Dark times happen–or you wouldn’t be parenting your child’s child. These dark times can be scary and depressing. But, wow, the dark makes the littlest things sparkle, and it often forces you onto wonderful new paths.
Years ago, I was broken heartedly loading my three-year-old grandson Chad, and his possessions, into my car to drive him to to live with his alcoholic birth dad. As I struggled to keep from crying Chad pulled a match box car from his pocket saying, “Grandma this is for you.”
Eight months later, the courts returned a physically and emotionally abused Chad to my custody. His counselor said his daily tears, fears and angry outbursts were a result of Post Traumatic Stress. It was another two years before I heard Chad laugh-out-loud in response to something he was watching on TV. Sparkles to my ears; sparkles to my heart and I still have–and treasure–that little car.
Lots of tough times in between then and now, but looking back a lot of good things wouldn’t have happened if the gift, and challenge, of Chad hadn’t come into my life:
♥ Traded a career in corporate America to became a work-from-home free-lance writer. When Chad was eight, he and I went on an all-expense paid press trip to Hawaii with just twenty-five dollars in my pocket. Got to do things, I could never afford–then or now–on my own.
♥ Wrote three books–the latest, Raising Children of Alcoholics & Drug Users, I co-authored with Chad.
♥ I speak nationally to grandparent groups and the professionals who support them. Inspires and humbles me every time.
♥ Re-married and now have seven kids calling me “mom”. Gained 18 more siblings (including spouses) and have rafted at Glacier, enjoyed high tea at Lake Louise, and even went to Australia and New Zealand–fifteen years after our promised ‘honeymoon’ was postponed and very low budget but there!
♥ Made life-long friends through Chad’s school, scouting, church and sports activities; most of these parents are younger by a decade or two than Bob, my husband, or myself but youthful & older parents give each other balance.
♥ Attended first ‘Mom’s weekend’ when Chad was a freshman in college. Special forever memory.
♥ Danced the mother/son dance at Chad’s wedding–a five star heart memory.
♥ Deepened my faith life and now I’m at peace, rather than constantly worrying and trying to figure things out.
♥ Hear “Hi mom” whenever Chad, or our other kids, come through the door and “I love you” texts are exchanged–things I thought lost when my daughter, who I adopted at birth, got caught-up with drugs & alcohol.
Sure there are a lot of bad memories and downsides: A Christmas Eve day in a CARES evaluation waiting room while Chad was being examined by doctors, years of interrupted sleep, lots of lost friends, my daughter rushed to the hospital for an overdose and heart-wrenching courtroom testimony about her life, reduced retirement funds, and so on but each day passes into oblivion and we move on.
Like me, someday you’ll find yourself in a totally different place than you would have been if you had not stepped in and parented your grandchild(ren) or another child needing your love. I’m guessing you will find it bittersweet–but more sweet than bitter.
You never trade one child for another. My adult daughter (Chad’s birth mom) is in my thoughts most days, and I pray that God has placed someone in her life to help her–and my three granddaughter that I don’t get to see–through the things I could not. Hardest thing I’ve ever done is to not try to find her after more than twenty years of being in and out of touch.
Bad memories eventually fade if we let them; good memories become great over time. In the end, love and memories are all we really leave behind. I adopted Chad. What a gift to me.
“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Annette Funicello.♥