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!”

Don’t become the elephant in the family courtroom.

Help win your own case by becoming a star witness instead of an embarrassing elephant in the family courtroom because you don’t know how to act or what to say.

In family court the judge, not a jury or set of laws, determines the outcome.  He, or she, relies heavily on recommendations from caseworkers and the court-appointed attorneys for your grandchild(ren).  However, you can impact their decision positively, or negatively, based on what you say, how you say it and your body language.

Rambling, focusing on past behaviors of birth parents, or talking negatively about caseworkers or the judicial system takes up unnecessary time, confuses the issues and frankly works against you. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t like.

Make every word count.  Show you are committed, competent, and caring by dressing and acting appropriately and giving honest, concise answers to questions or if you have an opportunity to make a statement.  You gain opportunity to speak by having legal standing and that requires filing as an enjoiner or psychological parent.

Years ago my job was to explain the business side of publishing to our company lawyers–sometimes testifying in court, but mostly helping develop strategies and responses for likely-to-be-asked questions.  I also spent years in and out of ‘the child welfare and court system’ getting custody, then permanent guardianship and finally adopting my grandson.  The former experiences gave me insight into legal processes and players;  the later a passion for helping others.  Here’s what I learned.

Always prepare a one-page summary

Preparing a one-page summary to take with you for distribution to key players in the courtroom helps you focus and brings others up-to-date.  Caseworkers, attorneys and even judges often change or cover for each other.  They have huge caseloads and may arrive with thick files they have only glanced through.

The format is as critical as the content.  The document needs to be easy to scan, and understand, so the reader can glance down while talking or listening without it becoming a distraction. Include your name, and the grandkids’ names along with the date at the top.  Use space between each header and include no more than three bullets under each section. 

The first header, Goals, states the outcome you want from this hearing whether it’s to change non-supervised visits to supervised, obtain custody, challenge current placement in a foster care setting, or file for adoption.

The middle header, Recent Developments, lists facts and events since the last hearing that best support your goal.  Note: My website software does not allow me to double space or indent bullets in following example–but you should.

  • Birth dad arrested for assault against drug dealer May 10th in Orange County.
  • My granddaughter’s counselor, Kirsten Brown, Ph.D recommends no further contact with parents (Statement attached).
  • Previous court request for home visit and criminal background check for self were conducted through Children Services this week.

The final header, Additional Information, reflects pertinent information that you think impactful.  I always included a reminder that my grandson’s birth dad made the following statement in a pre-trial conference, “If it takes a beating with a two-by-four to get the child’s attention that’s what you use.”  Another time he called asking, “How much is it worth to you for me to get out of yours and Chad’s life”.  Word pictures can be more powerful than medical or legal terms…just don’t overdo.

I typically have to write, edit, rewrite and repeat numerous times but it helps me eliminate redundancies, items not directly impacting the issue, or things not favorable to my case.

Have a pre-hearing meeting with attorney and role-play questions and answers.

Go prepared with a list of questions and a ‘to do’ list so you don’t waste time and money and you know that your attorney has all the information necessary to be effective.  Knowing what to expect builds confidence on both sides. This is the time for you to discover what steps must be covered by law to minimize any future legal challenges by the birth parents.

If your lawyer doesn’t initiate the conversation ask what presentation style is most effective with the presiding judge.  What works with one may blow you out of the water with another.  Be prepared in court to adapt your responses  if you realize the judge is becoming frustrated by over, or under, sharing information or yours or your attorney’s mannerisms.

If you don’t have legal representation and are representing yourself you need to do your own research by asking other grandparents, sitting in the judge’s courtroom another day to watch and listen, and by going on-line to research laws and precedents.

In the courtroom

Be on time.  Do not discuss the case in court, in the bathrooms, halls or in nearby restaurants or street corners unless it is with your attorney–you can be overheard.

