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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

POST III: Santa Claus & Elves, 21st Century Style

(Re-use of a previous blog entry from a previous blog.)

Quite some time ago, way back in 2002, on an early Saturday morning in early December, I took my husband to the commuter train station. My granddaughter, all of three years, woke up and toddled out as we left the house. Rather than leaving her to the supervision of her mother, which was no supervision at all, I scooped her up, put on her coat, loaded her into her car seat, and took her with us.

We made the train with time to spare. I needed to hit an ATM for the day's cash purchases, so this child and I drove through a main thoroughfare of our rather large suburb.

The ATM in question is still, to this day, located in the front of a hardware of some vintage. The lights and fandangles from the Christmas tree window display, as well as the thin layer of snow on the parking lot, twinkled in the dawn.

It didn't occur to me the child was also viewing the scene. "Where's Ho-Ho?" she asked, her name for Santa. I replied, "In the back." She asked, "Is this the North Pole?" I replied, "No, just one of Santa's many branch offices located in better cities throughout the world."

So started Santa's unintentional sponsorship and lease agreement with Ace Hardware for his branch office in Kane County, in the western suburbs of Chicago.

In the 5 years that have followed, the children have asked me more questions about Santa, the elves, distribution of presents throughout the world, the reindeer, their likes and dislikes, and most recently, how elves die. (They don't. They retire to the Keys, Boca and several Caribbean islands. They do, however, hold dual US and either German or Dutch citizenship, and travel the globe, free of Christmas responsibilities. They eventually become smaller and smaller, microscopic, until nobody can see them.)

There are a minority of parents who do not appreciate fairy tales and folklore. They have their reasons for not liking the Jolly Old Elf. They feel Santa detracts from the message of Jesus' birth, which is, after all, the true meaning of Christmas. Santa should not get credit for presents the parents chose with great care. Santa is morbidly obese and a bad example, eating all those cookies and pawning the carrots off on the reindeer. Santa is the corruption of a saint, Nicholas. Santa has become a god of commercialism.

They can have their beliefs. They can send their children to school or out to play, carefully loaded with the facts on what is to them an archaic form of childhood, now so outmoded that it should be a crime for children to be told such lies.

Santa is not a fairy tale as long as there is one living person who believes in him and is willing to assist him in his work. I believe in Santa. I support his work.

I am his network engineer.

At least three times a year, I am transported to the North Pole, where I perform maintenance on Santa's servers, including changing and upgrading. Santa runs a Linux shop, with Ubuntu on the elves' boxes except in the print shop, where the elves run Leopard on Macs (they betaed it, of course). My friend Jeff designed the LAN and WAN, but I do the maintenance. One can never trust elves to do much with a computer, especially not servers. Elves are horrendous end-users, worse than customer service reps. For minor repairs, I either send out imaged machines or I use good old Citrix to repair by remote control.

The Naughty List is kept on its own server, in a PeopleSoft database. It is backed-up every hour. Yes, that is THE PeopleSoft, with Oracle.

Santa has a Blackjack, an iPhone and a Blackberry- just in case. The designs for Bluetooth earpiece products were based on the necessity to fit elves' pointed ears.

Santa used to make the run with a sleigh that was overburdened with presents, causing the many reindeer who pulled it (62, not 8 or 9) to strike for better working conditions. This caused Santa to adopt a JIT (Just In Time) model of service that included a plan for underway replenishment on December 24th throughout the world. He developed it with ISO (9001.52, exclusively for the North Pole), with the British and United States Navies as consultants.

Reindeer, in their union contract, are entitled to breaks every 4 hours. They are not forced to eat Santa's leftover carrots, but are replenished with high-quality Reindeer Chow by Purina, and bottled water. Reindeer are home-ported throughout the world. One of those places is Walter Peyton's Roundhouse in Aurora, IL, where the deer enjoy the courtyard and dine on hops and barley during their stay for the holiday season. Rudolph does not really pull the sleigh, but is spokesdeer Rudloph J. Reindeer IV. Reindeer do die, but have generous life insurance and benefits package for their survivors. Reindeer are not turned into venison- That's just plain old deer in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Elves are a peculiar race that reproduces by sneeze. Yes, if a Mommy Elf, or Melf, and a Daddy Elf, or Delf, sneeze in each other's proximity, there will eventually be a Baby Elf, or Belf. They must be married in order for this to happen- unlike humans. This is why married elves work in separate divisions, and do their sneezing at home on their own time. Santa is an equal opportunity employer. Melfs and Gelfs (girl elves) prefer the dress outift with tights, that's all.

