What Do We Give Up to Raise Grandchildren?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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.

 

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Forced To Be Still

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

I’m sitting in a local coffee shop while writing this on my iPad. Not an ideal choice, but…

Why, you might ask, am I not on my trusty laptop sitting in my comfortable office?

Welllll. I was relieved to arrive early for an appointment this morning only to find out that I was not ten minutes early. I was actually an hour and ten minutes early!

Ouch! I have so much on my To Do list for today, and I didn’t bring my laptop when I left the house. I planned to head straight home after my appointment and jump on that list. Ugh! I hate typing on my iPad. It believes itself to be superior to my word choices, so I have to keep a close eye on it. Still, I’ll try to make the best of things and use this time well.

People who knew me before my new life of grand-parenting know I’m not forgetful. I’m usually on top of things, but lately my skills in that area have crumbled. Why? As much as I hate to admit it, as we get older, we lose some of that sharp edge. We can’t multitask as well as we did twenty or thirty years ago. Add the rush and chaotic pace that goes hand-in-hand with raising children, and slip-ups are bound to happen. I wish I could say this was the only one this week, but I’d be lying.

Earlier in the week, I promised Victoria we’d order pizza and wings from a place we don’t frequent. She recalls the restaurant fondly from her past life with her mother before things went awry. The best day to do this slipped by. I ran out of time. I told her, tomorrow. That day almost slipped by, too, but I remembered at the last moment, got online, and placed my order. As I drove to pick up the kids, my husband called to say he was headed home. I asked him to pick up the food.

The problem? The location closest to us didn’t have our order. I pulled up my email confirmation and gave him the phone number and address. The website, it seems, selected the “closest” store to us. It wasn’t. We live three miles from the closest. It chose one eight miles away. Getting to that location, due to rush hour, would take an hour.

Before you ask, yes, I did look at the address, but I misread it. They both are close to the same highway. I glanced at the map in a hurry to place the order and go pick up the kids. It LOOKED right. Of course, it wasn’t.

There’s a reason God instructs us to be still. We all need a rest. We all need to recollect and let the pressures of the day fall away. This goes doubly true for grandparents raising grandchildren.

My failure to double-check makes sense to me. The internet indicated I was three miles from the location where it chose to send the order. I didn’t spend but a few seconds verifying it because the distance and address displayed information I expected. Plus, I needed to pick up the children and had worked later than I liked to do on a school day. (After all, the children would have homework that needs to be done, too.)

Our mistakes are reminders to slow down. I’m trying, but right now everyone wants a piece of me. So, for the next few minutes, I’m going to accept this gift of unscheduled time and sip on my chai.

God bless.

Three Years of Grand-Parenting: Our Anniversary

Three years ago today, I struggled with an uneasy mind and nervous stomach as I waited for my daughter to bring her children to me. They had been missing for over a week, and I worried whether she’d show up or not. I worried how to handle her constant begging for money. I worried about what the children would have with them. The answers to those worries were: yes, she showed up; Yes, she begged for money, and I gave her a store gift card instead of cash; and the children had one backpack of clothes between them and two small bags with a haphazard assortment of toys. Victoria did not have her glasses or her ADHD prescription. Amari did not have his car seat. But they were finally safe with us.

The grands three years ago.

Yes, today is our form of what adoptive parents call their Gotcha Day. For us, it’s not an adoption day–we have temporary custody–it’s the day two of our grandchildren came to live with us.

At the time, I don’t think any of us thought the children would still be here three years later. We hoped for a different outcome. Unfortunately, that hope has dimmed to a small pinhole of light as the days, weeks, and months have ticked by.

I’m amazed at the changes in the grands–not just physical but behavioral and emotional. I can’t begin to tell you how far we’ve come. In fact, it’s hard to recognize our progress in the day-to-day schedule we now live. But here we are, Victoria a middle-schooler and Amari a second grader.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, Amari was so delayed in his development that he rarely spoke at the age of four. Most of the time, he moved his lips without making a sound. When he did speak, his speech was indistinct and younger than expected from a four year old. Since he often didn’t react when we called his name or spoke to him from across the room, we worried he couldn’t hear. Turns out he could hear perfectly well. Now, we have the opposite problem–getting him to stop talking!

I try to remember that his continuous chatter is a blessing, but in the moment that’s not always easy.

With Victoria, we struggled with the unexpected shift in roles. No longer were we the fun, spoiling grandparents. We became the parents. None of us enjoyed this struggle. If someone refers to me as her mom (it’s easy to do when you’re being the mom), she’s quick to tell me I’m not her mom. Then I remind her that I am the parent. Hard to argue with that point.

She’s moving into the adolescent years, and I’ve already seen the attitude that goes along with it. Joy, joy!  Still, she has changed a lot over the years. She’s much calmer, does chores, knows how to be polite (that’s still a work in progress), and, most importantly, she’s learning to relinquish her responsibility for her brother. It’s unfortunate, but most older siblings take on the parenting role when their parents have addiction problems. None of this is perfect, by the way. But I can see headway.

The grands today.

So, our journey continues. No idea where it’s going, but one thing is for sure–it won’t be boring!