Christmas Without the Parents

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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.

But…

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.

 

 

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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!

Letting Kids Explore Their Interests

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

I held off on posting last Friday because of the significance of today

School started today…Finally!

In some ways, it’s a relief. I have a quiet home which means I can get my work done. But in other ways, it’s not a relief. There will be homework, after all, as well as early mornings. This morning went well, but if things continue the normal way for us, we experienced the calm before the storm today.

Summer was fun but short. I did learn a lot about the grands during that time, though.

When the kids first came to live with us, everyone kept asking me what activities they were doing. The question came with the strong implication that I should enroll them in everything. Keep them moving at all times. At first, I felt guilt over not doing that, but let’s face it, we needed time to adapt.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…Psalms 46:10a

Why do people feel the need to fill a child’s day with activity from dawn until dusk? I didn’t see the sense in it.

Eventually, I signed them up for gymnastics. Victoria showed a great interest in it and was already turning perfect cartwheels, so it felt like the right way to go. I signed Amari up, too, because once he saw the gym and the children in a class, he wanted in.

People have pushed me to put them in various activities:  basketball, swimming, football, soccer, etc. With Victoria’s height–she’s now taller than me–everyone pushed hard for basketball and swimming. This summer, I decided we’d try a few of these activities in short spurts. The YMCA offers one-week day camps in the summer focused on a specific sport. I signed Amari up for basketball, football, and soccer and Victoria for basketball, volleyball, and baseball.

Victoria hated it. Amari loved it.

When my kids were little, people didn’t push me to sign them up for anything. I listened to their interests and followed that lead. If I listened to other people, Victoria would be frustrated every day. She hates competitive sports. She enjoyed the games but only when she wasn’t forced to play. She wants to play for fun, not as a team.  Amari enjoyed the camps, but he needs individual attention that he didn’t get in the camps. Plus, I’ve noticed that most team sports use up most of your afternoons and evenings. Amari needs his rest. If he’s not in bed by a certain time, everyone pays for it the next day. We’re going to wait a few years, and see about Amari’s interest in sports, then.

We, also, tried a few educational, but fun, camps at the local science center. Victoria begged to do the Lego camps, so I signed her up for two of them: MazeBots and SumoBots. She hated MazeBots with a passion. She anticipated building things with the Legos. They did, but they spent most of their time programming. She was sooooooo bored.  Amari took Candy Art one week and Kitchen Chemistry the next. He was disappointed that they didn’t cook.  FYI, Victoria wanted to do cooking classes, too. Unfortunately, the cooking classes weren’t offered at a time convenient to our schedules this summer.

We hit the jackpot with the last week of camp. Victoria participated in a Harry Potter camp (I’ll blog about that in my other blog next week), and Amari took an Animal Habitat camp. Both camps incorporated science in a fun way. Both played into the way these two kids’ brains are wired. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

So, now I know. Victoria is not into sports except gymnastics for fun. Amari loves sports but needs time to focus. They both love nature and science and working with their hands.

In the Proverbs verse at the beginning of this post, we’re directed to bring children up in the way they should go. You can’t look at a child and base that decision on their physical appearance. You need to pay attention to what they enjoy, to the things that drive their curiosity, the things they talk about. Now, I have a good idea what that is

And I didn’t spend an entire school year struggling through something they hated to find this out.

I’d call that a win-win!