Elves have this dreadful habit of trying to turn almost anything into a toy or present. Don't give them money, of any denomination, from any country, coin or bill. They will eat coins, and fold money into toys using origami techniques. Santa's plumbers have an incentive plan beyond union scale.

Elves should never eat pickles. They cannot handle sour food, and spit them at each other. For their health's sake, elves must have gingerbread cookies three times a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year (366 in leap years). Elves are bored with gingerbread by the time they are 106. That's about the time they start to take Centrum for Elves. Elves cannot drink carbonated beverages. It makes them float uncontrollably, until the carbonation wears off.

Elves' insurance plans only list AFLAK as an option, just the same as the reindeer benefits package. The AFLAK duck does not work for Santa. That's just a commercial. Some elves are independent gift contractors and have HSAs, just like Grandpa. Elves and reindeer pay income taxes to the United States, although they hold dual citizenship. Santa tried to create the North Pole operation into a not-for-profit 403(b), but no dice from the IRS. The elves contribute to Social Security and Medicare, but because they don't die, place a real drain on it. Reindeer counter this effect.

Santa leases space from many places throughout the world, in order to utilize JIT. Santa uses a law firm with international trade contacts to do the negotiations. The taller elves go to these places in early November, and stay until after inventory in January. Yes, some of them look a lot like teenagers. If you look very carefully at their ears (quickly, don't be rude and let them see you stare!), you will see they are elves in disguise. Disguises include Ace Hardware smocks, Toy R Us vests, Wal-Mart polos, and Geek Squad ties.

Elves are not allowed out of the stores in which they are placed. If people see them, they will start to pester them with questions about Santa, and ask for favors, and even take their pictures without even being polite and asking to do so, first. Elves are small, so sleeping quarters- not a problem. They can sleep anywhere, including the Rubbermaid container aisle.

A few regular employees are trusted with this great secret, and go on missions for take-out and other needs. One of these is our friend, a Catholic school teacher who also works at that hardware store part time. She knows that when the elves want pizza, she has to go to both Ach 'n Lou's as well as Rosati's, to avoid fights (it's the crusts- elves are picky about pizza crusts). She knows all elves eat their McBurgers plain- and definitely no pickles!

POST II: Ain't no sin in my mind!

You might be so physically fit that you can run the dickens out of the younger couch potatoes next door. You may have found the perfect colorist who can match your hair color to what it was when you were in your prime. You might still need only a pinch of make-up. You might not have many wrinkles on your face. You may still look good in a miniskirt.

You are still getting old.

You are going to get tired with kids in the house, especially younger children during the Holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanza, Solstice, Festivus-doesn't matter. Those two to three weeks off school are going to make you a tad crabbier, a tad more tired, a tad more edgy.

If you are wealthy, you can tell the au pair to take them to the park or out for hot cocoa, and to plan indoor activities. They can be chauffeured to hockey practice, playdates, and choir practice. The laundry will take care of the extra loads of wash. Cook will plan the extra meals. The cleaning service will keep the house shining brightly.

It may interest you to know that these services are available for those who might not happen to have live-in help. And for those of you who know a grandparent, aunt or uncle who is raising grandchildren, or nieces and nephews- such services make a great gift.

  • LAUNDRY- Almost every laundromat (coin operated laundry, washateria, lavanderia) in my area has a wash/dry/ fold service. Prices will vary, but it is usually between $1 and 1.50 per pound (they weigh it on a laundry scale). The best ones sort the clothes by color, wash them with their detergent, dry them, steam out any wrinkles, and hang what belongs on hangars as well as folding the other clothes. In a household of two adults and three active school-agers, a week's load averages 40 pounds, or between $40-$60. It's possibly can't be a weekly fixture in your life, but every once in a while, it certainly takes clutter out of a busy time.
  • DAY CARE- Check your local park district for "Winter Break Day Camp." There might be a place or two left for your kids. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the school district, private schools all offer camps, and short term activities during the Holidays. Check the local community college. See what the public library has planned. Remember to get your reservation in early for Spring and Summer, too!
  • FOOD- There are very, very few towns nowadays that do not have a deli and food-to-go section in the local supermarket. When we travled, I favored Von's, Safeway, Dominick's, Publix (LOVE PUBLIX!), WinnDixie, Piggly Wiggly, Hannford, Whole Foods, Caputo's, Cermack, Prisco's, and Butera. Most stores also have a bakery, but if you have a just plain old bakery in your area that is good, you are indeed twice-blessed. You might not be able to afford it every day, but once or twice during the Holidays, as a treat for you, can really give you a break. Do not eschew frozen food, microwavable food, peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, and milk. There is no law that says all grannies bake. I avoid baking because I love to eat, and those cookies become another 10-15 pounds on my hips and thighs. I try to make TWO batches of cookies with the kids. I buy good cookies at a bakery in the area renown for cookie prowess. I have also been known to "doctor" such cookies and crackers as Oreos, Ritz, gingerbread windmills and people, and chocolate-covered marshmallow (here known as chocolate volcanoes). Canned frosting, sprinkles, colored sugars, CakeMate and Wilton premade piping can make a lot of everyday cookies festive. My grandmother once made a Christmas meal out of swedish meatballs, ham, potato salad and what we call in the Midwest "relishes" from a Swedish deli. It became a tradition- and so easy to make and clean up!
  • CLEANING- Less is more when it comes to holiday decoration. Put out only the best menorah, not all of them. If you insist on a real tree, scale it down to something smaller. If you have a large artificial tree, don't try to fill the space with other holiday clutter. Organize a wrapping station. Use reusable holiday bags and tissue paper instead of wrap. Make the kids pick up after themselves immediately. Give each kid a room besides their room to clean. Even second graders can work the vacuum. There are paints and paper for kids nowadays that really take up the slack when it comes to mess. Call one of the many chain cleaning services, and see if they have a holiday rate and/ or a senior rate. Check the local newspaper for folks with references who want to clean your living room, bathroom and kitchen for a set fee.
  • REST- There is no law that the kids can't sit on your bed, watching TV or reading, while you catch a few winks. Early bedtimes during the Holidays should be encouraged for all. Naps, even for the big ones, should be used as necessary.

