grandparent as parent
(This is the draft I thought I posted months ago.. but somehow lost..)
Every couple of months, I get a new follower. Today someone started to follow me and I couldn’t remember when the last time I wrote. (its been a long long time) I’ve looked through my 17 drafts.. found a couple I should clean up and publish. I posted one.. the rest I’ll save for a rainy day.
I’m not done.. I still have grandchildren at home to raise. Girlie is living her grown up life, boychild is now manchild spending days working and nights out with friends.
Almost six years have passed since I started on this journey. I still struggle with the shift my life has taken, but I keep on keeping on. I still wonder what my life would have been like. I want to tell grandparents/kinshippers/foster parents.. its hard, but it is still so very worth it. There are days I wish we could be “just grandparents” but this is our normal now.
I still struggle with feelings of guilt .. not doing enough for the littles, not doing enough for the bigs, not doing enough for my husband.. but in the end.. it is enough.
It is doing the routines day in and day out. Making those HUGE memories (camping trips, school projects and special days) and the small ones that will someday morph into one amalgamated memory. (playing cards in the evenings before bed.. spending a Saturday cleaning , followed up by pizza and a movie)
It is enough. Dinners and lunches, field trips and dentist appointments. It is the day to day minutia we live that will keep them going. The weekly phone calls with bio-parents and the yearly visits…they live for those moments.
In the mythical mind of an abandoned child… the lost parent is the savior, the one who would really make things better, who wouldn’t care if socks matched or if your hair was brushed. the one who has the greatest ideas for fun ..
I try hard not to smash the myth of the mythical parent.. but I’m only human and I can’t say I haven’t stooped to the level of “No, I’m not your mother.. I’m HERE, working to raise you and love you and make you a productive citizen! ” I’m not proud of those times, but as I said.. I’m human.
For all the time in-between the visits and the phone calls they still have to live.
That’s what we do. We get on with the ugly business of daily living. Of loving during the unlovable times and standing strong in the face of “you aren’t my MOTHER”. The slammed doors and stomping feet of adolescence takes on a new meaning when you remember there are some things you will not be good enough for.
BUT, in their hearts, you are so very good enough, and you are wonderful. You stand up and cheer at concerts, you burn the grilled cheese and you put the duct tape on the favorite pair of sneakers. You grab the macaroni necklace out of the trash bag and you put it in a special box for safe keeping. You are the steady rock and the steadfast faith.
To the other Kinshippers out there… don’t give up. Keep loving and praying. Keep checking the homework and buying the groceries. The path we took is one less traveled by .. and it has made all the difference.
In the world of parenting, people are divided into two groups..
there are distinct lines of parenting we see in our social circles. I’m not talking about the have’s and the have-not’s.. I’m talking about the volunteer and the volunteer-not’s.
I have typically fallen into the category of volunteer. (or EXCESSIVE volunteering if you ask my family) I help. Its what I do. I used to have a problem saying NO to people when they ask for help.
I also tend to befriend other people who help. They are the ones with me in the daily trenches. We step up when asked… (sometimes even before we are asked). We also try to outdo each other with our self sacrifice. We are the ones people know they can call on for help. BUT .. we are killing ourselves a little in the process.
Once upon a time.. I tried to save the world. I gave it my all, I was the one everyone tried to catch up to and I was EXHAUSTED… I was never home and I didn’t have quality time with my kids. I prayed for guidance and for strength to let others take on the big events.
So, now I’m stepping back. I’m turning down invitations to help out at PTO events. I’m offering to buy snacks rather than bake. I actually called out of a volunteer commitment last week, because I wasn’t feeling well!!!
There are times I worry that my grandchildren aren’t getting the full commitment that my kids got when they were growing up. But, then again, my kids didn’t always get the full Mom they needed when they were growing up. I was always out saving the world.
I have a friend, who makes me crazy. I only got to know her a few years ago when I got custody of the grand-kids. Her children are near the age of the two littles. When I first met her, she was on my committees, she was the newby and I guided her into the activities and encouraged her to take the lead on events. We talked the same volunteer language of scouts, school, band, and faith.
Last week, while we were sitting at yet another meeting. This time, she was the chair and she had an event coming up. I ALMOST jumped to take it off her hands and to do it myself. I held myself back. I remembered. I made my family a promise that I was going to step back from helping so much. I was going to let others step up and take the reigns. The problem is, despite everything I do, I am worried I am not doing enough and the others who volunteer will judge me for my lack of stamina.
