Life is always providing us with opportunities to be of service, self-improve, choose to be a victim of circumstances—what a plethora of experiences we get to entertain. It’s quite fascinating if we can see it that way.
Seniors are more or less categorized as folks who are retired, have freedom to come and go as they please, spend leisurely days playing golf, bridge or checking off the latest and best movies. This may or may not be a myth in your life. Many seniors don’t have the resources to travel and exercise their “freedom.” The “golden years” don’t feel very “golden.”
There is also the percentage of seniors who not only have become grandparents, but have found themselves in the parenting role because of circumstances. In fact, according to U.S. census data, grandparents raise 6% of our nation’s children. That’s a lot of children—4.5 million to be exact. And they say these numbers are on the rise.
Research from the Grandparent Information Center gives us knowledge as to why there are so many children in the U.S being raised by grandparents and other relatives. The reasons are as follows: parents with drug and alcohol problems, mental illness, incarceration, death of a parent, poverty, divorce, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, or domestic violence. Military deployment is also a reason that grandparents are called to step in and raise their grandchildren.
How have parents become so alienated from themselves that they turn to drugs and alcohol to fill the emptiness within? What acts of injustice did they perform that found themselves sleeping on a jail cot? What beliefs did they acquire from childhood that led them to a state of poverty? How unwilling were they to learn and integrate skills of communication to work on their marriage? How unaware were they to realize abuse is never the answer? How troubled and in pain were these teens who felt they had nobody to turn to or trust for support or love?
If you have found yourself stepping into the unexpected role of a parent, are you giving that child the love, time and attention he/she needs? You do have a choice, even though it may not look like it. You do have free will and always have options, even though it may not look like it. You always have the choice to make lemonade with lemons, or to resist every step of the way. Sure it’s a big job—huge in fact. Sure you had other plans. Sure it wasn’t something that fit into your ideal scene when you became a grandparent. So what? Give yourself some time for self-pity and express your resentment and guilt for feeling resentful through writing or to a responsible friend or partner who can truly “get it” without judgment. Then move on. Embrace what life has offered you and grow from it. Make certain your grandchild has the emotional stability that his/her parent most likely lacked.
Be the role model for that child. Be understanding, compassionate, kind, patient, tolerant, and be the one with the values that that child will build his/her foundation upon. Set boundaries for you and the child. Most of all, be absolutely, unconditionally loving to the child and to yourself. You have been given a gift through this experience. Bless it, learn from it and be the inspiration for others.