POST I: Do things ever change?

(I am going to write a series of posts, one after the other, along with reposting from my old blog. If there is one after another on the same date, you'll understand why.)

Perhaps you have been a retread parent for some years. You read my blog and think, things are never going to change. My adult child will always be an unfit parent. I will be taking care of children until I die. Will things ever change?

The short answer: Yes.

Now for the longer answer-

You cannot count on your adult child to change. It is better to be prepared for the worst, and then pleasantly surprised when a change occurs. The heart of the matter is that you, your significant other, and your grandchildren cannot sit around for years waiting for the change or changes.

The kids will not be able to stop growing taller, bigger, older. They are human beings, not dolls that can be thrown into the toy box when Mom and Dad don't want to play with them, anymore. They need nurture, and they need it now.

Even with the best cosmetics, hair dyes, and plastic surgery, you are growing older. You still need to pay bills, to eat, to have a life. Waiting for things to get better is a big waste of time. You could be enjoying that time, doing constructive things, making a difference.

Ollie and Irene (not their real names) had two granddaughters. Who was Daddy? Ollie and Irene didn't know. Their daughter, Natasha, had the girls when she was 16 and 19.

Natasha acquired a nasty meth habit, laced with alcohol. When Ollie and Irene got the call from the police station, the girls were 4 and 6. Natasha was caught red-handed breaking into a neighbor's house. Natasha was looking at serious jail time.

Ollie is what they call "old school" a gentleman of great dignity and integrity. He does not believe the people of color in the United States deserve more than they earn. As a person of color, Ollie proudly labels himself as Black. He owns a business that employs 10-12 people, and keeps it running well. Irene taught school, mostly the Fourth Grade.

They applied for, and received guardianship, then adopted the little girls. Ollie and Irene's other children were in college and just starting their lives, so old enough to be helpful to some degree, but not at a point where they could assume guardianship. They also offered Natasha an attorney, not because she wasn't guilty, but because she might not have received prime advice from a public defender. Otherwise, Ollie and Irene did nothing. Natasha stayed in the county lock-up. Ollie and Irene lifted not one other finger to help her.

When a parent hires an attorney for an adult child, the attorney represents the child. The parent is just picking up the tab for the attorney's work. What goes on between the adult child and the attorney is privileged information to which the parents are not privy.

So when Ollie and Irene hired the petite young African-American woman to represent Natasha, they did not know Natasha would not just use her as an attorney, but a sounding board. Some of that sound included verbally denigrating Ollie and Irene, their child-rearing methods, their dedication to hard work, their modest home in a working-class neighborhood, their saving of their income, her brother and two sisters' scholastic achievements.

The young attorney in question said nothing, simply nodded and went on with the work at hand of representing Natasha, bringing Natasha back to the matter at hand. This continued until the day Natasha accused her parents of "stealing" her daughters.

The attorney looked down her (blank lens) glasses at Natasha. It was time for a cold dose of reality. The exchange went something along the lines of:

"I suppose your parents planned for you to break into their neighbor's home?"
Well, no. But they didn't give her spending money, or pay her way.

"And your parents introduced you to meth?"
Well no, but they hadn't moved to a better neighborhood, and they expected Natasha to do chores, and try at school, and get a job.

