Granddaughter (age 8): You have hair on your arm.
Granddaughter: Did it fall from your head?
Granddaughter (age 8): You have hair on your arm.
Granddaughter: Did it fall from your head?
Me: I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘m’
Grandson (aged 5): A . . . mbulance
Grandson (aged 5): There’s a slug in my welly. (Removes welly to take a look.) No. It’s just a rock!
I’m not sure, but I think he was disappointed.
In fairness to teachers, they mean well. Most of them got into teaching because they want to make a difference in children’s lives. Yet it is amazing how parochial they can be when it comes to parental input.
For example, raising children with attachment issues is difficult enough. Yet you would expect teaching staff to at least be on your side. Do they not understand that you live with the problem, all day, every day; that you have done your research; and that you might, possibly know more about this issue than they do. After all, they get a few hours of seminar and consider themselves to be experts, despite the fact that they can walk away from the issue every afternoon. You, the carer, only have to put up with the resultant behaviour overnight and at weekends. Yeah! Right!
The trouble with teachers is that they did their training years ago. Yes, they have to do regular Continual Professional Development courses. But those courses are only effective if they are currently faced with the issues covered.
You, however, as a carer for a child with attachment issues, are constantly researching the issue and looking for all the latest techniques. Why? Because you know that raising a child with attachment issues requires you to keep ahead of the game; that techniques which work today may not work tomorrow, and you need to keep your toolkit sharp if you are going to succeed.
I urge you to read the article, Social Experiment, and share it with everyone. Let’s try to give these kids a fair chance.
Granddaughter (age 7): I don’t like meat.
Me: But that’s meat.
Granddaughter: No it’s not. It’s a chicken nugget.
Don’t you just love a child’s logic!
This is the second in a series of articles looking at the issues faced by grandparents, especially those who find themselves in a position of having to become parents to their grandchildren. You can read the introduction, here.
The birth of a child is probably one of the most joyful events that most families experience. It is so keenly anticipated for such a long time that most expectant mothers get to the point where they hate to hear that ominous question, “So how long do you have left?”
Why do we look forward to the birth of any child, let alone the first? Is it not because of what it represents – a new beginning? Whether this is the family’s first child or its fifth, the family will be forever changed by the birth. The child represents the family’s future. So many hopes and aspirations are bound up in that little bundle of joy.
Conceived at a time when the parents were at their closest, physically, emotionally, even mentally, they rightly treasure the newly-born child. All those months, maybe even years of planning have finally culminated in a hopeful future.
If you have had the experience, think back to the time when you first found out that you were expecting. How did you feel? Mothers report feeling little flutters in their abdomens. Then again, so do some fathers! If you have yet to enjoy this experience, try to anticipate how you might feel.
For some mothers, the feeling of that tiny collection of cells swaying about inside the womb was a reminder that they were now responsible for a life other than their own. In fact, that very thought may well have caused the fluttering in their partner’s stomach, too! It truly is a heavy responsibility. Just think: You are embarking on a twenty-year project with a view to producing a new, valued member of society who will carry on the great family tradition. At least, that’s the plan.
As we all know, the best-laid plans often come unstuck. Life has a strange way of confusing the issues for us. All that time, attention, and money that you were prepared to shower on your little bundle of joy may suddenly have to be shared between two, three, or more, as further children come along.
As you embarked on your twenty-year project, what thoughts went through your mind? Did you think about the amount of alcohol you were consuming? Did you limit your intake, or even cut it out altogether for that critical nine months, or more? Did you decide to give up tobacco products, or even stronger substances? Did you watch your diet and make sure that you ate the “right” foods and drank the “right” drinks? Did you make sure that you ate and drank in the “right” quantities, and at the “right” times? What about exercise? And rest? Did you ensure that you kept your blood pressure in the right band?
Why? Wasn’t it because you wanted to give your child the very best start in life? Didn’t you want to ensure that your baby was as healthy as possible when it exited from its amniotic swimming pool?
