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Friday, September 19, 2008

He Calls Me_______?

It is no big secret that I am raising my grandchild. I suppose I am not too different from the many other grandparents raising grandchildren these days. It is sadly a growing trend. What does make me a little different is that I am still raising my own young children while raising my grandson.

When we first went to pick up my grandson he was four months old. He and his mother had been living with us most of those four months and only recently at that time moved to a different state. I don’t think it was more than 3-4 weeks before we got the call begging us to come get him. We thought then it would only be for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months at most. It has now been over 18 months and he is getting ready to celebrate his 2nd birthday in two months.

At first I called myself “Grandma” as that is who I am…or am I? This is where things get complicated, for him and us. We are all he really knows. He hasn’t seen his mother in 18 months. Being four months old when he last saw her, he really can’t have much memory of her, can he? I had always hoped and still do, that he would some day be reunited with his own mother , my daughter. Out of respect for her, and wanting to keep the boundaries clear, I kept myself “Grandma.” It worked, for a while.

At this point I still call myself Grandma, but he calls me many things; Ma-Ma, Mum-Mum, Oma, Mom, and….Mommy. Poor kid is confused, he hears me calling myself Grandma and reminding him that’s who I am, yet he hears his three uncles who he must see more as brothers call me Mom, or Mommy. Why he wonders can’t he too call me “Mommy?” You can see the look of disappointment on his face when I correct him. I quit correcting him recently, yet I still call myself…Grandma. How much longer this is going to work, I can’t say.

See, these are the things that don’t get thought about by parents asking their own parents to raise their children, either temporarily or longer. These are the things that don’t get talked about much. These are the things that get complicated and confusing when raising children that aren’t your own. When does the need of the child/grandchild become greater than the needs of the parent no longer raising that child? I love my daughter, and hope she can overcome the things she needs to in order to have her child with her, but in the meanwhile, what about him? What about us? What about my children who wonder if any day this nephew/brother of theirs could be ripped away from us?

We try and keep and respect boundaries, we try and keep our daughters feelings in mind when making decisions regarding her son, but who is thinking of his feelings, or even ours? I want him to know who his mom is and look forward to the day I can be Grandma, just Grandma, but what if that day never comes?

These questions have run deep for me for sometime now, but just the other day it really hit me. He was calling for me from his crib, and he went through the list of names, trying to get the right one to get my attention….Mum-Mum, Ma-Ma, Mom, then clear as day and quite deliberate…”Mommy” First like any parent it just melted my heart, “Mommy.” Isn’t that the day we all long for? To hear our child call us “Mommy?” But, I am not Mommy…or am I?
Who or what is a “Mommy”? Is it who gave birth to you and only pays parenthood lip service? Isn’t it, shouldn’t it be who gets up with you in the middle of the night when your tummy aches? Isn’t it who wipes the tears from your eyes and kisses your “owie” when you fall? Isn’t it who cheers you on as you take those first steps? Shouldn’t it be the one whose heart just melts at the sound of your sweet voice uttering the very word “Mommy?”

I really wish people would grow up and give a thought to their actions and how it effects others, especially when those others are innocent children, and those who are left there to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. It seems there are many out there who want the glory of the title “Mommy” but don’t want the work that comes with it. There are many who want their rights as parents to be protected even when they aren’t doing the job of parent. What about the right of your child to have the joy of calling the only caregiver they know “Mommy? What about the right of a child to have a clear sense of belonging? Rights, rights, rights, I hear so much talk of rights these days, everyone has them, even criminals have them. It seems to me, the only ones without rights are the innocent children who most deserve them.

In our very small church of only 30-40 in average attendance, there are currently three of us raising grandchildren. There would be four, but one family just moved away. This is just a small representation of the bigger picture of the many, many grandparents raising grandchildren. Yet, I have yet to meet or even talk to anybody else like me, raising their own children while raising grandchildren. IT really does present it’s own set of issues. I also have yet to meet anyone else who has been raising their grandchildren since infancy . I am sure there are more out there, but I have yet to hear from or about them. If you are one of them, I’d love to hear from you, please email or leave a comment.


The Cooking Lady said...

Please...this is no disrespect to your daughter but to a generation in general.

I have raised my daughter(Soon to be 15, whom we homeschool) not to be Betty Crocker...Ready to Spread Frosting. I love that analogy, and my daughter does as well.

My mother NEVER talked to me about the ramifications of premarital sex. I have broken that cycle with me and my daughter. And yes, there are times that I have to think before I open my mouth, for I know the graphic way to explain something, but I want my daughter to understand the consequences of having unwed sex.

She has seen her uncle and what is going on in that house and that he is nowhere acting like a father. His son is nearly 17 months old and he has never changed a diaper. His mother, my mother-in-law(Who is a saint of a woman. Yes I was blessed with great in-laws) watches his son while he sleeps during the day, due to the fact he works until the wee hours of the morning. But when he wakes up he does not go and retrieve his child. Why not. Who's the father? Not him.

You for whatever reason or description you want to call it is his mother. I am guessing your daughter walked away from any and all responsibility of this child. Did she give you a time frame as to when she may fix her life? All the while he is learning that you are his Ma-ma, Moe-Moe, Mommy, pick a name...any name. Let him call you Mommy, and especially if it does not bother you. If and when she decides to come back then you can explain things.

I would not hide the truth from him, tell him who you are and as delicately as you can explain your story about his mother.

I know that my sister-in-law is infuriated when her own son runs to his grandmother before her, but she is the one who chooses to leave him in her care for 50 hours a week. His own father does not even watch him.

And what is sadder for many families in your predicament, is that many are raising their grandchildren and still raising their own family and now the parents are getting older.

My heart aches for those families. This is not an easy decision and I will send good thoughts your way on what the right choice is. But is there a right choice.

My apologies for such a long comment, but this was a heavy subject!

William Cooney said...

While I personally have no experience in this regard, I do have a brother - and sister-in-law - who have been raising a grandchild now just beginning high school. He has brought them immense joy.

So, in the event you remain the guardian of your grandchild for the foreseeable future, know that the rewards may certainly outweigh the drawbacks.

What you are doing is commendable.