My favorite Jewish friend recent shared this Yiddish saying of how we can carefully plan but life can often be unpredictable. There have been several times in my life where I plan for something and at the last minute, I stand by shaking my head just to watch my carefully laid plan unravel thread by thread…
For the last 10 years of my career, I planned for a carefree retirement with the right combination of being on track financially, physically and emotionally. I planned to maintain a regular exercise schedule, I planned to take on volunteer roles in my church and community. My husband and I planned to travel several times a year to locations I plotted out on Google maps. But God had other plans that now include permanent guardianship of my 7 year old grandson and with that, all my previously well laid plans have jumped out a window…
I recently joined a support group for grandparents who are retired and raising one or more of their grandchildren. As we went around the room introducing ourselves with only our first names, we shared a bit about the circumstances that landed us sitting together in a circle on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon instead of checking something off on a retirement bucket list
As I listened and on occasion cried, I found myself wondering about what all these people planned to be doing at this stage in their lives. Did they fund their 401k contributions each week hoping for exotic vacations? Did they dream of a second home in Arizona or maybe in Tuscany? Did they plan to buy a motor home and hit the road? Did they dream about sleepovers and vacations with all their grandchildren? Things I don’t think they wished for were to toilet train a three year old, or to teach a teen how to drive or to struggle with their own aging issues while parenting a grandchild with significant trauma related issues. Or dealing with the never ending drama with their own child who for whatever reason has horribly failed as a parent. Or a parents worst nightmare, taking custody of your grandchild because your child is deceased
As this is now my new reality, I’ve been looking at various articles published about grandparents as parents. There seems to be two faces of these grandparents, the outside face of hey, everything is great and I’m happy I could step up and help my grandchild and the real side that few people see, the, this is a nightmare that never ends, I’m depressed, I feel isolated, I’ve lost my identity….side. If I’m being honest, I have experienced both sides from time to time. The hardest part is when you have several other grandchildren who now don’t get Gramma alone…because Gramma needs to put the grandchild living with her the priority. He doesn’t have a mommy and daddy and that’s hard for the other kids to understand at times.
The small victories help keep me going, the successful IEP meetings, watching him make new friends, his being able to sleep through the night without every light on…and knowing that the structured schedule, stability and unconditional love is making a difference and will help him heal from the trauma he’s suffered.
I feel fortunate to live in a state where there is there a Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and real live people who answer emails and return phone calls. And even an all day Grandparents Conference planned with guest speakers and resources and of course the support groups. I’m also fortunate to have strong family support, the most important being my husband who parents with me every single day.
Along this new journey I’ve met some wonderful people who when faced with heart wrenching situations have managed to bravely take on what was thrown their way. They are the helpers our much missed and beloved Mr Rogers talked about that I’ll seek out because even in the midst of their own challenges, they give back to others…always answering questions and giving advice to the folks who never planned to be in this situation.
I’ll continue to plan, as I’ve always been a planner….you can ask my kids about my obsession with color coding…and I’m hoping God doesn’t laugh…what are the odds?