Even when further children came along, did you not do your best to ensure that, although you now had toddlers to chase after, you still had the right amount of sleep and the right amounts of the right food and drink? Or did things start to slip? And do you reproach yourself for that? Of course not. By then you had enough experience to know that the “right” things are actually recommendations, and that there is a fair amount of tolerance in the range of diets and activities that will keep you fit and healthy, and give your child a healthy start.
Still, the years rolled by. Suddenly, as you turned thirty, you realized that your energy levels were dropping. As you turned forty, and you still had teenagers to look after, you learned that this project was not going to be so easy, after all. Yet you kept going. After all, you are not one to let the next generation down.
The aim of all this work, of course, was to raise responsible adults who would carry on the fine family tradition. Your children were going to be everything that you dreamed they would be. So you made sure that, most of the time, they had a fairly healthy diet; that they had a healthy amount of sleep and exercise; and that they studied the right subjects and did their homework on time.
You recognize, of course, that you were not, and you are not, a perfect parent. No arguments, please. You were not and you are not the perfect parent. Neither was I, neither am I. We all mistakes. Yet that does not mean that we failed as parents. We did our best in the circumstances and with the information, resources, and materials that we had.
Just consider this: Accidents and illnesses aside, did your children make it to the point where they were able to look after themselves? Did they leave home with the ability to cook some semblance of a reasonably healthy meal? On the assumption that they survived the first five weeks living on their own, I think it is safe to say that, yes, you managed to raise fairly responsible children. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Living on fast food may not constitute being fairly responsible, but I think you get the idea of what I mean. And maybe they still bring the laundry home, once a month, for you to process it so that they can avoid purchasing further supplies of socks and underwear. Still, they have survived up till now.
In the next article we will look at the unique experiences involved in raising children.
Have you ever noticed that your father and, especially your mother, can get your children to cooperate far better than you can? I know it sometimes involves some form of bribery – candy, money, cuddles, etc. – but it still seems to work much better than your efforts.
Then, again, you may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “Grandchildren are great – We should have had them first.”
Both of these comments highlight the same point, but from different perspectives: Dealing with children seems to get easier as you grow older.
A Dose of Reality
It’s not true, of course. Dealing with children does not get easier as you get older. And there are those who would say that children, today, are far more disrespectful than they were, “in my day.”
The difference, of course, is in the attitude of the adult.
It seems almost superfluous to say that as we get older we have more experience in life and we learn how to deal with things better. Yet it does need to be said, because it’s something that we all forget, from time to time. We go through life lamenting our struggles; yet we rarely seek advice from those who have gone before.
The fact is that grandparents don’t have all the answers. But they do have life experience. And that experience is valuable.
Changes in Circumstances
As we get older, we also learn to deal better with changes in our circumstances. Older people frequently lament not being able to think as quickly as they used to. That, however, is a good thing. Many younger people think too quickly. I know. I used to be one of them. I would fly into the fray, all headstrong and overconfident that I had all the answers, simply to fall flat on my face in embarrassment.
An amusing soliloquy comes to mind: When I was six, my father knew everything; when I was sixteen, it’s amazing how much he had forgotten; by the time I was twenty six, it’s amazing how much he had remembered, again.
That concept runs right through our lives. I look at my mother, now, and there are times when I will discuss my problems with her and benefit from her advice. There are also times when I wonder what happened to her intelligence! There are times when I will discuss things with my children to get their younger perspective. And there are times when I worry that they will never survive. And I have no doubt that my own children look at me in the same way. There are times when they ask my advice and act on it; so they obviously feel I know what I am talking about. And there are times when it seems that I am speaking a totally different language, because they look at me as if to say, “Are you real?”
A Changed Perspective
Recent experiences have set me thinking about this. Also, research about dealing with these experiences has made me aware of a big gap in the advice available for grandparents who love both their children and grandchildren, but who may be faced with the dilemma of protecting the family that they love so much. There is plenty of advice for parents on how to raise their children. And there is plenty of advice on being grandparents to children who go home at night.
But a number of my friends have recently been faced with having to make a choice that no one wants to make: They are having to choose between their children and their grandchildren.
