Another great post by Kathie Campbell Greer–author, counselor, custodial grandparent. This one made my heart hurt.
It was my 50th birthday. I answered the doorbell to find my younger daughter, and her second son. Blonde, blue-eyed, he was wearing a cap, shorts, a t-shirt and carrying a small backpack.
My daughter, not yet diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was frantic and emotional. “I’ve tried, Mom, but I just can’t deal with him. His dad can’t take him. If you don’t want him, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
The words squeezed my heart, sending a lump to my throat. I pushed aside the emotion that threatened to overcome me as I looked at my grandson. He’d seen and heard more than enough of that in his short eight years on this earth.
The boy’s domicile had changed more than a dozen times. The face of his primary caretaker had changed only slightly less. The counselor, whose sessions I paid for, had told me that there was no bond between my daughter and her son. Even worse, the constant changes had resulted in Z’s development of an attachment disorder.
But there he stood: a bright, innocent child who—for all practical purposes—was facing the world alone.
“Yes,” I said. “I want him. But this is his final stop.” And before the day’s end I had papers signed and notarized by both parents naming me as custodial guardian.
My life and Z’s changed that day. He was my new priority. I was at every school and recreational activity. We made meals together, shared chores and we talked. But when it came to affection, he wanted none of it.
Several months passed, and we settled into a routine. One afternoon when I picked him up after school he seemed unusually quiet. After a few failed attempts to get him to talk, I gave up.
We were through the front door and I was almost into the next room when he finally spoke. “Did you mean what you said,” he asked.
I stopped, slightly panicked. “I always try to mean what I say. Can you tell me what I said that you’re wondering about?”
“The day you said you wanted me. Did you mean it?”
Tears filled my eyes before I could halt them. “Yes. Beyond any doubt I wanted you then and I want you now.”
He ran toward me so fast that I was frightened, but the arms that locked me in a tight hug brought immediate relief. We cried, I covered him with kisses and we both laughed.
That day was a breakthrough–for both of us. I felt truly encouraged for the first time since he’d come to live with me. For him, the fears and worries he’d brought with him began to evaporate.
No, all the difficulties didn’t disappear. But we had a solid foundation of love that we could build upon.
Sometimes breakthroughs with grandchildren are huge, and sometimes so small they might be missed. But all of them are important to the children entrusted to our care. Celebrate every one of them.
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