than these, but this will give you some idea how to reach out to us (and by us I mean any grandparent raising grandchildren).

What Surprised Me About Last Week

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

Last week’s post, Don’t Throw Me a Pity Party, generated a number of comments on this blog as well as on my social media sites. I appreciate everyone who commented and shared. I’m amazed at how many of you are dealing or have dealt with a family member trapped in addiction. I find the prevalence of this problem disconcerting. Yes, it’s comforting to know who understands firsthand, but I’m still concerned over the number of people affected. Please remember, you don’t know what someone else is dealing with so be kind and try not to judge them.

The surprising part of last week’s post was the volume of responses that focused on our daughter’s addiction rather than our current situation. Yet, most of the sympathy statements I receive relate to our raising grandchildren. Yes, it’s due to our daughter’s addiction, but that’s not what I hear about from most people. As I told one person on Facebook, I believe people focus on what they see—grandparents in a tough spot—and not the issue of what put them there. Maybe I’m wrong. It doesn’t really matter because the two issues go hand in hand.

Early in my writing career, I discovered that individual interpretation of what I write will vary from person to person. Sometimes, the insight surprises me. I don’t think that’s bad. When we read, we filter the information through our own perception, our own world. I’m glad my words resonated with so many people! Thank you for reading and sharing.

Next week, I plan to give you more insight into what grandparents in our situation often feel. So, get ready for some assistance on how to be empathetic with grand-parents.

 

PS:  You may have noticed I’ve been using the term “grand-parenting” in my posts. I made this term up because I believe it’s the best way to describe what we’re doing as we raise our grandchildren.