Let me say that again. They are having to choose between their children and their grandchildren. And that choice is not an easy one.
These grandparents are finding that, at an age when they were looking forward to having a life of their own, going for walks, holidays, simple meals out, they now have to care for a new generation of children, and their life is no longer their own. Their children have left home and the bedrooms have been tastefully redecorated. Some rooms have been set aside as offices; others as bedrooms for the grandchildren to spend the weekend.
But the pleasure of grandchildren was supposed to be that you borrowed them, had fun, then gave them back. For these grandparents, giving the children back is no longer an option.
I come from a part of the world where it was always traditional for at least the first child to live with his or her grandparents for a few years so that the mother could go back to work. That was the situation when I was born. But that has changed. Parents now take their responsibilities more seriously and grandparents find themselves roped in as unpaid babysitters while the mother goes back to work.
But that is not my friends’ experience. They are in the position of becoming parents to their grandchildren, not for a few days, not for a few years, but for life.
Now, as I said, there is a lot of advice out there for parents, a lot of advice for grandparents, and a lot of advice for foster parents. But there is very little advice for grandparent parents. They are left almost to their own devices.
A New Series
So I have decided to start writing a new series of articles based on the difficulties experienced by grandparents faced with the dilemma of becoming parents, again. This series will be tagged and categorized under “Grandpa’s Way,” and it will only be available on my self-hosted blog, Harcourt 51. I will be posting links on my WordPress site, but not full articles.
What Will This Series Contain?
I don’t know! But seriously, I will be looking at the role of grandparents in the children’s development. How can grandparents help their children to be better parents? When should you speak up? When should you keep quiet? How can you deal with potential conflicts of interest?
I will also be looking at the situation surrounding grandparents taking over the role of being parents to their grandchildren. Why might this be necessary? What do you need to take into consideration before making such a decision? What help is available? How do you deal with Social Workers if that becomes necessary?
Other questions might include things like, What can you do if you think your grandchildren are at risk? And what if that risk comes from your children? How can you help your children to improve as parents, reduce or remove the risk, and still keep the peace in the family?
I also want to share parenting tips for both parents and grandparents. Maybe some of them will work for you.
I want to look at various situations that could lead to grandparents becoming parents. How do you help your grandchildren to deal with losing both their parents, which is why they are now staying with you, and their grandparents, because you have now become their parents?
Finally, I want to share some tips on mindfulness as it applies to family situations. How can a greater awareness of your own feelings help you to better understand your children and grandchildren? How can it help you to be calm in the face of serious difficulties? How can it help your family to deal with trauma, which can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes?
So, what will this new series contain? Anything and everything that could be of interest to grandparents, their children, their grandchildren, and the grandparents’ parents. After all, there are more grandparents than ever before looking after people both older and younger than they are.
One final point of note is that you do not have to be in this situation to benefit from this series. You may be someone who has friends or family members facing these issues. What advice do you give them? How can you help them? The series will look at this situation, too.
You may be a professional who deals with these situations every day. I hope that you will benefit from reading about these issues from the perspective of the layman. If you feel that some of the comments are out of order, please contact me to discuss it, either through the comments or my Contact page.
And, who knows? Maybe I’ll even combine it all into a book.
Please note that I do not claim to be an expert. The thoughts expressed in this series may not reflect the current thinking in professional circles. These are my personal opinions based on my personal experience and that of my friends, who shall remain nameless. Any names used in these articles will be fictitious, and the experiences quoted, although based on real life, will be fictitious constructions combining isolated incidents and mindful meditation on the potential consequences.
Also, remember that all situations are different. The thoughts contained herein are not meant to be definitive answers to any situation. They are provided simply as prompts, enabling those who care to think about their own dilemmas with a view to finding their own solutions to their own unique problems. Basically, we will be looking at principles, not rules.
This blog, its authors and editors cannot take responsibility for any decisions made by those who read this content. Please conduct your own research and discuss your situation with your own advisors before taking any actions or making any decisions.