And then I remembered.. THIS AIN’T MY FIRST RODEO.. I rode this bull until I was exhausted and now I’m on my second go round. Many of the friends I made when my daughter was growing up are now enjoying empty nests. My nest is still full.
It took me a long time to realize that although I COULD still keep up with the new parents at the school.. I don’t have to. I can find the happy medium between drop-and-go parent and martyrdom.
I enjoy my time with this crew while they are growing up. I am still helping save the world. I just have learned to say NO. I have learned to say I want to help, but I can’t. I will have the guilt of knowing someone else is stepping up to do too much, but I also know that I learned a lot about giving when I did that. I learned what it was to be compassionate and caring to those around me. I found joy in the giving. Now I can step aside and let someone else (maybe even two or three other people) find that joy.
I don’t know what I was going to post in this . I think I did write something, but then it disappeared.
Ah well.. Day to Day.
Day to day I watch them grow
I see them understand more about the world around them
about their pasts.
Day to day I argue about dirty laundry
and who feeds the cat today and if they bothered to
take the damn dog out.
Day to day I worry and I wonder
will they grow to resent me for keeping them safe
or will they thank me.
Day to day I plead and I cajole
I make them want a better education, a better life
than the one they were born into.
Day to day I feed them
I feed their bodies with food, their minds with knowledge
and their souls with my love.
Day to day I thank God for them.
I don’t know how I got so lucky to share my life with them
but I am so glad I can.
When we first got the kids, they were rough. They fought and screamed. They stole and lied. They had boundless energy they didn’t know how to control. All thier lives, they had bounced around between parents and in and out of foster care. At one point all three had lived with the biodad of the two youngest children, but after a few months when things got too tough, the oldest was sent away. Eventually they were all taken away and sent back to biomom and then again to foster care.
The angel foster mom kept them for much longer than she was supposed to because she knew they needed stability. She was able to get them into therapy and onto medication. When they came to us, they were housebroken, and heartbroken. They didn’t know what life held in store for them, they only knew a gypsy lifestyle and pain.
I promised that was over. I promised that our house was a safe place and a permanent place. When they lashed out and said they wanted to leave, I lashed back that I loved them and this was their home forever. I promised that no-matter what, they had a home and they would grow up in our town.
Now the promise is broken. Despite my promises I couldn’t keep the littles safe from the oldest and I couldn’t save him from his own self destructive choices. On Monday we have our first court date for the assault charges against my oldest grandson. On Monday he faces the judge with a public defender by his side. Juvenile Justice is willing to work with us. Oldest’s biodad and stepmom are working hard to make sure they can take him into their home, but that is a hope, not a reality. They have created a wonderful stable home and they have developed a good relationship with him over the past four years that he didn’t have before he moved here.
Only the state’s attorney and a judge will make the final decision, and then the other state has to accept him into their juvenile justice system. He will have a record, he will have consequences, we are just hoping those consequences can be met, while he is being supported by someone who loves him. His father will have the extra financial burden and responsibility to make sure he gets to his therapy and meets the requirements of his sentencing.
His deceptively sweet personality hides his rage. His compliance and willingness to help makes me forget his dark side. Instead I see a stretched out little boy. I see an almost six foot child who yearns for a forever home. He understands that he is in very deep trouble, but he cannot fathom how far the charges will reach into his life. When we speak of the crime, his eyes glaze over and he shuts himself off from me.
I don’t know if he can be rehabilitated. I don’t know for sure that some day he won’t make the horrible choice to take his own life or someone else’s life. Will he make the choice to prove us wrong and turn his life around, or will he use the anger inside him to lash out at the world. I am an educated woman, but I still believe in the goodness of people. I cannot fathom the darkness of his heart or the depth of the pain in his life which put it there. I can understand the premise of his actions, I can logically explain what I believe to be his motives, but only he knows for sure.
I do know that he has friends here, and was making plans to be in the high school marching band. I know that he had friends in Scouts and wanted to help other kids. I know he has frequently helped a friend with her son who has severe autism. I know it will be good for him to be with his father.
my heart is breaking. I made a promise to always love and protect them and I failed. I made a promise that he would always have a home with me and now I have to break it. My dear friend Arthur says he hates when parents promise children they will always be with them and they will always be safe, because we never know what is going to happen and if something terrible happens, the child sees a broken promise and the adult feels his/her own anguish, plus the anguish of the child. I hate proving him right.
