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?

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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.

 

 

A Loved One’s Addiction Changes Us

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Christians whose adult children deal with addictions change how they see the world. They must to survive.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? Ephesians 2:15-16

The car pulling into the gas station today caught my eye. Nothing special about it, I just noticed it because we jockeyed for the same pump briefly. We ended up on opposite sides of a different pump. The car had a handicapped placard, so I blinked in surprise when a young woman popped out of the driver’s seat. In one glance I knew. She’s an addict. How? There’s a look around their eyes. They have an unhealthy used, run-over appearance in their face. They tend to be skin and bones. I chided myself for thinking such things and went on and pumped my gas.

While I replaced my card in my wallet, she walked up to the payment window. I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew my daughter. A few moments later, she returned. She noticed me watching her and veered toward me. “Can you spare a dollar or two for gas?”

I told her I didn’t have any cash. She shrugged and walked away. A wave of guilt hit me. Could I buy her some gas? Sure, but there was no way I’d hand any cash to her. And that’s really what she wanted. The gas request is a subterfuge. It’s not like a dollar or two would help.

While I waited beside my car, I heard her answer a phone call.  “Hello? Who’s this?”  she said this with a suspicious, sharp edge to her voice. Yep. I’ve heard that tone before. As I finished up, she left the car at the pump and headed toward the grocery store. I assume to beg from someone more amenable.

I found myself driving home replaying some stories my grandchildren have told me. My daughter pan-handled for gas money and food, her children in tow. One man threatened to call social services on her for exposing the children to this. I wish he had. I’ve heard some disturbing stories of the things she did when short on cash. I’ve experienced what I call “the shakedown” when she tried to coax money out of us.

Was I wrong not to help this woman today? I’m typically a very giving person. I feel empathy for the person in need. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus says when we provide food, drink, clothing, or we visit prisoners, it’s the same as doing these things for Him. I can get very literal about this and say this woman did not lack in food, drink, or clothing. She was not in prison. She drove a decent car. I don’t think that’s the point in those verses.

Then there’s the passage at the beginning of this post. Ephesians 2 explores acts versus faith, so it may be out of context to point to it as a command to give to the poor. Yet, I’ve seen it quoted as guidance for dealing with those in need.

I struggle with this dilemma as I’m sure many other Christians do. Should we give to someone who appears in need when we suspect an ulterior motive? There is a flip side to this discussion. We don’t hear it talked about as much in our current society, but it’s worth remembering. Later in Ephesians we read:

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:25

If the woman honestly needed gas money, then it would be ok to help her. But when she walked away from me, she didn’t ask any other person at the gas station. She walked past a woman putting groceries in her car and didn’t ask her either. Someone truly in need would not shrug and walk away when I said no. They would tell the person who called them on the phone that they were in need of gas. They would ask everyone they could for help. She didn’t. She only asked me because she saw me watching her.

Whether I like it or not, I’m more cynical than I used to be. I can’t help it. Maybe I’m wiser. I don’t know. What I do know is having children with addiction problems changes the way Christians look at the world.