Facing Our Worries in Grand-Parenting

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

Certain possibilities in our lives loom over us. Some of the more difficult ones haunt us. As grandparents raising grandchildren, we worry  about a plethora of what ifs.

A few weeks ago, one concern became reality. Victoria’s father died. Some people might ask why this matters. After all, he didn’t play a significant part in her life. It’s true his contact with her consisted of occasional five-minute phone calls and gifts on special days. Yet, he was more present for her than her mother has been in the past three years. She didn’t have to worry about what he was up to or whether he would get in trouble with the law. He was the more stable parent.

Victoria faced this news in her typical way, she cried a moment then became hyperactive. Victoria is the queen of distraction, and she used those talents well to hide her confusion and grief. We got the news on Sunday afternoon. Once the hyperactivity started, I asked her what she wanted to do. I expected a request to talk to her Mommy, and I would have taken her to the detention center right then to make it happen. She didn’t ask for that. I asked if she wanted to talk to her father’s sister who called me. No, she didn’t want to do that. She doesn’t know his family well, and until the call came in, I never knew this particular sister existed. I asked if she wanted to go see his side of the family? No.

She asked to go to Target and Starbucks. That’s what we did.

The next day she went to school. She wanted to go. I called the guidance counselor and let her know the situation. I set up an appointment with our family counselor. Victoria didn’t want to talk about it, but she did tell a few friends. One friend refused to believe her.

Over the week, Victoria didn’t say much. I told the family I would bring her to the funeral if she wanted to go, but she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t going to push. Funerals are hard, and, at twelve, I didn’t want to force her to attend. She decided to go, so the day before the funeral I dragged a reluctant girl out to buy clothing appropriate for a funeral. Victoria doesn’t like dresses and our church is full of blue-jean-clad kids wearing tennis shoes. I stood firm on this one. She had to dress appropriately. She looked lovely, by the way.

Victoria, as his closest next of kin, led the procession into the sanctuary with me by her side. Behind us strung a long line of family members that she barely knew and who knew her father better than she did. One sister couldn’t make it down the aisle without help due to her grief. Victoria’s father’s casket lay open in the front of the altar. She had chosen not to view him prior to the service, so I think she didn’t anticipate the casket still being open when she came down the aisle. As these first few moments unfolded, I worried about her decision to attend. She sat between me and the aunt who I had never met and the tears poured out of her.

She cried through most of the service, but I believe it was good for her. Almost every one who spoke told her how much her father loved and talked about her. She needed to know that.

Life goes on. Now that I know more of her relatives, we’re going to try to help her know this side of her family. The situation in which I met her oldest aunt was not of my choosing, but I’m glad we’ve met her. She’s a spiritual woman who told us a few weeks before his death, Victoria’s father gave his life to Christ. He spent the last weeks listening to gospel music and reading the Bible. Did he know his time was short? I’ll never know. I’m just glad he made this decision and saw Victoria a few days before he died. He gave her a jewelry box he’d made for her birthday–the only gift he ever gave her that was a part of him.

A long list of what ifs haunt those of us raising our children’s children. We hope and pray we’ll never stand by our grandchild as they say goodbye to one of their parents. We know deep down in our souls that the likelihood of this happening is high. For those of you worrying about this concern, I’ll tell you what I learned. You can’t prepare for it so don’t try. Trust in God and focus on today’s challenges. Leave tomorrow for tomorrow.

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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?

We Are Wonderfully Made

I’ve hesitated to write this post. I suggest you don’t read it if you’re eating or about to eat because I will be talking about bodily functions. Unfortunately, this is where I am this week, in fact for the last few months.

When the grands came to us, our grandson was not fully potty trained. He was four. He knew how to use the bathroom, but his parents had not helped him practice going regularly. I guess they didn’t have time to worry about it but had time to clean him up afterward. Like that makes any sense.

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; Galations 6:8a

When a child isn’t properly potty trained at the right age, they experience problems down the road. The muscles that control bowel movements lose their ability to sense the need to go. What happens? The child doesn’t go. They don’t know they have to go. Then they become constipated. Then the body tries to get rid of it. This means leakage. This means accidents.

We didn’t immediately understand this. We knew our grandson wouldn’t go but within a few months managed to get him settled on a schedule. Then we hit K-5. He did ok the majority of the school year, but eventually the leakage started. When he first came to live with us, we always carried spare clothes. I started doing that again. I warned teachers about the problem and asked them to try and notice any signs or odors.

That summer he had a day when it flooded out of him. He was attending a summer day camp, and I had discussed his problem with them. When I picked him up, the poor little guy had it running down his legs. He stank. His pants were full. Flies were swarming him. I smelled him from a good twenty feet away. In fact, before I could see him, I asked about the smell. The camp counselor said it must be something in the air because she’d been smelling it for hours. THEY MISSED IT! I was livid. I wanted to cry for him.

Needless to say, I pulled him out that day and filed a complaint.

When I filed the complaint, the director asked me, “Why didn’t he tell us?” A valid question, but I felt like he was trying to shift the blame. My response was, “How did they miss this?”

I’ve learned a lot about the ramifications of not training a child to use the potty at the correct age. If you don’t take the time when they’re young, you’ll spend a large part of their childhood dealing with it.

We go through periods when everything is fine, but the older he gets, the harder it is to know if he’s gone or not. He’ll say he did, but he lies about it. If he hasn’t, the problem starts up again.

Let’s face it, the last thing a seven-year-old boy wants to do is sit on the toilet for ten minutes a few times a day.  Which is what he has to do if he’s having troubles.

The body can relearn how to handle this. I learned that this week from a psychologist who works with our gastroenterologist. To learn after three years of frustration that we can retrain the muscles is such a relief! I have hope thanks to this tiny bit of information. I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out. Even, the Psalmist knew:

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalms 139: 14

 

We are wonderfully made. God doesn’t make junk. Our bodies are amazing, but children need to be taught the basics of living. Parents need to take the time to help them learn. That’s really the reason for this post. Please train your child to use the potty.

And for those of you who work with children daily, I’m guessing you see this more than most people realize. You can be a big factor in helping these children and their families. Advise them to see a specialist. Be kind and compassionate. Let them know they’re not alone. Don’t let your disgust show. That’s what these children fear the most.

We’re still dealing with this problem, but the psychologist has given me more practical advice than anybody in the last three years.

I, actually, have hope that he can live a life without humiliation and embarrassment.