All posts by joyce

I'm a recently retired teacher and author. Books available are The Latch: An Acadian Adventure (hard copy and ebook editions) and Animal Talk. Visit my website at joycegrantsmith.com.

Group Therapy

I plan to join a grandparent help group next week.

Generally the idea of sitting in a circle with a bunch of strangers, talking about our feelings, does not really appeal to me.

But I am over my head, in the deep end of the pool, struggling to tread water.  And having a chance to connect with other people who are feeling the same way seems oddly comforting. I guess misery does like company.

I am hoping to find sympathetic ears in this group and maybe some helpful ideas. It gets lonely being in a different demographic than my peers. I have been thrust into a place where I need to interact with young parents (think about birthday parties, play groups, daycare events)and I feel quite out of the loop. Young moms and dads tend to look at me as a bit of an interloper, an unwanted chaperone. At least,  that’s how it seems. Conversations are stilted and brief. Invitations to join them on a park bench as the kids play just don’t happen. I am not part of the cliche.

And my peers find my circumstance a bit daunting. Planning a coffee date or an evening out is not simple for me. I have to plan well in advance, get a sitter, and be home early. Spontaneous shopping trips and glasses of wine aren’t possible for me right now. So I don’t get invited out very often to chat with people my own age.

So I feel a bit like an outcast, and I fear that my grandchild may suffer for that. Will she also be shunned because of our uncommon family situation?

And so, I am hopeful that I will meet other grandparents that experience similar feelings. And maybe we can make our own little community.

Kids Say

Youngsters see the world with fresh eyes and explore language in unique ways to describe what they experience. This post shares some absolutely wonderful preschooler comments and observations.

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Three year old, while painting: What do you get when you mix blue and orange?

Adult: I’m not sure.

Three year old, mixing blue and orange paint and smearing it onto paper: It makes a kind of brown. It looks like diarrhea!

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Preschooler: I know what “foot” starts with. (making the sound of the letter) F-f-f-f . It’s the letter F.

Adult: Cool. And what does it end with?

Preschooler: (Sounding it out) T-t-t-t. Toes!!!

Of course a foot ends with toes!

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Four year old: I want brown rice for supper. But not really dark brown. Not dark like this. (She closed her eyes to show how dark she meant.)

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Granddaughter: I am very fast. I can go one million one thousand.

Grandmother: Wow. That’s fast.

Granddaughter: That’s as old as you are!

 

 

Feeling Sorry

Sometimes I catch myself feeling  self-pity for my situation. It isn’t pretty and it fortunately doesn’t happen too often. But when I get tired it sometimes sneaks up on me. Thoughts of what I had once believed retirement would be – time on my hands, freedom to pursue new pass-times and the luxury to travel – fill my head.

Eventually,  I give my head a shake. “Really?” I ask myself. “You have the privilege of watching your grandchild grow and develop into an amazing person, and this is the fuel for a pity-party?”

Then I think about the women who are in a cruel battle with cancer. About women who have lost their mates or who are nursing them through  a debilitating illness. About women who are trying to rebuild a life after their spouse has decided they are done with the relationship after 25 or thirty years together. About women who have lost a child.

And I thank all the forces of goodness in the universe for making me so very lucky. Oh yeah, I have it  good.

Blessings

I am blessed.

I am blessed to see my grandchild’s smile every day.

I am blessed to give her hugs and to receive her hugs and kisses.

I am blessed to be able to watch as she explores her world and absorbs ideas and knowledge.

I am blessed to hold her tightly when she gets hurt or scared and make her feel safe and loved.

I am blessed to share moments of play and of work with her.

I am blessed to read stories to her.

I am blessed to hear her ideas, theories and observations about the world; she has amazing insights that refresh my thoughts and views.

I am blessed to see her grow and be healthy.

I am blessed to tuck her safely into bed every night.

I am so very blessed.

You’ve Got a Friend

What a wonderful difference a bit of friendship makes when a person is down. After dealing with illness in  our  family for several weeks, I was tired, down-hearted and tired. (Did I mention that I was quite tired???)

A friend who I had seen little of recently,  due to family commitments on both our sides, called me out of the blue and asked to come visit for a couple of days. I warned her about the colds and chaos in our home but she was willing to come anyway.

What a lift it was to see her again. We talked and talked. We reconnected. She brought groceries and helped prepare meals. She did some cleaning and babysitting.

It was an amazing gift to me.  I desperately needed the help but even more-so, I needed the TLC.

I remember an acquaintance telling me about when her children were small. She had five little ones and was struggling to keep up with meals, chores and refereeing. She said she was so grateful when a friend would come to visit and grab the laundry basket as they chatted and fold clothes. The camaraderie was great…the hands-on help doubly great.

Sure, I’m still dealing with the cold and fatigue, but this special friend has given me a much-needed dose of love and laughter. I can’t thank her enough.

Too Old For This

It is going on six weeks and we are still passing a nasty cold bug back and forth. We are up at night, either so stuffed up ourselves that we can’t sleep or dealing with a child who is coughing and sneezing. Often both.

It is hard not to get discouraged. We are so tired. So tired of being sick and tired.

Judging by the number of kids with runny noses at the daycare, there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.

I feel old. Endless, sleepless nights are wearing me down.

Maybe spring will bring us some relief.

So Sick

I have been a bad blogger. I know it has been a while since I wrote. But I have an excuse. (I guess all procrastinating bloggers do) .

