Grandmas Don’t Quit.

Grandkids upset? Birthparents out of control? Ever feel like you’ve face-planted after giving your all? The truth is life can sometimes be beautiful and other times painful and messy.  The great thing about grandmas (and grandpas) is that they never, never give up…but sometimes not quitting doesn’t look like what anyone who hasn’t lived through a similar experience could imagine.

Raising grandkids is tough, but you are tougher.

“The truth is, you’re not supposed to know everything about being a parent—it’s a skill you have to learn, just like anything else. While there’s no one “right way” to parent, there are more effective ways to handle your child’s behavior,”  says Janet Lehman, MSW. Super true when parenting grandkids.

When I was in the midst of coping with my daughter’s addictions, court cases, and the post-traumatic behavior by Chad, my adopted grandson, it took every ounce of energy I had. Planning for one day at a time was all I could handle.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, says you have to take action to make a change happen. So attend a support group, call your case worker’s supervisor if you aren’t getting action, hire an attorney...step out so God and people can step up.

Expect good things to happen.

Say, “Something good is going to happen to me today.”  Repeat daily. Be grateful for big and little wows in your life–a day with no note from the teacher, a break in the weather, an unexpected sale on gym shoes, or the call from your attorney saying both birth parents signed the papers allowing an adoption to proceed.

Celebrate out loud, “I made a little extra in tips today, so let’s go get a double ice cream cone.”

Tell things the way they could be.

“Telling it like it is has never changed anybody. It only makes them defensive,” says Rick Warren, whose Daily Hope motivational email I love.  Telling them like it could be is the difference between, “You’re a lousy student and will never succeed unless you do your homework,” and “You’re good with words and I think you could rock college or be a successful songwriter.”

Don’t rely on others, or circumstances, to be happy.

With Chad there were years and years of anger, grief, manipulation and threats of running away. No day was easy but eventually I started telling him, “You don’t have the right to ruin my day,” when he was out-of-control or just teen moody. And I stopped letting him.

Successful people don’t let others shut them down, and they find joy regardless of what is happening in their life. Hard to do sometimes when your life is significantly impacted by courts, caseworkers, and/or birth parents but you can do it.  You need to find your own happy (or at least peaceful) place…for me it was exercising and fluffy novels.

Avoid rabbit holes.

People with addictions hang out with other users.  Many steal from each other, can turn violent, or can’t pay their portion of shared bills.  None of which are your problems, no reason to listen endlessly. “Sorry I have to go but, I know you’ll figure it out,” is a good exit statement.

With grandkids we obviously can’t walk away, but we can stay focused and use emotionally neutralizing questions or statements. “What could you do differently next time?” instead of “Why did you…?” or “I apologize for yelling but that doesn’t change the fact that you hit your little brother and the consequences are no screen time the rest of the evening.”

Remain flexible.

People will tell you by their words and body language such as shuffling feet, rolling eyes, leaning in (or out) when talking how they are reacting to you.  You may like to be touched; your grandchild not so much. You may thrive on details while your child’s principal is a bottom line only person. You’ll be more effective switching your communication style to mirror theirs.

We all filter life through our experiences and expectations and sometimes it better to defer a decision or conversation until we stop and analyze what is causing a negative response. Successful grandparents recognize that parenting and communication has been changed through techniques as technology and the ebb and flow of “trends”.  They remain open to suggestions and adapt.

It’s mostly always too soon to quit.

Alcoholics and drug users can become sober only if they want to and have help.  Try to help them; however,  if the desire or ability to change isn’t there then move them to the bottom of your priority list.  You may even have to move them out of your life.  It’s not quitting; its loving yourself, your grandkids and them in a very painful and different way.

Accepting that a grandchild’s anger against you is really just a young kid trying to deal with life events that are too painful, too scary, or too confusing to work through with the tools they have is hard. It hurts. It’s draining and it takes it’s toll but the rewards come later so continue with the counseling, the unconditional loving, the inch by inch progress.

Hanging in there is mostly good but there are situations when grandkids have physical, mental or emotional needs that can only be met by professionals who are trained to keep them safe and give them a pathway to future success–whatever it turns out to be.  Again, it’s a special kind of not quitting, a holding on in a different way.

My thanks to my sister-in-law, for sharing these photos.  She’s an incredible  grandma not raising grandkids, but who supports, nurtures and makes the rest of us think, “I got this!”

Awesome Things Happen when Raising Grandkids.

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.

♥ I participated in a White House briefing in 2015 on needed revisions for foster and relative-care families.

♥ 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.♥

Kid Thuggery & Other Holiday Happiness Stealers

Tree trimmed, presents mostly wrapped and stashed behind the couch, shopping list for Christmas dinner growing, and your child or grandchild’s behavior suddenly excels past naughty to out-of-control.

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Do you destroy all hope for a ‘calm and bright’ holiday by grounding them, cancelling favorite events like winter prom, solstice party, or a trip to see Santa?

Do you shutdown the family vacation plans? Un-invite the rest of your adult kids and their kids?  Or do you try to muddle through?

None of the above.  You handle misbehaviors with consequences that relate to their actions–not to family traditions and once-a-year (or once-a-life-time) events.

Anxiety, Fear, Bitterness, Anger.

Realize that kids’ stress levels, regardless if toddler or teen, rise with special events due to past experiences involving their mom and/or dad and gets tangled up what they see and hear in media.  The Hallmark channel of eternal good endings. Also, recognize that while other kids at school are talking about presents, trips and fun, they may be remembering domestic violence, passed out parents, a police person at their door, or prison visits.  They want, as my own adopted grandson Chad said when he was in his early twenties, “…just a few happy memories with my mom.” Or they may want a few happy memories without their mom.

Control.

We all need to feel in control of our lives.  They can’t control their past, or their parents–whether they are currently in or out of their lives–so they try to protect themselves from further hurt subconsciously by acting out.  They try to force you into becoming ‘the bad guy’ so, in the crazy way immature brains process, they can prevent anticipated let downs and/or keep mom or dad safely in a fictional role where they are the victim rather than the problem. They reason, “nothing good ever happens to me,” so they do their best to make sure it doesn’t.

Don’t buy in.  Refuse to take away opportunities for family and fun.  Don’t reinforce their faulty thinking and ultimately make your life harder.   After all, you end up in house arrest with them, and often take the brunt of their mounting frustration and anger.  

Instead, give consequences that counteract bad behaviors.  If it expands their awareness of others’ feelings so much the better.  For example, if they hit their brother then have them read their brother a bedtime story about bullying.  If they put their fist through a wall, they repair it right alongside you, or they earn the money doing chores to pay to have it repaired.  Keep the consequence duration, and the talk time preceding it, as short and focused as possible.  

Then go do something else that will limit their opportunity to disengage, or ramp-up their anger, further.  If they like sports then sign them up for a Parks & Recreation martial arts class or get them involved in youth hockey.  Suggest they invite a friend and drive them to a comic book store, a favorite band concert, or together paint pottery. Engage them in what interest them, not you.

The holiday you save will be your own.  The future you invest in is joint-owned.