"Who chose to use, Natasha?"
Well, Natasha.

"So, you should really consider who 'stole' in this instance. I grew up in that neighborhood. I turned out fine. Your siblings all seem to be making a life for themselves. What's your problem, Princess? When are you going to be responsible for you, woman?"

Natasha threatened to fire the attorney.
The attorney shrugged. "That's OK with me. I'll get the paperwork together, and ask to have myself removed from the case. I don't think your father is going to hire another attorney for you, though. I guess you'll have to take your chances with the public defender." The attorney started packing her briefcase, and calling for the guard.
Natasha changed her mind.

"OK then. I am your attorney. But I want you think about what your parents DID for you, not what you think they should have done for you. Start with my fees. I am a very good lawyer, and I don't come cheap. Your father and mother pay my bill when it comes, and every month, on time."

Natasha was sentenced, three years. That gave her time to think. Her parents hadn't done such a bad job of raising her. And she knew they would do the same for her girls. Goodness, she'd let her daughters down so, never asking to be born, and then she'd chosen drugs over them!

Natasha made good use of her time in jail. She knew her mother might let her off the hook, but her daddy would want proof of change. She would never be allowed to teach children as her mother did, but she would find a good job, and learn it while she was in prison. She worked on college courses, and earned her way through good behavior to work in the prison library. She started going to church again, not to get out of work, but because she knew deep down that she needed God in her life. She went to regular Narcotics Anonymous meetings. She wrote her girls regularly. She wrote apology notes to her parents, her girls, her siblings.

Natasha proved herself, to the point when she left prison, she obtained a position in a private library. She rented a small apartment alone, saved her money for a few years, and paid a large down payment on a three bedroom house, in the old neighborhood. She went to meetings when she needed them. Once outside, Natasha earned a Masters of Library Science. She soon found a better job as the manager of a public library branch near her home. She found a good church and attended regularly.

Ollie and Irene allowed Natasha, through a good psychologist, to visit with her daughters, to learn to consider them first. Ollie was impressed with Natasha's thrift and tenacity in earning the money to buy a house. Over a year's time, they eventually allowed Natasha to have visits with the girls alone, overnight. Natasha became interested and attended their school activities. This gave Ollie and Irene an opportunity to travel a bit, to go "down home" and visit the home folks, to go to Jamaica, to take a cruise. The whole family, including Natasha, went to a big family reunion on Irene's side. Natasha paid her own way, and insisted on paying for her girls and Ollie and Irene.

Then Irene found the lump in her breast. The cancer was farther along than everybody thought. Irene had months to live.

It had been 9 years since Natasha had been arrested. The girls were now 13 and 15, high school girls, with all that comes with it.

The girls did not move in with Natasha. They needed the familiar, and the familiar was that house in the old neighborhood, with Big Daddy. But Natasha was there for them and with them when Irene took her last breath. She actively participated in Irene's care until the very end, along with her siblings and daughters. It was a pure team effort, no showmanship on any one person's part. She assisted her daughters in their grief and confusion. She personally made sure the hairdresser and cosmetologist did Irene's hair and make-up just the way Irene would have wanted it for her viewing.

Yes, the attorney came to the visitation, and brought her own children and husband. As always, she didn't say much. But she gave Natasha a hug, heretofore unknown between Natasha and her former representation, and whispered in her ear, "You did very well."
Can your adult child change? Sure. Should you allow the grandchildren's parent back into their lives? Only if he or she earns the right, or you are forced by court order. In this case, Natasha made a real effort to change. Proceed with caution, and like Ollie, look for concrete, substantial proof of change.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Courage And Hypocrites

You are going to encounter people who do not think you should be raising your grandchildren, etc. It isn't because you are a bad person. It is because they are essentially big phonies, manipulators, hypocrites if you will, and they don't want to understand the situation.

They will hit you with the myths we posted. They want you to believe that you are
crazy for even thinking about this. They will tell you that you are taking away your adult child's rights to do what they see as fit.

They are full, to the brim, of horse hockey.

Leaving kids in a precarious situation, to the point where those children are in danger of abandonment and/ or neglect, is simply wrong. You are probably the best answer here. Use your own experts and make your own informed conclusions. Do not rely on people who butt their noses into your life, even if they are your sibling, your alleged best friend, or other adult children (unless those adult children are willing to lend a hand and can do so).

After these nosy people open their mouths, make no comment. Walk away from them. Instead, go home, and think about what you know about these intruders into your life. They are likely to be the jerks they are, if you just give it some thought.

