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!

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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!

In the Way They Should Go

 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’ve heard this verse from Proverbs quoted in relation to raising children numerous times. Last year, one of our ministers preached about this verse and explained it’s often applied incorrectly. He said the original Hebrew does not refer to faith in this verse. It refers to helping them discover their gifts and talents. In other words, help them find out what they’re good at and they will pursue that in their later years.

That makes sense to me, although it’s a bit disappointing when this verse has given hope to many parents, myself included, with wayward grown children.

Nevertheless, this task is an interesting one with the grandkids.

We’re celebrating Amari’s seventh birthday this weekend! He was four when he came to live with us. So much has changed over the years, and he’s grown a lot. Just today, I was facing the fact that most of his shorts don’t fit. I’d forgotten about those years where they grow faster than their “Carters wear out.” Of course, when I can I buy in consignment sales, but I’m learning that there’s less available for boys in those stores. Not only that, but boys’ clothes don’t seem to go on sale as much as girls’ clothes. Why is that? Add his interest in playing basketball and football, and his clothes really take a beating (which is why I think consignment stores have fewer boys’ clothes).

He definitely has interests and talents. This summer he’s developed an avid interest in reading. Nothing makes me happier than to go looking for him only to find him engrossed in a book. I read a LOT. I mean really a LOT. My kids were readers but not like me. All signs indicate the reading bug has bitten him. But he also loves math and is quick with his numbers. His mind is so curious, and his questions about everything, including God, keep me hopping.

As for his sister, she finished grade school this year and is headed to middle school in the fall. Last night, I realized that she has grown another inch and is my height (5’6″). She grew three inches over the last school year and another inch in the last month! The doctor says she’s going to be at least 5’10”, but I’m wondering if that estimate is a bit low.  Because of her height, everyone tries to push her toward basketball, volleyball, or swimming. No one has mentioned running yet, but she’s all legs. The thing is, she’s not interested in playing competitive team sports. She does gymnastics, yes even with her height, and she’s very good at it. But she’s still only interested in it as a hobby.

Victoria loves science and art. In fact, she won her school science fair this year and received an Honorable Mention at the district level. She likes to read but would rather be crafting something. My biggest battle with her is getting her to leave things in the trash. She wants to save every cereal box, scrap of paper, and empty lotion bottle to use in her crafts. I replaced her comforter this year because the old one had a rip in it. Before I could do something with it, she cut it up and started using it to make things.

So, there you have it. They are growing and we continue to try to nurture who they are. We’re headed for the teenage years with Victoria. You know that’s going to be so much fun!