- Gail Gallagher Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2009 6 Jun
Life holds many surprises, and unexpectedly parenting the second time around is definitely one of those surprises. You have raised your own children and planned to retire, doing the things you enjoy most, but suddenly you're caught by surprise.
Or perhaps you have seen it coming.
Whatever the case may be, your life takes a u-turn and the experience is bittersweet.
More than 2.4 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. This is not only a growing phenomenon here, but it is happening worldwide. It is hard to get one’s mind wrapped around this global epidemic, caused by divorce, teenage pregnancy, drugs, alcohol addiction, incarceration, lack of responsibility of one or both parents or mental illness.
Grandparents who refuse to turn their heads the other way are stepping in and raising their grandchildren. They know that if they don’t reach out to them with a lifeline, the state will reach in and take them.
My husband and I have been there and have learned what it is like to navigate the court system, be at odds with your own loved one, but stay the course to save the children.
We didn’t know where to start or what to do when we saw the writing on the wall. We prayed for guidance because we could not turn our heads when we saw what was happening to our two grandchildren. Isaiah 26:3 kept me focused: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.”
Other grandparents have literally been taken by surprise when their grandchildren were dropped off on their doorstep and were told, “The kids are yours.” Some have had a child die and found they are suddenly parents again. They are stunned and perhaps even disoriented, but through their grief, they know one thing: they love their grandchildren and they will take care of them.
In our particular situation, we saw it coming. Our beautiful daughter was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. We sought Christian counseling for her time and time again, but she refused to comply with the counselors or take her medication.
As a result of not taking her medications and not going to counseling regularly, her life became a series of crises after crises. We prayed for her protection constantly because she continually ignored our authority and the advice of her counselor. She felt she didn’t need any medication, that she was in complete control and she didn’t need anyone’s help.
After two failed marriages, leaving her with two children, she fell into deep depression and began to take her frustrations and anger out on the children. We were extremely concerned, but what could we do? We couldn’t just take the children. After all, grandparents really don’t have any rights, do we? Wrong.
Circumstances escalated to the point where we knew we had to do something. We had to protect the children. We couldn’t look the other way, but we had to be very careful. We couldn’t move too fast, and we couldn’t move too slowly. We prayed for guidance.
We offered to care for the children one weekend. She was delighted and before we knew it, our daughter soon realized she loved her freedom. We had the children for several weeks, during which time we heard nothing from her.
Now was our chance. We hired an attorney who drew up temporary custody orders. The children were finally in a safe haven.
This was only the beginning of the custody battle. We had no idea what was before us. All we knew was that we were committed to the children and to their safety. We continued to scale obstacle after obstacle, eventually winning custody and finally adopting them.
We deeply love our daughter, and we take heart in knowing that whether she sees it now or not, we are doing for her what she is not able to do for herself.
Many full time grandparent caregivers are experiencing similar circumstances but think that they are the only ones going through it. They are not alone. Many grandparents caring for grandchildren are single and living on welfare. Some are caring for toddlers, or others may be caring for several siblings at a time. Then there are others who are in ill health or who have had to go back to work. There are resources available, but in many cases, what is available is not enough.
If you are raising your grandchildren and it is no easy task, do not lose heart. You are among America’s heroes, doing for your children what they cannot do for themselves. You are saving your children’s children. Rest in the comfort of Psalms 31:14, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” Yes, our times are in the hands of a faithful father who works all things out according to the counsel of his own will.
Resources for Grandparents:
Gail Gallagher is a freelance writer, having written for family magazines and Adoption Today. She has written Christianity Today International's column, Grandparent's Corner and has been the past Texas Regional Director for International Fellowship. She attended Abilene Christian University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She has taught ladies Bible classes and seminars and children's Bible classes for many years. Her book Grandparents Winning Custody of Grandchildren by Pale Horse Publishing is due for release in July 2009. Gail resides in Texas with her husband Neil. They have two biological children and three adopted, one from India.