First came love, then came marriage; had a little problem with the baby carriage. But after ten years of fertility treatments, my husband and I were blessed to adopt two girls nineteen months apart. They were just days old when they came to us. We had the world ready and waiting for them: a brand new house, me, a stay-at-home mom, a father whose hobbies always included us, playgroups, and Gymboree.
From their first days, they were surrounded by the love of an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We taught them right from wrong and to respect others. They grew up involved in our church and the charities we sponsored. Good students, great athletes, gorgeous girls. I went to sleep at night full of gratitude and in awe of the life we shared. I dreamt of the day they would marry.
So after those eighteen-plus years of hard work, why do I find myself revisiting parenthood by raising two grandsons? Well, my younger daughter had other plans. She eloped, had a baby before her first anniversary, and filed for divorce before her second, not knowing another baby was already on the way-a brother for her eleven-month old son.
My grandsons join 6.6 million other children-nine percent of all children in the United States-who live with their grandparents. My husband and I are part of the two and one half million grandparents who are responsible for the basic needs of their grandchildren. Do you have that responsibility? That’s what this column is about: grandparents raising grandchildren and the unconditional love, challenges, and frustrations we face every day.
All of us have a story, a journey, each one unique. Some of you are caring for your grandchildren for an extended time while Mom or Dad go back to school. Others may have legal custody due to a governmental agency intervention. Some cases involve the sickness and even the death of your children. Many must cope with abandonment, mental illness, or drug abuse. Sometimes it’s just about the money. Let this column be a forum to share our stories.
When my life changed after my change of life, I was a recently published author who was in love with the empty nest and astounded at the professional successes that lay before me. After devoting the school years to my girls, now it was my turn. In the middle of having my book published, both boys came to live with my husband and me.
Raising two toddlers in our early fifties is a reaffirmation of the saying that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” We can’t just get up and go anymore because we are their primary caregivers. Our freedom has been replaced with tears, giggles, pampers, and pediatricians. Two o’clock a.m. feedings are accompanied by hot flashes. Being the last to leave a party? No way.
Babysitters are the most significant others in our lives. Our marriage struggled as we debated between enabling and letting go. Our other daughter, a recent college graduate, returned home to a full time job, studying for her master’s degree, and a nursery full of babies across the hall from her bedroom. We’ve all had to adjust.
I’ve finally realized that my plans for my daughter were not her plans. I can not control her. I can not control the father of my grandsons. Sometimes I can barely control myself. I’ve stopped making plans for others; I’m too busy getting through today.
I still go to sleep full of gratitude, thanking God for all our blessings. And just before dozing off to dream, I add: please, please, please, let the boys sleep through the night.