In 2016 I received the word from my unmarried troubled 21-year old daughter who lived with me, that she was pregnant. I was too young to be a grandma and she was too young and immature to become a mother. I discussed all of the options with her and she had made the decision with her boyfriend that they would have the child. I made it very clear in no uncertain terms that they would need to live outside of my house and that I would not raise my grandchild. They assured me I would never have too.
My beautiful granddaughter was born in November 2016 and I was there for her birth. I was madly in love with this darling beauty immediately. My daughter pleasantly surprised me as did her boyfriend, they were actually good parents. They were responsible during the pregnancy, they went to Lamaze classes, moved into their own apartment, made all of their OBGYN appointments, stayed in school, and completed a degree after the baby was born. I was loving being a grandmother and visiting them every other weekend (it was a 3-hour drive away) things were finally feeling like my daughter was going to be okay. Then it all changed.
At first, I noticed the little things, a messy house, and tensions between my daughter and her boyfriend. Soon things escalated to my daughter never being home when I called and her boyfriend always being with the baby. It progressed to my daughter losing her job and being evicted. My daughter had a substance abuse problem…meth to be specific. I took my granddaughter more and tried to manage the situation but ultimately ended up bringing my granddaughter home to live with me.
It took some finagling on my part because her parents were not readily going to hand her over. I had to convince them (which is hard with people on drugs and paranoia). They were living in a car and rarely would call me or answer my calls or tell me where they were. When they did answer I had to stay calm and I told them I would like to take her home until they got things on track. I had to convince them to meet up with me. My granddaughter had no clothing and was in her last diaper and filthy from living in a car. They finally agreed to meet me in a Walmart parking lot of all places. I had only hours to get there and get her before they changed their minds and not show up, and I was not toddler ready at my house by any means. All five of our children were finally out of the house and my husband and I were supposed to be in the empty nest phase of our life.
Once my daughter handed her over, I went straight into that Walmart and bought her milk, clothes, diapers, wipes, bottles, and everything I could think of that she would need immediately.
When I got her home, I held her tight and finally had the emotional breakdown that had been on its way for a while… She was safe!
My daughter on the other hand was not, but she is an adult and made choices and wasn’t listening to me at all. My focus was and remains on my granddaughter.
I remained optimistic, hoping my daughter would come to her senses, but things only got worse.
This didn’t happen to people like me, I was a good mother, she had a mother and a father, she had every opportunity, she was smart and gifted…what happened? I am not sure I will ever know or understand.
I really believed that this would be temporary, but as time progressed I realized it wasn’t. My grandchild was calling me mom, we were already bonded, and the bond was growing daily. I worked full time, so I had to find her daycare and start paying for daycare all over again. I put her on my health insurance so that I could get her immunizations current. Which meant I had to get a copy of her birth certificate and social, all hard to do when she isn’t legally my child and her parents aren’t available and have lost ALL of their belongings. I had to pursue legal guardianship, which I did. Our youngest son is severely Autistic, so I kind of knew the ropes on how to get the guardianship started because I had just done his conservatorship. Tons of paperwork to do, lots of steps, and I won’t bore you with the monotonous details but it was a huge pain in the ass, all while working full time and having a toddler. The Guardianship was granted and I got the documents I needed. She was about 1 year behind with all of her important immunizations. I got her a primary doctor and got her squared away.
She was sleeping through the night, eating well, and talking more, and we started and completed potty training. I was a mom all over…
Sometimes it was hard, a lot of times I was angry at my daughter, but I was also blessed, how many grandmas got this much time with their grandchild? It was all very bittersweet.
When I started to realize that my daughter and her boyfriend were codependent and feeding each other’s dysfunctions was when my husband and I had to start having some serious conversations. We talked about us adopting her, we talked about family plans with others in our family, we looked it at all angles. My husband is 10 years older than me, and we wanted to be grandparents, not parents again, we wanted selfishly the pure joy of grandparenting and none of the disciplining. I wanted to spoil her and love her up. I was struggling with that balance with a terrible two-stage. I was grandma, so I was spoiling her because I knew the backstory and was trying to make up for it. I also however had to be the mom, and create routines and teach her right from wrong, and I wanted her to be a well mannered little girl.
Statistically, 2.6 million grandparents in the United States are raising their grandchildren. There is a drug crisis in our country and it is robbing children of a very beneficial family structure, and that is having parents and grandparents. When grandparents step in and become the parent, it shifts the whole family dynamic, for everyone. Starting all over has impacted me financially as well as physically, people my age aren’t supposed to be chasing around a toddler all day. There are very limited resources for grandparents available currently. Grandparents need support, they are dealing with the grief of their child’s choices and the struggle of raising children all over again.
Of course as responsible adults, we step in and assist with our grandchildren. We advocate for them with their parents and through the courts. We do everything in our power to keep them out of the foster care system; because once they are in the foster care system, grandparents have to advocate for their own rights to maintain the relationship with their grandchildren.
You are walking a fine line when you start seeing the issues arising in your grandchild’s home life. Until something is done legally you are at the mercy of their parents and the parents have all of the rights, they can eliminate you from your grandchild’s life if they so see it. Stay calm and stay strong, there are others of us who have been through it and are here to help.