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.