This is the story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down (*sung in my Will Smith voice*). My life instantly changed once I agreed to raise my three young grandchildren. Kinship care came with a few challenges as well as many rewards.
At the prime age of 43, I was retired and my youngest was in school. I was a stay-at-home mom with no kids to watch. My days were lost in books, catching up on 20 years of lost naps, and securing my title as a shopaholic diva. I was living my best, albeit lazy, life.
Then, plot twist.
A frantic call one late September night changed everything. The woman on the other end of the phone was crying and pleading with my husband. She wanted–she needed–our three young grandchildren to come live with us. The desperation in her voice was enough. We didn’t hesitate to say yes. We made the 20-hour turn-and-burn trip that weekend.
I knew kinship care was going to impact my life. I just didn’t realize how much. It wasn’t until the first night I had my grandchildren that it really sunk in. I will be raising three young children–ages 12 months, 5, and 6–in addition to my own four school-aged children. We didn’t have enough beds. What would the financial cost be? I need to figure out how to juggle watching a toddler, writing, and working during the day–and quickly. These thoughts hit me like a semi-truck racing a yellow light in our lovely Albuquerque rush hour traffic.
It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.
I knew everything was going to work itself out. It always does and it did. First, there were a few challenges to tackle.
The initial challenge presented itself that first night. It threw back its ugly head and let out a loud, evil laugh. Then it cruelly pointed out just how rusty I was when it came to toddlers, especially ones not yet potty trained.
I was rusty.
However, I quickly relearned how to care for someone entirely dependent upon me. The first thing I tackled was figuring out how to get the little night owl to sleep. It took over four hours that first night. That wouldn’t have been so bad if she didn’t insist on raising with the morning sun. Oh, how I did not miss those late nights and early mornings!
I immediately surrendered my sleep in this new life. Kinship Care Challenge: 1, Grandma: 0. Goodbye, sleeping through the night. Sleeping past 8 o’clock was something I could only dream about now. I instantly became a mombie.
I traded my lazy days of books and Starbucks for toddler tunes and Goldfish crackers. Lunch became a thing again . . . and I was making. Get up and go was now a foreign concept.
Spontaneous outings were no longer a part of my new life. Planning errands became necessary now that it wasn’t just me, myself, and I. Errands now revolve around naptime, lunchtime, and school pick-ups. There is no more grab my purse and go.
Now, it’s grab the diaper bag and go. Except it’s more like pack the diaper bag. Check the diaper bag. Check my granddaughter doesn’t need a diaper change. Ensure everyone tries to go the bathroom. Make sure everyone has shoes . . . on the right feet. Then grab the diaper bag and go. Oh, and don’t forget the purse.
Kinship care is expensive!
I have six kids, so I already know how expensive a large family is. I was prepared to adjust my budget to accommodate the extended household. However, I wasn’t ready for the initial cost of getting them settled.
My grandchildren came to us with two small backpacks full of clothes. Unfortunately, everything was either too small, ripped, or badly stained. Everyone needed new clothes and new shoes. I also had to buy furniture, school supplies, toiletries, and toys. I easily spent half my monthly income within the first few days of their arrival getting them the basics. The shopaholic gods would’ve been proud of me.
I’m proud of myself too. No, not for maintaining my self-proclaimed title of a shopaholic diva. (Although I do wear that crown proudly.) Rather for not feeling some type of way about spending so much money so quickly. It thrilled me to know that I’m providing my grandchildren with the things they need. I happily traded my Starbucks and books for diapers and Goldfish.
I’m not going to lie though. I wasn’t initially excited about all the changes kinship care brought to my life. I missed my leisure time and my independence. Resentment reared its ugly head. I begrudged the parents for the situation. Why didn’t other family members step up? I resented the new day-to-day responsibility that was my new life.
I was disgusted with myself for having these feelings. After doing some research, I found out that they were natural. My life did just drastically change, after all. I had to acknowledge my emotions and move on. Once I did that, I thoroughly enjoyed the rewards of raising my grandchildren.
Kinship care is incredibly rewarding.
My grandchildren absolutely adore me, which is a nice change from my indifferent teenagers. They run up to me and yell, “Grandma!” when they see me. (Who wouldn’t love their own little cheering squad?) They cuddle and hug and don’t cringe when I want to hold their hand. They make me feel young again, except when I’m helping them with math homework. (Common core math just makes me feel stupid, haha).
Seeing my grandchildren discover new things is one of the best feelings. My five-year-old grandson learned to ride his bike with us. My six-year-old grandson conquered most of the reading sight words with my help. I taught my granddaughter where her nose is and new words. All these experiences were possible because of the daily interaction I have with my grandchildren.
Also, it feels good to provide my grandchildren with things they didn’t have. However, the biggest reward is the feeling of immense satisfaction knowing my grandchildren are in a safe, nurturing, stable, and loving home.
A whole new world.
How many of you sang that? I find myself singing and dancing to a lot of kid tunes now. I like this new life of kinship care. None of my old life pleasures could compete with the joy and rewards of raising my grandchildren.