Be honest but try to keep your emotions–especially anger–under control.  If you give an incorrect or incomplete answer ask for permission to clarify what you said previously.  Also, be tactful, “Your honor I apologize for any confusion  I may have inadvertently created.  What I meant was…”

Be absolutely clear in all you say, or write, that your grandkids’ safety, happiness and health are, and will continue to be, your first priority even if it means breaking all contact with your adult child.

 

Five-ish Things That Kids Learn in Families


“What we remember from childhood we remember forever…”   Cynthia Ozick, American writer 1928.

Young children, and teens, sometimes have values, priorities, behaviors and feelings that they have to unlearn, or re-channel if they have been exposed to traumatic life events, or unhealthy behaviors by their parents. It can be a long, slow process but don't give up.  Healthy life skills, coping mechanisms and trust building come from watching you, as well as, being given opportunities to experiment, grow and change. 

The parameters of ‘normal’.

Family life is a microscopic version of the world. It’s where children and teens learn to interact with others. Learn how they fit into social and work (chores or working for others) relationships.  It’s where they learn boundaries and where they learn to evaluate what is acceptable, unacceptable or just plain bizarre behavior.

Often, if tragedy or abuse occurs in a child’s life, they tend to expect bad things unless we help them put things in perspective. It should be every parenting adult’s goal to help kiddos see that life is a series of possibilities–not just a steady stream of problems.

How to handle feelings and conflict.

It can be especially hard for youth who have been threatened or punished for “talking back” to engage in any conversations that they know would have triggered a violent reaction in their mom or dad.  However, their day-to-day success, as well as all ongoing and future relationships rely on their learning how to give and receive feedback honestly, respectfully, and at appropriate times.

If kids yell obscenities, hit, walk away when you are talking with them, or demonstrate other extreme behaviors create a cooling off period, and then explain rules of engagement.  Let them practice when they are calm saying “I” statements that don’t threaten or demean. Role play examples they can relate to such as, “I feel scared when you yell, like you just did.  I know that the odds of a plane crashing are very slim, however, it makes my stomach hurt when you make fun of me for not wanting to fly because that’s how my parents died.  It’s my turn to decide what movie we are going to go see since you choose last week. Was there a reason you want to choose this week too?”

Feelings are honest.  It’s okay for children and teens to be angry, mad, sad, glad, silly or whatever.  What’s important is how feelings are expressed by words, voice tone, body language and timing. They learn respect as much from watching and listening to how you talk to others, and about others as they do from lectures or coaching. If a birth parent is, or was, abusive they may need professional counseling.

Being responsible isn’t easy.

Kids learn from experience–so even when it’s painful let them try new things or re-try old things in new ways giving them more and more control and responsibility. Let them make mistakes. Let them learn about natural consequences, and most important set them up to succeed.

Not all their efforts will be painless, or pretty, but from each attempt they will learn. Show them trust and respect by honestly praising successes (even partial) and together talk through events and feelings when things don’t turn out so well. Be open to their suggestions and be flexible.  When you can’t ‘flex’ explain “why”. Is it too expensive, are you overbooked, or is it simply too dangerous, illogical, or against your values?

Learning to be a good winner or a good loser.

Don’t believe the drivel that anyone can do anything they set their mind to.  I am 5’2″ and will never be 5’7″.  At seventy, I’m too old to become an Olympic champion in anything.  They too have some skills and gifts and some restrictions. If they have been cut from the high school varsity basketball team help them access the situation.  Would extra practice or coaching help?  Would joining a ‘rec’ team improve their future chances in high school, college and beyond?  Are they simply, at 5 foot, too short to compete unless they get a growth spurt?

Additionally, everyone cannot be best at everything.  If they try something and fail then they will have learned a little more about themselves and be better prepared when passed over for a job promotion or maybe learning that there are physical reasons that they cannot eat sugar without serious health consequences.

Sometimes winning comes easily.  They will be better served if they learn early on how to share the glory in a team sport or turn the spotlight to encouraging others.  “I am the greatest” (you fill in the blank) comments can quickly turn off others.

