NANA’S HOUSE by Teresa Kindred
Have you ever heard the quote, “Man plans, God laughs”? Life has a way of handing us surprises. How do we react when we expect one thing but are given another? Many of us have dreams of a peaceful, problem-free retirement; but that’s not always the case.
To help more people understand the plight of grandparents who are raising their grandkids, I will share some comments from women who have been there, as well as some best practices about how to handle this situation.
How They Came to Raise Their Grandchildren
Grandmothers are by nature “fixers.” If someone is upset, we want to make them happy. If someone is ill, we want to help them feel better. If someone is in need of food or clothing, we want to make sure they have enough for their family. But what happens when we run up against something we can’t fix?
Many of the women who shared their stories were unable to change the behavior of their adult children, and that brought them sorrow. In almost every example, these grandmothers had to put their heartache aside in order to take control of the situation and meet the needs of their grandchildren. In other words, they couldn’t fix their children’s problems, but they could rescue their grandchildren from horrible situations.
Here is Jody’s story:
So many grandparents share the same story. Our journey started with a phone call where we learned that our granddaughter had been born, and she had been exposed to heroin and cocaine. Her mother had not had any prenatal care, and her father was also an addict. I traveled over a thousand miles to get her fourteen years ago. Our little girl went through multiple seizures. It was gut-wrenching to see such a tiny baby struggle. There are no words to describe the feeling of helplessness and rage at the parents. The hardest thing about being a parent of our grandchild is the isolation and having to navigate schools, doctors, and family court. We refinanced our home twice and we would do it all over again for her. She is now fourteen and an honor student. She is kind and caring and has no behavior problems.
Maureen’s story starts in a similar manner:
My son has been the single dad of June, eighteen, and Jason, fourteen, for fourteen years. My daughter-in-law was carjacked and sexually assaulted fifteen years ago, and she has never been the same. She became addicted to pain meds and then heroin.
Jason never had the opportunity to bond with his mom, and the effect of that really started to show the last few years. His sister, June, and my son did their best with him. My poor granddaughter was close to her own nervous breakdown when trying to apply to colleges while keeping her troubled brother on the right path. He is small for his age and was being bullied terribly. The school was not addressing it at all. His mother, who comes and goes, spent one night with them and smoked crack in Jason’s room (he has severe asthma). That was it for me. I took custody that morning. He’s been with us since January 3, 2018. My son and granddaughter are extremely grateful. My granddaughter is headed to veterinarian school with a full scholarship.
Are you surprised by these two stories? I was until I kept hearing from more and more grandmothers who shared similar problems, both on NanaHood’s Facebook page as well as another Facebook support group for grandmothers raising grandchildren. I quickly learned that this is a much bigger and more serious problem than I had thought.
Barbara helped her daughter raise her grandson from birth. Then, when he was eleven years old, they moved out on their own. Unfortunately, Barbara’s daughter started severely abusing him.
Child Protective Services called me and notified me that my grandson was in foster care. For me, there was no alternative. No matter what difficulties I faced, I had to help my grandson. I was granted custody, but it’s been hard to get him the help he needs mentally and emotionally and to work through what happened to him. I’m a retired, disabled veteran on a fixed income, but I would do it again. He is finally starting to smile and laugh again.
There is nothing sweeter than the sound of a child’s laughter. Can you imagine the pain these children have endured? Very young children especially are not emotionally equipped to deal with such difficult situations. Those who abuse their trust and innocence need our prayers as much as, or even more than, the grandparents who have taken these children into their homes.
Amanda adopted her granddaughter in July of 2018.
She was abused and neglected, and the greatest challenge has been juggling all of her required therapies and doctor appointments with specialists while holding down a full-time job and caring for two stepchildren who are still living at home. Raising grandchildren is a very long and challenging road, but these children depend on us to take the wheel and redirect their life! I always stay positive and look for the good in everything because children feed off what they see and learn from us. We almost lost this little girl to abuse. Never throw in the towel or give up. I have wondered many times in the last two years if I was going to survive this emotionally, physically, or financially. Then I look at her and realize that I have to survive, not for me but for her.
