Friday, September 7, 2007

Grandparenting 2007

By Pamela S. Meek

Becoming a grandparent is the greatest thing that can happen to a person. I know this from personal experience. We just had our eighth grandchild in June. The thought of a new baby in the family is enough to send us into a dizzying array of emotions ranging from unbelievable joy, anticipation, and satisfaction to fear, worry, sadness, and uncertainty, depending on the situation.

The arrival of a grandchild means that life will go on. It signals the beginning of a new generation in a family. Traditions will be handed down. It is an extension of ones self, a part of something we created. Their little smiles light up when they see us and their little arms reach out and hug us so tight. We generally have the time for them we didn’t have for our own kids, and there is just that very special bond that you build together.

My husband Denny and I were recently conversing with a friend who is a first time grandmother. She was telling us how wonderful being a grandmother is. She said, "You can spoil them rotten and send them home."

Denny looked at her and asked,” What world do you live in?” I couldn't help myself, I just had to laugh and tell her how fortunate she is.

The fact is; many grandparents in today’s culture just are not able to "spoil them rotten and send them home." We have constant care of one or more of our grandchildren and we have to be able to say no and be able to set boundaries and discipline them when they are naughty.
According to the US Census Bureau 2005, there were over two million grandparents raising their own grandchildren full time without one of the child’s parents on the premises. Another two million have grandchildren living with them, but have at least one parent living there as well.

With soaring daycare costs, accidents involving daycare providers, abuse and deaths in daycare centers and the income level of many people forcing both parents to have to work, grandparents are coming to the rescue. There are now over five million grandparents doing day care for their grandchildren. This is the category in which I fall.

This means that over nine million grandparents in the U.S.A. have daily care of one or more of their grandchildren. And all of these statistics do not even take into account the grandparents who have legally adopted their grandchildren and have now become parents again.
With seventy-two million children under the age of fifteen residing in the USA, that makes for a very large percentage of grandparenting going on. It also makes for some big time challenges.
Housing is a big issue when grandparents are now renting a smaller home or apartment. Some places do not even allow children.

Safety is another major concern. While our own kids were growing up, we could let go of all the hidden dangers that present themselves with babies and toddlers and start living in an adult world again. Now with the babies coming in again, we have to put away the glass coffee table with the sharp edges. Put away all of the breakables, place covers on the outlets, make sure our medications are up high enough a child can not accidentally find them and get into them. And we must totally childproof our homes.

Time is another factor. I know for me, it means doing more work in the evenings and late at night. I also get up earlier even if the little ones go back to sleep when they get here. Trying to find time to write and edit is a real challenge.

For some grandparents there are also, schools, money, health insurance, taxes, and maybe even legal matters to deal with. I am sure there are lots of other items I have failed to mention here.
Then we come to the parents. In my case the parents are all there and support everything I do with the kids. My kids know my rules, they were raised by them. My kid’s spouses and I have had some talks and they understand where I stand on all the issues and what will happen in any case scenario I could think of to discuss with them. I am a strong believer in discipline, and when the kids are here, they know that this is Papa and Grandma’s house and they must obey and listen when asked to do something.

I respect my kids and their parenting methods, and I do try to abide by their rules too, but after all, I am still their mom. I am also glad I have put so much effort into making a good relationship with my daughter-in-laws, all three are like my own. They are the greatest, even when we disagree.

Sometimes the parents are separated or in my daughter’s case, widowed early. She moved home with her boys the day her husband passed away.

She needed time to grieve and to get her life back together. I accepted the care of her two sons for over eight months. The boys were being homeschooled so I did that too so she could be free to get her life in order and in the same; I was able to keep the boys’ lives as orderly and stable as possible. I was glad to be there to help her when she needed the help. Some days it was so hard though because she was there and our parenting is totally different. She allows the boys to play a lot of video games, I don’t believe kids need to play video games for more than an hour at the most during the day. I am not a big fan of TV either. These are just some of the things we tend to run into when parents and grandparents are raising the kids together. It takes a very vital communication connection to raise kids together and not just take over and control your kids and grandkids.

What about when the parents don’t live with you and the kids do? This is the hardest situation od all. You have to be a full time parent and that sometimes makes it harder for the kids, but if it is done right, it can be a time to make the grandparent/child bond so much closer.
The biggest problem is setting up visitation for the parent(s). And that depends a lot on the parent’s situation. A lot of times grandparents are raising the kids because the parents are not able because of drug addiction, or a criminal act that has put the parent in jail. Some children have been taken away from parents and awarded to grandparents by the state because of unhealthy living conditions or abuse.

These situations each have their own set of problems that must be dealt with. The good news is, you are not alone, and there is help out there!
If you are a parenting grandparent, a day care provider, or even just helping out with the grandkids for a day or two, It is a wonderful way to connect and make life better for the grandchildren we all love so dearly.

For more information on Grandparenting, check out the links…
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
AARPs Grandparenting website.
National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
The Foundation For Grandparenting

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