I have a sister, as I have mentioned earlier. She is not happy unless somebody is on the outs in our large family, and at least one other family person is "on her side" as it were. She has, in the past, said hateful untruths to each of us in turn. Currently, I am again the object of her attention, and she has my brother and sister-in-law in her corner- to the point where they will not attend our youngest sister's New Year's party, as my family and I will attend, including the children the Mister and I adopted that were once our grandchildren.

I am supposedly an unfit mother and grandmother, and have no business with children. I allegedly have a "loose grip" on reality, and rewrite history. I have supposedly hurt my adult daughter beyond repair, and of course am terrible for refusing to participate in her recent engagement .

My sister has not spoken to me for decades. When we were children, she would scream that I had no right to be born, that she should have been the first-born, and I should really die. Her temper tantrums were legendary. She has never changed her opinion of me. Oh she has come on sweet as sugar, usually when she has wanted something. My parents never wanted me, and my late, great aunt, who loved me dearly, was just feeling sorry for me, according to her.

This particular sister has a Masters in Clinical Social Work. She seems to have problems keeping a job in her field, and getting clients. That doesn't stop her from thinking she is a full-blown psychoanalyst. Her use of psychobabble is extreme and often rude, if not downright obnoxious.

I analyzed the facts, and did some deep research. It seems this particular sister was raising and slaughtering (with pellet pistols) rabbits and chickens for consumption within the confines of a large suburban area incorporated as its own city. It seems this is against that city's code (I checked with the city via email and was told absolutely illegal). It's OK for her to do this, apparently, but not the rest of the residents of this city.

That's OK now. She and her husband have moved to a place that sounds like the Unabomber's dream, well outside of our area. In their new home, they can burn wood, have compost toilets, grow their own food with the manure they leave behind, and not bother any of us again (one can hope anyway).

Now, this particular sister has never seen the photos of the mess my adult daughter left, to the point of feces in the same closet where my grandchildren's clothes were stowed. She has never seen the heaping styro plate upon styro plate of food, one piled on top of the other, and the children expected to eat that way. It was not this particular sister who received calls from the children's school, asking why they were sent with Jello, potato chips, Ho-Hos and a Little Debbie each as their sole lunch. This particular sister is not the one who was cautioned by the preschool teacher as to the middle child's TV viewing habits, which included descriptions of Maury Povich, Divorce Court and the Tonight Show. She is not the one who was asked repeatedly by the day care provider to please make my daughter pay her and to refill the baby's diaper bag with supplies. She is not the one who had her 4 year old granddaughter explain to her how many times Mommy bought Jack Daniel's in a week by singing the "Days of the Week" song.

In fact, I am so very aggravated that this person thinks, merely because she has heard the mewling of a bipolar alcoholic (our adult daughter), and because she did not like what she read in my past blog, that I am going to post, in this very blog, some of the photographs of our adult daughter's living space before the children were removed. WARNING! THIS IS SOME PRETTY GROSS STUFF!

<---This is the toilet in our adult daughter's old apartment. Yes, those are used sanitary supplies.

A better view of what our grandchildren were expected to use when they went potty.---------------->

<----The children's closet. The rest of their clothes were scattered all over the townhouse.

Yes, that is is ----->

cat feces piled up on the floor!

I could also show you the slimy kitchen sink, the piles of fuzzy styro plates, the empty cat food dish and the dry cat food bowl. I could show you cardboard dangerously piled into a closet, which shared space with a water heater. I could scan the signed affidavit by the apartment complex manager. I could have no less than four certified, degreed teachers, 2 accredited preschool teachers (one on the director's level), and two registered, licensed baby-sitters come online here and tell you what they know about the situation. Why should I? If you don't believe me, nothing is going to change that. You will find fault with the evidence, and pick it apart in an attempt to tear down my self-esteem in the matter.

The Mister and I have been through a home study, had financial records pulled, had physicals (mental and health), and paid a lawyer in order to adopt these children. Real experts, such as our attorney, the judge who was very thorough in her examination of the case, and the guardian ad litem- REAL experts- thought our petition for adoption was a good idea. Not only did our adult daughter eagerly sign the papers terminating her parental rights in favor of our adopting the children- She contacted the attorney before he could contact her. Our daughter's ex-husband was equally eager to sign away his rights.

My point: Her opinion is not worth much. It does not bother me what she thinks. It only bothers me a little what her current manipulation victims think (because I think my youngest sister should be able to invite whomever she likes to her house without fear of reprisal).

My parents are still alive. My mother, who did not have a good childhood, and her sister, my late, great aunt, are/ were very much in favor of what the Mister and I have done in regards to the children. My other sisters have told me repeatedly we are doing a beautiful job with them.

