Becoming a Grace-ful Grand
by DEB DEARMOND
“IT’S IN THE WEE HOURS when my defenses are down that my heart breaks all over again,” Sandy says, explaining how the absence of her grandson, Charlie, affects her. “Being without him is tough.”
When Sandy’s son and his wife ended their marriage, she and her husband, Mark, were concerned about their relationship with their sweet 4-year-old grandson. Their daughter-in-law and Charlie stayed with them as the couple sorted out their legal issues.
And then they were gone.
Without much fanfare, Charlie and his mom moved out and terminated the relationship with Sandy and Mark. Even the simple effort of dropping Charlie’s Christmas gift at his mom’s workplace created drama and hurt when Sandy was ordered off the property by the desk attendant.
Unfortunately, their story is familiar for grandparents around the world. When the family splinters, grandparents find themselves on the outside praying for a few sweet moments with a much-loved grandchild.
Divorce can create disruption between grandparents and their grandkids. But it’s a longer list than you might imagine:
- A rebellious or prodigal child may punish his parents by withholding the grandchildren.
- A strained relationship between you and your child’s spouse can be an issue.
- The stress of seeing your grandchildren raised in an environment you find unsafe, unhealthy, or chaotic can be difficult. Your comments may put you on the “no visit” list.
- Grandchildren are sometimes used to extract something of value from the grandparents in exchange for time together.
Jade and her husband, Raul, do see their grandkids on occasion, but they have little input or insight as to when that might occur.
“When my son and his wife need something — money or baby-sitting — they come around. They use the kids as bargaining chips. We can see them if we give them something in return. It’s painful, but we put up with it in order to be a part of our grandchildren’s lives.”
- Another factor is that your children may choose to raise their children differently than you raised yours. Technology often prompts such differences.
“I am being shut out, but I have figured it’s more my children’s rearing techniques than anything else,” said Leo. “I was brought up to answer older, wiser folks with a card and a note attached. This was in the ’40s and ’50s when we didn’t have computers.” But the kids all have them today. It’s easy for grandparents to feel left out.
“I have no interest in texting, so I get left off of the radar.”
“My son wanted me to sign up for FaceTime so we could chat on the Internet face to face. Call me on the phone and visit if you want to see my face.”
- And children are busier than ever. School, church, sports, and other activities keep their parents on the run. There may be little time left for visits with grandparents.
So what’s a grandparent to do? Treat it with a little G-R-A-C-E.
GIVE IT TO GOD. “I try to focus on thoughts that are calming,” Sandy shared. “And I let go of the ones that bring fear. Sometimes I even write down the thoughts that bring fear, anger, or worry and ask God for a replacement thought or verse of Scripture.” First Peter 5:7 is a great place to start: “Casting all your cares on Him, because He cares about you.” Surrender to
His comfort by giving it to Him. Keep God as your first love, and let Him fill the void as only He can.
RECHARGE YOURSELF. Sorrow, as Sandy experienced, can drain us, bringing loneliness and even depression into the lives of forgotten grandparents. “Charlie brought such joy to our home. I had to learn to live a new normal,” Sandy remarked. She focused on exercise and good nutrition and was patient with herself as she recharged her emotional batteries. She also selected activities that restored her spiritually.
Sandy continued, “Time with friends who have experienced something similar gave me comfort. Among the shared words of wisdom was that peace and joy are still possible, even if you do not get to see a beloved grandchild for many years.”
ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS. When our children become adults, with families of their own, we become guests in their lives. The way your grandchildren are raised may be different from the way you raised your own. Different is not always wrong; it’s just different. If you insist on measuring their parenting using yourself as the measuring stick, they’ll always come up short. Raising kids is tough. Pray for your grandchildren and their parents. As difficult as this truth may be, we play second fiddle in this band, but the music can still be sweet.
COMMUNICATE! Do it often and without judgment. Call frequently. Send notes, cards, and photographs. Keep at it, even if they go unanswered. Do what you can, and let God manage the results. Avoid putting grandkids in an awkward position by asking about mommy and daddy or blaming their parents for missing time together. Keep adult issues between adults.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. Paper and pen may be your preference, but computers, texting, and social media are tops with today’s kids. My 83-year-old mother-in-law is computer savvy. She knows what’s going on in the life of her kids, grandkids, and great-grands by following their activities. She prays for them as she is part of their everyday lives.
Sandy holds to this hope: “Ask God what you can do, do that, and let the rest of it go.”
DEB DEARMOND is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and speaker, Deb focuses on topics related to family and women. She is author of Related by Chance, Family by Choice. She is co-founder of My Purpose Now (mypurposenow.org), a website devoted to Christian women 50+. Read Deb at Family Matters/Deb DeArmond (debdearmond.com/).
This article originally appeared in the September, 2014 of Mature Living. Subscribe.