Since Christmas we have all had the flu and colds. Six weeks of feeling sick. It is bad enough when one of us is ill. But to try to cope with a sick youngster when you can barely crawl out of bed yourself is not cool.

This happened to us 25 years ago. I remember because our daughter was 3 at the time. My husband and I both came down with the flu. The big difference is that we could call my mom and she was able to take the kids for a day. That, and we were 25 years younger at the time.

This year, we were on our own. We basically worked in shifts – whoever could get out of bed looked after things. Not a pleasant way to get through a week.

We survived though. What choice did we have?

I admire single moms so much. How do they do it? Coping day-to-day must be a huge struggle. And then, when illness hits, how do they manage???

Blessing or Tragedy?

When acquaintances learn of my role as grandMOM, there are two basic reactions. Some people express delight. “Oh, how lucky for both of you. You get to spend those precious moments with your grandchild!”

The other reaction is horror. These people see my responsibility as a huge burden. They pass on sympathy as if I have lost a dear relative or friend. Their angst over my loss of freedom is overwhelming.

The truth of my situation is really a bit of both. True, I don’t have the freedom that an Empty Nester enjoys. I can’t pick up and go have coffee or take a weekend jaunt without pre-planning.  Quite a lot of pre-planning.  And the responsibilities are constantly in my face. Anyone who has raised kids understands the enormity of what their care involves. And unlike other jobs, this one is indeed 24/7.  So it is exhausting. (When I was thirty and raising my family, it was exhausting. Now it is exhausting times 3!)

But, I love spending time with my GD. She is lively and funny, smart and interesting. She’s good company. And now I cannot imagine life without her being my little shadow. I feel thankful and blessed to have her with me.

So it those who are horrified that my life is over, I say, “Oh, it isn’t so bad.” And to those who say, “Aren’t you lucky?” I say, “I am. I’m very tired, but I’m lucky.”

 

Mom Friends

I recently had a young mom complain to me that it seemed hard to be accepted into Mom friend cliques. I sympathized. I can relate. I not only am having a hard time being accepted into any young mom groups (who wants an older woman, a mother figure, at your happy coffee party?) , but I feel I am losing touch with my own generation of friends.

My friends are now middle aged and seniors. Many of them are grandmothers. You know, the grandmothers that have their grandchildren visit for a day or two and they spoil them and feed them too many cookies and then send them home with their parents till the next happy visit.

I have been deprived of being that sort of grandmother. I am the parent. The one who has to say, “No” to another cookie. The one who has to insist on good manners, bath time and healthy eating. The one who stays up nights with a sick child and shops with a cranky child and negotiates endlessly with a wily three year old.

Don’t get me wrong. I am blessed to have this little person in my life and I am so grateful she is with me. But my grammy role is not what I had envisioned it would be.

And because I have this different relationship with my GD (granddaughter) I don’t really fit with my peers. I have to get a babysitter when I want some quiet, chat time with my friends. When people come over to visit, there is a very energetic preschooler tearing around the house, interrupting conversations and looking for attention. Travel has taken on another whole dimension of difficulty, so fun trips with friends rarely happen.

I feel some of my friends drifting away. The exuberance of a preschooler wears on their nerves. My hesitation to make evening plans (“let me see if I can get a sitter”) is irksome. I get it. I understand where they are coming from. They have moved on to the part of their lives where they have some freedom and peace and quiet. Their nests are empty and they are enjoying this phase.

But it is isolating for me at a time when I could use all the help and support I can get.

My doctor told me recently that I don’t fit any demographic. Being the odd one out is not a very comfortable place to be.

Rights

If you are a grandParent you are probably discovering some legal roadblocks to raising your grandchild(ren). Grandparents have very few rights when it comes to their grandchildren. The policy in family services and legal minds is that children belong with their biological parents. And while I agree that children should always have time to connect with their parents, there are cases where being raised by their parents may not be the best scenario for them. If it was a perfect world and parents were always great at nurturing their offspring, we grandParents wouldn’t be in the situation of bringing up a second generation.

The legal stumbling blocks can cause frustrations and challenges. Unless grandparents go to court and win custody of the grandchild(ren) – and by the by, that happens very rarely and is a nasty and expensive endeavour – there are things grandParents are not able to do.

If the child needs medical tests  or surgery, grandParents are not permitted to sign the consent papers. Imagine being in a medical emergency situation and facing that reality!

Obtaining a long birth certificate, which is needed to register a child for school, or a passport, which is needed for travel outside of the country, is fraught with difficulties.

Private health insurance will not include a grandchild unless the grandparent legally adopts the child. The legal hoops you  have to jump through for this are huge, and again very expensive. Most grandparents on pension can’t even begin to think about this. However, should the child need braces, medical procedures not covered by health care, or expensive drugs, the grandparents must find the funds somewhere. (Bye-bye RRSPs.)

Now, if things are co-operative and congenial between the parents and the grandparents, things can be worked out. But if that is not the case, grandParents walk a nervous path. In fact, their ability to care for the child at all comes into question.

Some  areas of the country are working on this issue. Lobby and support groups for grandparents are forming and pressuring the government for change. It is slow going though. In most areas, grandparents are still fighting for the right to visit their grandchildren should things be less than blissful between one or both parents and themselves. Divorce often separates grandchildren from their grandparents, and the grandparents have no legal recourse. There is a very long way to go before grandparents are seen as legal  custodians of their grandchildren.