Values and ethics.

We live in a world where everything we do is quickly picked up, passed on and/or critiqued by others on social media.  It’s not easy to be bullied at school or work, but it’s mega multiplied when the bullying jumps to cyber and your child is exposed to ridicule from those he/she interacts with every day.

Since we can’t control everything that happens to our children as youngsters or young adults, we have to help them develop the self confidence and self worth to ride out the storms. Teens don’t always believe that character counts more than immediate popularity. However, surrounding them with family, mentors, good friends who share your family’s values and faith will help them mentally shrug and walk away or calmly say, “that’s not cool”.

Let them know that they aren’t victims and that asking for help from God or others takes courage and strength but we all need others…and we all can help others.

Met earlier this month in Seattle with a number of other grandfamily members (and Donna Butts from Generations United) at the Casey Leadership Retreat. Amazing people. Amazing organizations.

A letter from mom.

To my daughter.

It’s been nearly three years since we last talked.  A lifetime before that you got hooked on drugs…and then on alcohol. A lot’s happened in the past twenty seven years.

Yesterday was Father’s Day and I was, as happens occasionally, alone at church.  The tears leaked out when the music started.  You were there–but only as a whisper in my heart; a memory in my mind.

My life is better than I would ever have thought possible but sometimes the old dreams I had for you, for me, for us sneak back in and I mourn for what could have been. Sometimes, I shut these un-beckoned dreams of everyday things down, and sometimes, like yesterday, I let them stay awhile until I have to say goodbye, so I can survive.

Your oldest son, Chad, became my youngest son long before I adopted him. Maybe he and I started bonding as mother and son when I used to bring him home to babysit overnight and bathe away the smoke, and let him spend a day in dry diapers. Maybe it didn’t begin until I watched him tuck his little hand in the engulfing one of the transport volunteer who returned him to his foster home after the state stepped in. I’d like to think, even though he never looked back, that Chad knew I was there then and that I would always be there whenever he needed me.

Back then, I thought you’d make it.  Back then, I didn’t realize that drugs don’t give up.

At first, I was just another grandmother raising my grandson.

Abused by his birth dad.  Abused by you.  Chad deserved better…all kids do.  I spent my savings on attorneys.  I was strong during court hearings and sobbed my way through the nights.

He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress at age four.  He and I lived through years of his waking up nightly screaming from nightmares he couldn’t explain. We made it through years of his being afraid to let me out of his sight and his “I love you,” to me fifty times a day which was his way of saying, “I’m scared…”

Trauma and drama…drugs don’t give up.

Then I adopted Chad to keep him safe, and  because I loved him with my whole heart.

Cutting.  Suicidal.  Punching holes in walls. Swearing at me.

Remorse. Rewind. Replay once again.

We made it through. Now he is a man.

Yesterday, I wished him Happy Father’s Day.  His little girl is now 18-months-old and a charmer.  I see in her your self-determination and a bit of your curly hair as twice a week we (my husband (her beloved Papa)) and I take care of her so her mama and daddy can go to work.  

What you’ll never know is baby kisses beat drug highs, and even messy diapers are better than alcohol lows.

I miss Chad’s half sisters–your daughters, my granddaughters.  From you, them, and Facebook, I know the oldest lost her virginity at twelve, her slightly younger sister, who I always wanted to scoop up and cuddle because she seemed so sad, posted, “Why can’t anyone see me…I’m hurting too”), and their baby sister who you said told her fifth grade counselor that she had been raped.

We’ve all been raped, tattered and torn. Meth, opioids, alcohol—drugs abuse  families.

I won’t give up, but everyday I try letting go.

 

 

Summer Vacation Tips for Grandparents Raising Grandkids

Summer can be amazing.  Really.  

Set limited, and realistic, goals for changing or keeping hard-fought-progress in good behaviors and life skill acquisition this summer.  Don’t try to accomplish too much and allow lots of time for making  lazy, hazy, crazy summer memories.

