Dear friends, in March 2011 I was chosen to be the new president of NCGCR, the National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights, an advocacy group for grandparents and grandchildren with chapters in most states in this country. I have big shoes to fill, but I have promised Lola Bailey, co-founder and past president, that I will do my best to honor the promises she has made.
Thirty-six years ago I was chosen for another job: to be mother and father to my grandson, born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, partial paralysis, partial blindness and neurological impairment. By 1986 I was raising five more grandchildren and one grandnephew! It would be a gross understatement to say I was overwhelmed.
It has been a difficult road to travel. One of the hardest parts of this mission, second only to obtaining services, is the way those of us raising others’ children are misunderstood. Most people don’t realize how hard this can be unless they are also going through the same thing.
What a joy to have met Brigitte Castellano and Lola Bailey many years ago in Knoxville, Tennessee, and to have formed a relationship with them and, shortly thereafter, with NCGCR. What a pleasure to sign on to the website and “chat” with other grandparents who knew instantly what issues I was faced with.
Whether we are raising grandchildren, fighting for visitation rights with our grandchildren or simply having a relationship with them, age is always an important factor. We can’t do the things we did with our own children. Health problems and lack of stamina were the demons that prohibited me from being the “parent” I wanted to be to my grandchildren and nephew. And what on earth were they learning in school? What happened to arithmetic and history? They were learning things in grammar school that I studied in high school.
I felt totally inadequate. How was I ever going to parent these children?
What I finally realized is that we bring so much more to this caregiving table. We bring experience, patience and wisdom. While each child has their own personality and set of issues, we, as older folks, have lived and learned. What we lack in energy we make up for in passion. The knowledge we have only comes from going through the fire. No school or college can teach the things we have learned just by being on the planet for lo these years.
I believe we are all here for a purpose. God does not make mistakes. Each hardship we endure prepares us for a higher calling. Each step we take moves us closer to fulfilling our purpose on earth. Grandparents who are raising grandchildren are surely doing the work of angels.
What a blessing.
Louise Eagle is a published poet and the president of NCGCR, the National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights