The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
There’s a growing army of men and women today, most of whom think, “Whew! Now that I’m done with raising my kids, I can have some time for myself!” who find themselves back in the parenting business. They are the middle-aged men and women who are raising their children’s children. Willingly, reluctantly, or with irritation and reservation, they are the parents who are doing it the second time around.
The numbers of grandparents who are raising their children’s children has increased by almost 100% in the past quarter of a century. Why the increase? Like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse you read about in the book of Revelation, there are four factors which have swept across planet earth in the past generation–drugs, desertion, broken homes, and death. The news comes with a phone call that a college girl is pregnant, or a call from the coroner’s office after a traffic accident, or a bad situation. For one mother the experience began after her daughter’s two-year old picked up enough drugs off the floor and ingested them that he was unconscious for two days. “That’s enough!” she cried out, getting a court order to take the little guy into her home.
The second-time-around parents fall into three categories: (1) Those who have custodial care, hopefully for a short while until a daughter or son can get his life together and take over. (2) Those who are day-time caregivers, the ones who can say, “I’ve seen the light of Rome, I’ve seen the lights of Paris, but the lights I like to see the most, are the tail lights of the car taking my grandchildren home. (3) And those whose plans for the future are on hold, and their world suddenly becomes disoriented. They have the task of raising their grandchildren.
As one grandmother put it, “Anyone who says they don’t feel resentment is lying.” While most grandparents, especially grandfathers, are reluctant, kids do much better in the home of grandparents than in a single parent home, especially when that single mom or dad is irresponsible or incapable of meeting the needs of a child. The security and love that grandparents give makes a healthier, happier, and more secure child, and that’s worth sacrificing for.
Raising grandchildren can be heart-wrenching, frustrating, and exhausting, but it can also be extremely rewarding for those who can work through their frustration and accept the fact that God can indeed use them to make a difference in the life of a grandchild.
Successful second-time-arounders believe God is still in control, and that He will be their source of strength and help, and that their sacrifice is well worth it to salvage the child who had nothing to do with the chaos that resulted in his being cast aside on the slagheap of parental failure or tragedy.
As the number of second-time-arounders has grown, social services, churches, and civic groups have stepped up to the plate to provide what assistance they can; however, the major challenge which faces most grandparents who raise their grandchildren is financial. There simply isn’t enough money to cover all the bases.
My hat is off to the growing army of grandparents who with loving arms and hearts, change diapers, go to back-to-school nights, and shepherd grandchildren through the teen years. God must indeed have a special reward for them. If a cup of cold water given to a little one is to be rewarded as Jesus said it would be, surely those who raise their children’s children will hear the Father say, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of these little ones, you have done it unto me!” Indeed.
Resource reading: 1 Samuel 1:21-27.