Family fun lets you painlessly sneak in life skill lessons.  

Lessons like, “Wait your turn; share, men cook, or changing a , “I need $20,” to “what can I do to earn $20?”

Start transitioning before school ends.

Kids of trauma don’t do well with change (transitions) so start talking about summer plans and summer rules early.

Using behavioral contracts can be effective with pre-teens and teens, “If I get up and make my bed without being told five days in a row I get to (fill in blank).  It gets buy-in up front and there is no room for, “I forgot, I didn’t say that, etc.”

Make the last day of school/first day of summer special, whether going for ice cream or hosting a pool party–especially if your grandchild is sad about leaving their teacher or friends for the summer.

Kids of trauma need structure.

Establish summer bedtimes, screen time limits, as well as when, where and for how long they can hang with friends. Post daily, weekly and one time chore lists. Place a family activity white board in a central location. List dentist, doctor, and counseling appointments, along with camps and small adventures like trips to library, waterparks or helping a teen learn to drive.  Include the whole family, when possible, in volunteer projects whether placing flags on Veteran’s graves or making a meal to take to Ronald McDonald’s House.

Use stickers for little ones.

 

 

 

Trip to zoo.

 

 

Summer camps provide structures and social interaction.  They also teach skills (ball, science, crafts).  Win-win. There is no better job for young teens than getting to be junior counselor (helper) and working up to paid summer-long positions as they mature. Jobs take up spare time, they teach responsibility and there is supervision.

 Opportunities + Opposition = Growth

With each responsibility toddlers through teens accept they deserve more freedom. Sometimes this is a tough lesson for parents–letting go gradually and tightening back up if they misstep, but always letting them try again.  It’s how we all learn.

As parents:

  • Be open to learning new parenting techniques.
  • Talk about birth parents and not-so-happy, as well as happy, life experiences and memories.
  • Accept, rather than fight about, things that don’t matter.  The color or cut of hair shouldn’t be an issue if it’s clean, as long as not a culturally negative message such as gang identification.  Once youth reach the age of job interviews this may have to be re-evaluated.
  • Be a parent, not a buddy.  Set boundaries, consistently enforce consequences, praise out loud (only for honest effort or achievements though), and say “no” when safety or inappropriate behaviors need to be stopped.
  • Meet every friend and their parents. Ask about (ignore the eye rolls and “no one else’s parents” propaganda) parental supervision, guns in the home, drugs (medical and legal recreational), screen limits on content and/or time.
  • Listen before you pass judgement –things do happen that are out of your child’s control.  The problem is if there is a pattern of “not my fault”.  Make consequences fit behavior.  Remember grounding, or taking away a privilege grounds you too, or turns you into the warden.  Better to talk about, “What could you have done differently? Or, what can you do now (like maybe call and apologize or make a list of emergency numbers to call when they can’t reach you next time and curfew looms.)”

Don’t forget that miracles are all around us. Model thankfulness, kindness and having a sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Drawn by Lola, my great grandniece).

Grandparents rally in DC and everyday in the trenches…

Kudos to the grandparents raising grandchildren who gathered May 10th in front of the US Capitol to speak for the many families across the nation headed by grandparents. Thirty states were represented according to Jaia Petersen Lent, Deputy Executive Director of Generations United.

All parenting grandparents are teaching a generation of young people that family is made up of those who love and take care of you. If you know such a family offer to help them by babysitting, sharing a meal occasionally, mentoring…whatever you have to offer.  If you don’t know what to offer then ask, “What can I do to help?”

Also, say a prayer for the many birth parents who aren’t parenting because of illness, armed services assignments, drugs, alcohol or a variety of other reasons including death.


 

Grandparents’ feelings; grandparents’ footsteps…


You’ll feel the collective sadness, anger, hope, and “we can do this” attitudes that co-exist when grandparents raising grandkids get together.

May 10th an expected thousand plus parenting grandparents, from across the nation, will gather in Washington D.C. to spotlight their needs and find help in solving the underlying problems.

