Facing Our Worries in Grand-Parenting

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

Certain possibilities in our lives loom over us. Some of the more difficult ones haunt us. As grandparents raising grandchildren, we worry  about a plethora of what ifs.

A few weeks ago, one concern became reality. Victoria’s father died. Some people might ask why this matters. After all, he didn’t play a significant part in her life. It’s true his contact with her consisted of occasional five-minute phone calls and gifts on special days. Yet, he was more present for her than her mother has been in the past three years. She didn’t have to worry about what he was up to or whether he would get in trouble with the law. He was the more stable parent.

Victoria faced this news in her typical way, she cried a moment then became hyperactive. Victoria is the queen of distraction, and she used those talents well to hide her confusion and grief. We got the news on Sunday afternoon. Once the hyperactivity started, I asked her what she wanted to do. I expected a request to talk to her Mommy, and I would have taken her to the detention center right then to make it happen. She didn’t ask for that. I asked if she wanted to talk to her father’s sister who called me. No, she didn’t want to do that. She doesn’t know his family well, and until the call came in, I never knew this particular sister existed. I asked if she wanted to go see his side of the family? No.

She asked to go to Target and Starbucks. That’s what we did.

The next day she went to school. She wanted to go. I called the guidance counselor and let her know the situation. I set up an appointment with our family counselor. Victoria didn’t want to talk about it, but she did tell a few friends. One friend refused to believe her.

Over the week, Victoria didn’t say much. I told the family I would bring her to the funeral if she wanted to go, but she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t going to push. Funerals are hard, and, at twelve, I didn’t want to force her to attend. She decided to go, so the day before the funeral I dragged a reluctant girl out to buy clothing appropriate for a funeral. Victoria doesn’t like dresses and our church is full of blue-jean-clad kids wearing tennis shoes. I stood firm on this one. She had to dress appropriately. She looked lovely, by the way.

Victoria, as his closest next of kin, led the procession into the sanctuary with me by her side. Behind us strung a long line of family members that she barely knew and who knew her father better than she did. One sister couldn’t make it down the aisle without help due to her grief. Victoria’s father’s casket lay open in the front of the altar. She had chosen not to view him prior to the service, so I think she didn’t anticipate the casket still being open when she came down the aisle. As these first few moments unfolded, I worried about her decision to attend. She sat between me and the aunt who I had never met and the tears poured out of her.

She cried through most of the service, but I believe it was good for her. Almost every one who spoke told her how much her father loved and talked about her. She needed to know that.

Life goes on. Now that I know more of her relatives, we’re going to try to help her know this side of her family. The situation in which I met her oldest aunt was not of my choosing, but I’m glad we’ve met her. She’s a spiritual woman who told us a few weeks before his death, Victoria’s father gave his life to Christ. He spent the last weeks listening to gospel music and reading the Bible. Did he know his time was short? I’ll never know. I’m just glad he made this decision and saw Victoria a few days before he died. He gave her a jewelry box he’d made for her birthday–the only gift he ever gave her that was a part of him.

A long list of what ifs haunt those of us raising our children’s children. We hope and pray we’ll never stand by our grandchild as they say goodbye to one of their parents. We know deep down in our souls that the likelihood of this happening is high. For those of you worrying about this concern, I’ll tell you what I learned. You can’t prepare for it so don’t try. Trust in God and focus on today’s challenges. Leave tomorrow for tomorrow.

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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?

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.