Have there ever been times in your life when you wondered if you would be able to get through a traumatic event? It’s heartbreaking to watch our grandkids’ parents destroy their lives, but the least we can do is to give our grandchildren a chance for a life of their own. If these grandmothers (and grandfathers) hadn’t been willing to take action, their grandchildren would not have that chance.
Advice from Grandmothers
I’m confident you’ll benefit from the wisdom shared by the ladies below:
“Hold on and enjoy the ride. You will not remember it ever being this hard when you were younger and raising your first family; the money goes quick and grandkids always need something. But oh, the rewards will always outweigh the struggles. I would do it all over again a thousand times. My granddaughter is my life, my only reason to be able to go on when my daughter turned to drugs and then received a twenty-year prison sentence. It was no accident that she was given to me at the right time in life. She is a blessing.” —Melinda
“My advice (in such situations) is to step in. Don’t wait—it won’t get better. My guilt weighs heavily on me for allowing my daughter to use my grandchildren as pawns. You live and learn. This has been extremely hard on my marriage as well.” —Virginia
“My advice for anyone going through something similar would be to document everything in case you try to gain custody. To this day, there is no parental involvement in my grandchildren. The anger and rage I had are gone. Now I am only sad for her parents. They missed a lot of wonderful memories.” —Jody
“One of the hardest things is to step out of the spoiling and fun grandparent role and step into the responsible parenting role. It’s tough, especially because we have twelve other grandkids. Jimmy, the grandson we are raising, is fourteen years old. My husband and I talked about it, and we decided that when we are on adventures with the other grandkids, we will be our regular grandparent selves, but at home we are in charge of helping him grow into the best man possible. I would also advise having the best support system you can put together. Our other kids have really stepped up as aunts and uncles, and they’ve included Justin in their vacations, which gives us a few nice breaks over the summer.” —Doris
“Document everything, every message between you and the parents, and then print it out. Do a memo and record every conversation. Don’t assume that people are on your side. You will be surprised. You may find out you don’t really know your grandchild’s parents, even if they are your own kids. I found out so much about my daughter that I found hard to believe until they showed me the evidence. I had to begin counseling and had to realize the daughter I knew no longer existed; it was as if she had died. She will never be who she was again. Be prepared for anything and be ready to go to war, to fight the battle of a lifetime. Your mission is to save your grandchild!” —Barbara
“Seek out every service you can. Try to find parents your age. Join a group and be active with your grandchildren. They are tons of fun!” —Nancy
“My advice is patience. These children come with hurts and issues. You have to be a parent. You have to listen to them as they learn how to voice their hurts. Be ready for the question, ‘Why would God give me to parents like mine?’ Also, their classmates may ask, ‘What did you do to make your mom leave?’ Raising a grandchild is harder than raising a child. There is a lot of heartache, but the joy that follows outweighs the bad!” —Beth
“Hang on! You will shed a lot of tears and feel a lot of guilt about your adult child. Stay focused on what is best for everyone, especially the children. Just when you think you cannot take one more second of all the craziness, fall to your knees and ask God for help and guidance.” —Kim
“I’m not sure what advice I could give to someone just beginning their journey in raising grandchildren other than to take it one day at a time. Don’t get too caught up in deep thought of a year from now, five years from now, or heaven forbid you think of the teen years! Sadly, we are not the minority anymore; you are certainly not alone. Something I like to keep in mind is that I have the most important, special job in the whole world, and I am determined that I can and will make a positive difference in this child’s life! As to the question of “Would I do it again?” YES! A million times over, and I pray each and every time that I do it well.” —Patty
“My advice would be to put your grandchildren first no matter what. Your children are adults and can make their own decisions; your grandchildren can’t. Don’t hesitate to do everything in your power to protect them.” —Diane
I am inspired by these grandparents who, no matter what their personal circumstances, have risen to the challenges presented to them. They have chosen to put their grandchildren’s wants and needs ahead of their own.
Teresa Kindred is a freelance writer, former teacher, and author of several books, including The Faith-Filled Grandmother, from which this article was adapted. She’s the mom of five grown children and “Nana” to six precious grandchildren. She and her husband live in Kentucky. Her blog for grandparents is at NanaHood.com.
The Faith-Filled Grandmother: Promises, Prayers & Practical Advice for Today, permission from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2019 by Teresa Kindred.