Every relative caregiver, whether forty or eighty, lives a Just Do It life.  ‘It’ being restoring childhoods and securing futures for grandchildren whose parents are addicted to opioids, other drugs, or alcohol.  ‘It’ being parenting temporarily, or permanently, infants, tweens and teens whose moms or dads are on military deployments, incarcerated, deceased or are just very young.

Sometimes these family warriors need help. By uniting in the capitol’s plaza, and meeting one-on-one with Senators and Representatives from their own states, or by sharing their stories the grandparents want to focus attention on foster care and other federal funding and policies.

They aren’t asking for more money, they are asking for system efficiencies and equal access for grandparents in or out of the system. Many need legal help to obtain custody, guardianship or adoption to help with school enrollment, access to medical care and/or counseling for traumatized or vulnerable youth.

They want a hand up, not hand out. Independence and dignity is important to them.

I understand. I am one of them. I adopted my oldest grandson, Chad, who was physically abused as a toddler and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) when four. Chad is now twenty-five and successfully launched; we’re both out of the trenches paying forward.

Together, we wrote the book Raising Children of Alcoholics & Drug Users to help others, whether they are dealing with visitations when grandkids cry before they go, or punch holes in walls when they return, have trouble saying “no” to their adult child, or are terrified of technology and drug dangers for youth.

These grandparents aren’t complainers or quitters. But often you hear desperation in their voices and see tears in their eyes. Mostly, I’m humbled by their determination to do what they have to do to give their grandkids happy, secure, and as normal as possible childhoods going forward.

So while I don’t hear, “Poor me”, I do hear, “I’m dying and need to find a home for my grandson.” “I have PTSD from Vietnam and having three little ones under seven makes it worse…sometimes I just have to leave and let my 70-year-old wife deal with the chaos.” “My daughter threatens to take the kids and tells me that I’ll never see them if I apply for food stamps and housing supplements and hers is taken away–so I try to make my social security stretch.” “I don’t want to ask for help…I’ll just work until I’m eighty because my grandson needs 24-hour group housing.” “Melissa and Chavez are doing really well but I feel bad because my other grandchildren don’t understand why grandma does so much for their cousins and not for them.”

Last year 29 percent of children in foster care were being raised by relatives and for every child in relative foster care another twenty were being brought up by grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles outside of the system saving tax payers 4 billion dollars annually.[1]

Generations United, Casey Family Programs, and other child and senior focused groups are spearheading this up-coming May gathering to educate legislators. They need your help.

Go to https://grandrally2017.org for more information about the rally and ways you can help grandparents raising grandchildren by fund raising or contacting your congressional representatives.

[1] Generation United, State of Grandfamilies in America: 2016.

 

Stop feeling guilty for loving, or not loving, a family addict.

BreakersThe continual drama and trauma that surrounds addicts, takes its toll on the emotions and relationships of the users’ partners, parents, siblings, and their kids.

The ‘normal’ progression of parenting roles changes from caretaker to coach to cheerleader to mentor and friend. With drugs or alcohol the progression regresses, especially for grandparents raising grandkids, eventually forcing a decision between care-taking little ones or their parent.

For years I’ve couldn’t articulate how I felt about my daughter because I vacillated between, sadness, guilt, anger and wanting to believe she would change leaving me saying, “I’m done,” followed up hours, days or months later with, “one more time”.

When I discovered she was first using, first arrested, first pregnant, first on public assistance, first in prison, first embezzling from a friend who gave her a job, and so on it was difficult. I grasped for every excuse for her behavior, until the “firsts” turned into reruns and spinoffs. Eventually I admitted, when a counselor asked me, that I didn’t like my daughter’s behaviors, didn’t like the person she had become. I still couldn’t say I didn’t love her–it seemed inexcusable for a mom and “un-Christian like”.

