Christmas Without the Parents

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We’re in the thick of it, now:  the Christmas season.

Kids are counting down the days to Christmas, the radio plays carols non-stop, stores hold sales, homes and businesses decorate with red and green and lights, and people throw parties. Don’t forget the parties.

Every year I think, I want to go to this special event or do this specific thing, and most years I manage to do very little from my “I want” list. Why? Life doesn’t stop. The every day things still must get done. I’m working. Bruce is working. The kids have homework and school activities. Family visits need to be figured out. The time flies away before you know it.

Is it any surprise with all of this hoopla that the stress of the holidays hits children who don’t live with their parents harder than most?

Victoria and Amari are not talking about it. Yet, I know they’re struggling. Amari has become whiny. He throws temper tantrums. Victoria has become harsh and speaks with an angry tone almost every time she opens her mouth. They are … what? Feeling abandoned? Angry? Upset? Sad? Disappointed? Jealous? Helpless?

Probably all of those feelings and then some. Their current behavior states loudly what they don’t know how to verbalize:  It’s Christmas, and I wish my parents lived with us. I wish my parents knew how to be parents. I wish my parents would stop doing drugs. I wish my parents were not in jail. I wish…

It’s a lot for a child to process. It’s a lot for ME to process. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Their mother confessed to me the other day that she’s depressed. This time around, I’ve not allowed her access to the children. She knows why. She misses her children.

It’s hard. It’s tough. She’s depressed because of it. So, she resorts to begging. She claims her children can’t be better off without her. That they need her as much as she needs them. I do believe they need a mother, but I don’t believe she’s the person they need. They need a real mother, not one who can’t do the things parents should do. She doesn’t understand this.

To counter this, she asked me if they ask to talk to her, and I told her the truth. No. Should I have told her that? Part of me thinks she needs to understand the consequences of her actions. Part of me worries that she’ll take this and fall deeper into depression. I don’t know whether I did the right thing or not, but I told her the truth.

The grands do, occasionally, bring up a memory about Mommy, but it’s happening less and less. They don’t ask to write, visit, or call her. They know where she is. They know, in the past, they have talked to her on the phone and visited her in jail, yet they don’t ask.

As I read back over this, I realize this sounds depressing. Yes, things are tough emotionally for the grands. Yes, we would prefer a different set of circumstances. Yes, I’m saddened that my daughter has chosen this road.


This season, of all seasons, reminds us that there is something better to live for. Christ did come to save us. He offers a love that is light years beyond any love my husband and I can offer our grandchildren. It’s boundless. It’s new every morning. It’s in the promise of a child born in a manger.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:9-10

So, we talk about what Christmas is. We line up a few activities, but not a lot of them. We decorate. We have an Elf on the Shelf (whom Amari carried on a long, catching-up conversation with when he arrived). We spend time focused on Christ’s birth. We focus on family. We laugh. We find joy in the season.

As you go through this month, it is my hope that you will slow down and avoid the trap of over scheduling yourself and your family. Not everything has to get done. What you do need are the special times spent with your family. Many people struggle during this time of year, not just children who don’t live with their parents. Reach out to them. Use your time to bless them and show them the love of Christ. Take the time to enjoy each other and the blessings of a child born in a manger over two thousand years ago.

Find a way to make joy in your world.




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.


  • 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.)


  • 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!


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.