Grandparents raising children: A challenge and a blessing

By the time we reach retirement age, most of us have long finished raising children. This is the time in our lives that we look forward to each grandchild and great-grandchild that we are blessed enough to meet. Being a grandparent is so much easier. Play time, lots of smooches, and then they go home. At least this is what we looked forward to in our old age. Just loving those little ones like nobody's business. No decisions to make.

But what if you are a grandparent, and you are raising one or more of your grandchildren? I know for some the thought is horrifying. For others, it is a fact of life. More and more seniors are raising grandkids than ever before.

Sadly, there are many reasons for this. Sometimes the parent or parents may have a drug or alcohol problem. Sometimes the child or children may have been removed from their home for other reasons. Whatever the situation may be, it is often left to the grandparents to step in.

We have all heard and read some of the horror stories with regard to the foster care system. Seems they are always short of foster families, and trying to place children with physical or behavior problems is even harder. In several states, they have tried to ease the burden by offering children up for adoption after only one year in the system. This, too, has sometimes resulted in the children being used and abused. There are many wonderful foster care homes around the country. Just not enough of them.

It is difficult to imagine what you might do if you were put in the situation of having your grandchildren become a ward of the state and possibly be adopted, knowing that it is unlikely you would ever see them again. Probably one of the most difficult decisions a grandparent could make. These kids are your blood, no matter what.

Many grandparents have decided to give up their golden years and again take on the responsibility of raising children. Kudos to those that make that decision. Those who cannot make that difficult choice due to poor health or other reasons, I understand that, too. It is hard to make such a long-term commitment when you don't even know how many years you have left.

Raising kids in your senior years is a whole different ball game. The rules have completely changed from when you were raising your own. From infancy and beyond, things are not the same. It may be a real challenge if you have taken on a baby. Those middle of the night feedings were tough enough the first time around, from crawling around on the floor in search of a binky to praying for just four consecutive hours of sleep. And that two-seater car or truck you waited to get? Gone. The little one needs a seat of their own now. You can probably forget those afternoon naps you so looked forward to. Unless, of course, they are already school age. Then you are faced with a whole different set of problems.

You may have to relearn how to do basic math, while a 10-year-old is fixing your computer. You may or may not be the only 60-year-old soccer mom!

And you can forget getting any sick time. When you are once again raising little ones, you have gone to the bottom of the importance ladder. Finding time for yourself is no easy chore. Do you wonder just what the heck are they putting in baby food these days? You know that a poopy diaper didn't smell like that 40 years ago! Nowadays, they say not to feed a baby any real food till they are at least three- to six-months-old? Since grandma rarely has the option of breast feeding, how healthy can that be? Fifty years ago allergies were rare. Now they supposedly eat better and they have more health issues than before.

Toilet training is yet another challenge. When are you supposed to start that stuff? Does it seem like they are due for shots every month? How on earth do working parents do all this stuff? Who can still give a kid a bath in a bathtub? Try leaning over a tub with a bad hip and knees to match. These acts of love can make for a very tough day. Forget that occasional smack on the behind to get their attention. Unless, of course, it is in the privacy of your own home. Any display of public anger can result in a visit from a local agency. You will learn to use the smile and whisper in the ear technique. You know, where everyone can see your smiling face, while the children are having their tantrums in Walmart. You will threaten to take away the television, telephone, toys, and anything else you think is important to them through your gritted teeth.

Kingman is not the exception to the senior-parenting family. Many people in our community are becoming parents while in their 50s and 60s. Some have teenagers now they may have taken on 10 years ago. What can you do? These are your children's children, and you love them. You sure can't throw them away when the going gets tough. They were blessed that you cared enough to save them from what likely could have been a revolving door of temporary homes. You were blessed with the unconditional love they came with. Sometimes you just know what the right thing to do is, and there is no question about it. Sometimes you may struggle with the thought of starting all over again. Whatever decision is the right one for you, no one can judge you. Taking on this responsibility is truly an act of love.

Interesting how all of this works. In most states grandparents have no rights. If your grandchildren are in foster care you are rarely granted any visitation. If your grandchildren end up being adopted, you get nothing. However, if you would like to take the child/children permanently, all that changes. They will insist that they are only interested in what is best for the children. It sounds an awful lot like they are more interested in a permanent solution.

God bless all the grandparents who are raising children again. This is one of those "I could never do that" things, to which I often follow up with, “Never say never.”

Raising a grandchild may not change the world, but it will certainly change that child's world forever.