Today, I think love can’t survive long-time when you are being lied to and emotionally abused. Love can withstand your heart being broken, but possibly not as you watch your grandkids’ hearts on the line. Watching them cry when mom or dad is arrested and their picture is on the news, or as a second-grader they are left sitting forgotten on the school steps, or as a high schooler they try to ignore their drunk dad in the stands at school at 9 AM when their playing basketball. It’s also really, really difficult when you see your other adult children and their kids being hurt by your choices regarding the addict’s choices.

My daughter is not in my life anymore physically but I still pray for her most days, and still hope that she turns her life around. I’m just done holding my breath or wanting to be part of the up and down process.

“I love him/her.  I hate him/her.”  

You don’t need anyone’s permission, or approval, to feel a certain way. And you don’t owe anyone–including the addict, or other children, an explanation.  Unless others have been in your shoes, they can’t imagine the pain, the tug-of-war of emotions, or the struggle to survive.

It’s easy to continue to ‘love’ the memory of the child we raised, the partner we married. What is harder to define, and accept, is how we feel today. Sometimes we are mad at the user, other times we try overly hard to protect them, and sometimes we even tip over to enabling bad behaviors. Sometimes. we are just plain done.

In the end, if you parent minors–yours or grandkids–then their needs must come first.  Don’t let emotions stop you from doing the right thing, and sometimes it takes an outsider like a counselor, pastor, social worker or trusted friend to help you prioritize, help you succeed in following through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depression stalks grandparents raising grandkids…

Approximately 2.7 million grandparents are raising nearly 7.8 million children.   If you are one of them, take care of yourself.  Don’t minimize the stress of loving your adult child, your grandkids and having your dreams destroyed. Statistics show many grandparents are clinically depressed at least sometime in their journey. To avoid, or overcome, depression see a doctor and tell yourself often, “I count.”

Surround yourself with pictures, sayings and people who make you smile.

Do what makes you feel good.

Go motorcycle riding, camp, join a book club, or go shopping.  

My grandniece years ago said, “Sparkle is my favorite color”. Made sense so I started wearing jewelry to mow the lawn, pick up kids at practice, or grocery shop. I also try to buy a few new things each season, when I find a great bargain, that make me feel good about myself.

Get yourself & your problems off your mind.

A mom in an Oregonian news story caught my attention, “I’ve cried. I’ve been on meds. I’ve put him (her son) in treatments…and I couldn’t do any t100_2116hing else. And if I can’t help my own kids…” then added the reporter, “you help someone else’s child.” She did.

The story went on to talk about her buying gloves for a homeless young man on a cold winter’s night and doing other acts of love when she saw a need. She inspired me to start looking.  Took cosmetic samples from ‘gift with purchase’ to women’s shelter. Volunteered to speak at grandparent support groups, and washed toys in our church’s nursery after services.

Exercise.

“I Made It Through The Day With No Crazy Thoughts…I made it through the day without obsessing over my son.  I didn’t cry or fall apart.  I exercised during my lunch hour.  Thank you God for this gift today, ” said another mom, Tricia, on TAM Healthy Moms website.

My supplemental medicare insurance pays gym membership…so three or four days a week I wake up early and go to Curves and workout. Good company, smiles and sweat have made me thinner, stronger, and happier.

Try something different.

We are all students and all influencers. Brené Brown, interviewed in Costco Magazine said, “You can’t say, ‘Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these.” She explained that it’s important to, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.” I’m adding, embrace parenting. Re-direct your dreams. Don’t let “raising grandkids” take over all the other pieces of your life.  Carve out time to read, or play hockey, or practice guitar–even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day before the sun comes up or once a month with the guys. “The magic is in the normal moments,” says Brown. 

Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

IMG_1947The bible says, “You have not, because you ask not.” So ask God and people for help. Everyday say, “Good things are going to happen to me today.” Smile when they do, and say thanks when you go to bed if you found a lost earring, got a coupon in the mail just when you have to buy a new mattress, chatted with a neighbor, or enjoyed a jelly-tasting good night kiss.

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.♥