Twenty more mornings of making lunches, twenty more shaking the beds to get everyone moving. Twenty more days of “I can’t find my backpack and Grandma you have to sign this permission slip”
The school days since spring break have been much tougher than the ones before. A little strife is healthy for us to truly appreciate the good times, but I promise to appreciate the good times if everything will just settle down. In the last two weeks alone we have been on a whirlwind schedule.
We’ve had two trips to the ER, three school referrals, one detention, two days of ISS, three sick days, prescriptions to be filled, therapy appointments, doctor appointments , soccer games, baseball games, work commitments , girl scouts, boy scouts and a myriad of day to day drama that just keeps us running from dawn til dark.
Lucky for me, my village is full of wonderful people who have stepped up to help with appointments, airport pick ups, weekend logistics and sick children. I don’t know how I would get through the weeks until the end of the school year with the help of wonderful friends. Twenty more school days til summer…
BUT THEN WHAT? In my crazy brain last fall, I planned out a summer of travel for all of us. Girlie is heading into her junior year of college and manchild is going to be a junior in high school.. I am on borrowed family time now as it is. I dreamt of a trip to Texas to visit my brother, a camping trip to New England to see family , several long weekends with extended family in VA, SC and NC, culminating with Girlie’s drop off at college in the fall…. (Presumably we would all travel in a big painted bus singing kum-ba-ya) I was relatively serious that it was a plan I hoped to carry out. The reality of life is that both Girlie and Manchild are working this summer and my oldest grandson will have high school marching band camp. I have already been asked by the church to serve as the skit coordinator for Vacation Bible School. Let’s not forget a week of Girl Scout camp to start everything off right. That leaves just a little over three weeks for swimming lessons, hikes in the woods, visits to family and relaxing before we have to head back to school.
I’m sure summer will be kinder and easier on the schedule than the school year. Maybe I will get some time in at the pool and read some trashy novels before I have to gear back up for the school/work/scouts/sports marathon. We may not be heading out in the bus with our tamborines rattling, but I just may get to pull off one more big family road trip if I plan it right.
So although technically this is my 20th Mother’s Day, it is my 4th with the extra kids. It’s been a long road, but it’s a good road. It started with the traditionally with me being held hostage in my bed so they could “surprise” me, then we transitioned to a hike in the woods and then a quick trip to the urgent care center for me and my lovely bullseye and of course ended with some wine and laughs with some wonderful friends. It was the perfect Mother’s Day.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I remember writing my daughter’s name in my high school notebooks years before she was born. I dreamed of sitting in the stands at little league games from my son. I got to do that and so much more. we had wonderful adventures and I loved watching them learn and grow. My children made me so proud and so happy I couldn’t believe they were almost grown.
My husband pretended he was good with leaving childhood behind as our teenagers started to grow…but then he arranged for us to coach a 4 yr old T ball team. We spent the spring laughing and high fiving little hands. He started taking more and more pictures of friends’ babies when we were at events. We willingly babysat for anyone who asked and took to hosting events for our kids and inviting younger siblings of friends.
We were made for kids. We love sports and scouts and the smell of babies. We wanted more and more time with our VA grandchildren..but they were growing up fast too….they had friends and activities and they lived four hours away.
and then Divine Providence. We were given the charge of three young children. They blended so easily into our lives..making friends with our friends’ children and sharing our love of life.
We met new friends and expanded our social circle. We listened again to three blind mice being played on recorder and mediated disputes over who’s seat was who’s on the couch. This morning I opened cards made with little hands, colored with crayon and lovingly glued into place. Five years ago my daughter was already in high school and my son was in middle school. Hand made cards were a thing of the past tucked away with belief in the tooth fairy and Santa. I am so grateful that I still have little people who pick dandelions for me and are willing to curl up in my bed while I balance scrambled eggs and coffee on my lap.
Its just a regular day in the house of chaos. It is field trip day for one, field day for another. I haven’t lost any more weight in two days, but I’ve been on plan for a whole week now. Its a Friday (which is always good). We’ve got two soccer games, an Eagle project to help with, a swim class to get to and DH has a meeting all day on Saturday, and I’m just now trying to figure out the logistics. It’ll work out.. it always does.
I won a bottle of wine yesterday and a bookstore gift card in our Teacher Appreciation Week prize drawing, Girlie will be home in exactly one week and this weekend is Mothers day. Its crazy terrible busy and wonderful all at the same time. There is nothing too spectacular about this day, but at the same time everything is spectacular about it. I hope everyone has a day as blessed as mine.