Really, truly consider the source when somebody tells you that you're too old, too crazy, not up to the task when it comes to this job. Listen to your heart. Pray. Talk with your clergy person. Listen to RELIABLE advice, not some Green Acres wannabe.

As a side bar- If you are the particular sister in question, or my adult daughter, and you don't like this blog, TOO BAD.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Neglect- Where Things Get Fuzzy In More Ways Than One

Abandonment is actually easier to document than neglect when it comes to children. Child protective and social service agencies don't want to put kids into the system if it's not necessary. They don't want to interfere with a person's right to raise children as he or she sees fit. These agencies receive calls all day long. usually on child abuse hot lines, from grandmothers and other concerned relatives. They sound something like this:
  • "My daughter-in-law refuses to make her children wear undershirts. Yes, they wear clothes, but not undershirts (long underwear/ heavy socks/ galoshes)."
  • "My son and his wife have decided we can't see the kids. Well, I suppose they're OK. Yes, good grades. No, my son won't lay a finger on them. But they won't let me see the babies! And you can't tell what that woman and my idiot son will do next. Yes, he 's the branch manager at First Bank. Why, she just stays at home. But they won't let us see them!"
  • "But Mitzy wants a new car for her 16th birthday, and my daughter won't let me buy it for her!"
  • "She leaves them at home alone. They come into the empty apartment while she works, after school. Well, the older one is 16. What difference does that make?"
  • "My ex-wife is not giving me visitation. Well, yes, we have a court order. But it's not convenient for me to come then!"
If it was your job to listen to these, day after day after day, wouldn't you be on the lookout for real neglect? And wouldn't you want more proof of neglect than Grandma's say-so? After all, grandmothers call all day long with what they perceive is abuse, and is usually simple parenting choices that really make no difference.

Digging for evidence of neglect is harder. Neglectful parents don't want people to know they are being neglectful. They will not invite the relatives over on a whim. They might shield all but necessary relatives from the kids' lives, and not because Grandma can't keep her trap shut because Mitzy wants a new car or the kids wear Polartec instead of heavy-duty down jackets.

The first line of defense in proving neglect is actually offense: If you suspect neglect, until you have proof, don't alienate your adult child or other relative. Be friendly. Pick your battles. Drop in for a visit, especially if you are the co-signer or co-tenant on a lease. Offer to take the kids out for an hour or two. And take notes. The kids will blab certain things if they are comfortable with you. Note the time and date and write it down, if your little Mimsie acts odd, has slurred speech, or acts uncoordinated. Adults should be relatively sober in the day time..

The second line of defense in proving neglect is child care providers and schools. No matter what some people say about schools minding their own business and just teaching the 3Rs, it's mighty hard to do when a child is in the class who is constantly hungry, tired, wearing clothing inappropriate to the season, without homework, without lunch, has a "junk food" lunch, or acting up for attention. Child care providers have a bit more flexibility, but more than a few notice when the baby comes with diaper rash, without bottles or diapers, when the parent can't stay to make sure the toddler is settled, when Baby or Toddler cries from hunger as soon as he or she is dropped off.

If you happen to deliver or pick the children up at school or the sitter's, strike up a friendly relationship with teachers, staff and providers. Odds are good they know more about what's going on in your adult child's household than you do. Ask about lunches. Very often, neglected kids don't bring a lunch, or don't bring a nutritious lunch. Ask Gemma and Randy what they had for lunch. Look in the lunch bag in front of staff. If it's not nutritious (One Twinkie in a normal lunch doesn't count), then supply ready lunch money or offer to make the kids something better. Ask the kids where they left their coats. Take stock of the baby's diaper bag in front of the sitter. Ask about homework, PTA meetings, recitals, school plays. Attend these functions, even your adult child does not.

If given the opportunity to view your adult child's abode without them, especially if you are the co-tenant or co-signer, do so. Insist upon a key and access if you participated in any way in the financial end of this residence- and co-signing is indeed participation. Make friends with the management staff or landlord. Go when you know your child will not be home, and bring a camera or two and today's newspaper in case your suspicions are confirmed. You are not looking for a couple dishes in the sink, or the Playdough the kids ground into the rug. You are looking for slime in the sink from loads of dishes. You are looking for plates left out on the table growing fuzz. You are looking for used sanitary napkins strewn about the bathroom and master bedroom. You are looking for large amounts of animal feces. You are looking for lack of nutritious food in favor of candy, cookies and cakes. You are looking for prescription drugs within easy reach of small children. You are looking for more than a well-stocked bar. You are looking instead for hidden bottles of usually the same spirit.

How you play this after gathering your evidence is as individual as your circumstances. Know that if you report this neglect to child protective services, and you might be bound by law to do so, there will be an opportunity for your adult child to clean up his or her act, and residence. This means the children will probably go back at least once to your adult child, and being able to visit is going to be harder. Fortunately, it will also mean that your adult child has been marked as "indicated" of child neglect. The next time you report neglect, if you must do so again, you will be taken more seriously.

The parent or other relative of an adult neglectful of his or her children really needs to assess the situation and see if there is a better path. Strengths for the grandparent, aunt or uncle include contact with school staff and/ or care providers, being the co-signer or co-tenant on the lease, and having photos is going to make your case not only stronger in court, but stronger in the mind of your adult child. It might be in the children's best interest for you to tell you adult child, "This ends today. They will stay with me until you have things together. You have thirty days to clean up that pigsty, or I am going to revoke the lease. I've already spoken with the management." Be warned! You will be called every name in the book, and this person who can't afford his or her own apartment will claim to be searching for a lawyer to sue you into next week. Don't believe it. It might happen, but it is doubtful.

At this point, it is better to have the adult child sign a temporary power of attorney. Within the time prescribed, hire a good attorney. When the thirty days are up, if there is no change, make good on your threat. Your grandchildren deserve better.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abandonment- Talk To You Later, Kids, Much Later

Aunt Connie and Uncle Jim Johnson found their family increased one Christmas, by three girls and a boy. Not exactly what they expected to find under the tree.

Jim' ex-sister-in-law, Estelle, wanted to go to Las Vegas, "Just a quick trip, two days. Please? They like you so much, and I wouldn't want to leave them with just anybody." And so the kids piled into Connie and Jim's kids' bedrooms, even though their Tyler and Sophie were only 4 and 2. Jim's nieces were 13, 10, and 5, with the nephew age 8.

The sister-in-law did not leave the little girl's medication. She sent along no extra bedding, but did remember the kids' clothes- unwashed. She gave Jim and Connie no extra money for food, or anything else.

The weekend passed. No word from Estelle. Jim tried to call the motel where Estelle said she planned to stay. They'd never heard of her. Her cell phone was disconnected. He called his brother, John, a man who was less than stellar when it came to child support, and preferred to spend his time with the ladies and the bottle. "Well, she collected her child support. Found me at the job and said she was gonna give it to you. She didn't? Yeah, well, that's Estelle. Yeah, Bro, can you keep them another week? You know my place ain't good for kids, and anyway, I think Estelle has a court order for me not to have them."

So, while Jim and Connie frantically searched for Estelle, thinking the worst because they couldn't fathom WHY a mother would abandon her children, Connie made sure there were presents under the tree from Santa and asked her mother if it would be OK if there were four more for Christmas dinner (Of course it was).

And Jim walked the floor with the little one, who sobbed for her mommy. They dealt with the smart-mouthed Roxanne, who at 13 felt she was quite capable of watching the children. "I done it lots of times, and for more days than this" was her reply. And Connie went to the schools on the first day back, and let them know that it appeared Estelle had flown the coup.

The guidance counselor in the middle school knew her business. "This isn't the first time Mrs. Johnson took a sabbatical," he said. "Roxanne has a lot of tardies, a lot of absences. She comes to school without a bag lunch, and without lunch money. Sometimes, she comes without a coat. They need consistency, and they need to be in school every day. Frankly, they need somebody to give a damn about them." Connie knew two somebodies who cared very much- but she wanted to check some things first. She told the guidance counselor she would get back to him no later than the next day.

Connie called her mother-in-law. The elder Mrs. Johnson thought she might have a key to Estelle's. She didn't know why she hadn't thought of it before this, but with Christmas, and trying to respect Estelle's privacy, it just slipped Mrs. Johnson's mind. Surely, she would drive over with Connie's to Estelle's and check things out. Before going to her in-law's, Connie picked up today's newspaper, and several disposable cameras. On a hunch, she also picked up a small bag of cat food and a couple masks used for paint fumes and the like.

Sure enough, when Mrs. Johnson opened the front door, a foul odor attacked them. Very quickly, Connie handed her mother-in-law the mask. Connie then took two steps back and photographed the front door, making sure she included the house number. She then had Mrs. Johnson hold the newspaper so that the front page, and especially the date showed.

Connie and Mrs. Johnson carefully walked through Estelle's residence. On the back of a book of checks and some deposit slips, Connie had Mrs. Johnson record some of the highlights of the tour.

The cat food came in handy for Mittens, Estelle's cat, who the children were sure was hungry after not having eaten for two and a half weeks. Mittens, prior to his enforced starvation, had decorated the carpet and several closets with his fecal prowess. Mittens had managed to dig in the garbage for a bit of nourishment. And just as quickly, Mittens had barfed it all up, especially the chicken bones.

Estelle's furniture was gone. Most of Estelle's clothes were gone. She left behind the rickety kitchen set. And there were bills, piles of them, unopened, not just placed through the mail slot, but piled on Estelle's kitchen counters. Mrs. Johnson and Connie continued to patiently catalog, patiently shoot photos of the newspaper front page and the rooms.

The kids' room- the kids all shared one room- well, everything these small people owned was there. "Jim and I will come over later. I'll call the landlord. You can sit with the kids, or Dad can do it." Connie did take the kids' stuffed animals, the pillows and blankets that would be worth the rescue after a wash, Roxanne's Girl Scout uniform, Karen's framed photo of a school picnic, Justin's ball glove.

When they were finished, Connie drove to a drug store that also did one-hour development. She made three copies of each roll. After she dropped off Mrs. Johnson, she took a set from each roll of film and put it in her safety deposit box.

The elder Mr. Johnson and Jim were appalled by the photos. Mr. Johnson was actually sick to his stomach, and he'd seen combat in Korea. Mr. Johnson wanted to get his younger son to Jim's right then and there to read him the riot act, but Connie and Jim told him not to say anything at all until they'd talked with the guidance counselor. Jim took some buddies over to Estelle's to remove whatever was useful to the kids, and to persuade Mittens he needed a new home. Connie came along with disposable camera, a notebook and pen, and blank return address labels. As the men removed items, Connie cataloged them in the notebook, snapped a photo of it, and placed a label someplace on it.

When Connie returned to confer with the guidance counselor, he too was appalled at the photos- but not surprised. "I've actually seen worse, sad to say," he told Connie. The counselor, Mr. Jenkins, was able to connect Connie and Jim with the right people.

Because it was not mandatory in their state, Jim and Connie chose not to involve children's protective services. They did file a police report, and had a child's advocate file an emergency petition giving Jim and Connie temporary sole custody, as well as temporary guardianship, with an order of protection against Estelle and her boyfriend. After sixty days, Jim and Connie's attorney presented evidence in court that caused the judge to rule in favor of plenary guardianship of John and Estelle's children be given to Jim and Connie, along with a court order for child support from both John and Estelle, wherever she was, via garnishment. The senior Mr. Johnson was especially proud of his efforts to ensure Jim cooperated.

Sometime in June, Estelle showed up on Jim and Connie's doorstep, in a cab she claimed couldn't pay, looking for her kids (No, Connie did not pay the cab). Fortunately, the kids were at day camp, along with Tyler. When Estelle started shrieking and causing a scene, Connie simply called the police, and had a copy of the order of protection in hand. Estelle threatened, but never got around to hiring an attorney to have her children returned to her.

John pops in on his kids every now and then. He's managed to keep from pro-creating further.

Connie and Jim Johnson are real people, even though I changed their names to protect them and their family. I know them. They live in my area. They are younger than their brother and his ex-wife, early thirties. Connie is a nurse, and a fine one at that. Jim is a service manager for a major dealership.

Connie and Jim succeeded in obtaining custody where a lot of people would have bungled it. This is why:

  • Connie and Jim did not try to accomplish anything during the Holidays. Despite what people might think, trying to get any legal professional- a lawyer, a judge, law enforcement- is extremely difficult during the Christmas season. They concentrated on getting through Christmas. Unless the children are being threatened physically, it is a bad idea to go to court during Christmas.
  • Connie and Jim actively searched for Estelle, on the chance she might have been kidnapped, injured or worse.
  • Connie and Jim gathered evidence. Each of those persons who entered Estelle's former house was a witness. The cameras recorded how the place appeared, along with the date (newspaper and receipts from the drug store). The guidance counselor had his records, as did the counselor at the elementary school. Connie took notes, and cataloged items. The friends of Jim who helped load up the kids' things were witnesses.
  • Connie actively listened for people who would be willing to help Jim and her. The middle school counselor was a font of information, because he wanted to help. When people don't need to be persuaded to help, but actively want to help, they are going to be helpful.
  • Connie and Jim hired an attorney. Despite what people say, the majority of attorneys are ethical, honest people. Some are better than others. Choose carefully, but don't go to court without one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis The Season- For Temporary Custody Orders

It is time for the madness known as Dysfunctional Family Christmas. If you don't believe me, go find a law enforcement officer and ask. Go to the local family court and ask. Go to child protective services and ask. Go to department of human services and ask.

There will be basically two types of cases when it comes to grandparents starting to raise grandchildren, aunts and uncles raising nieces and nephews, cousins raising cousins. One will be abandonment. The other will be neglect. The stories will sound similar. The outcomes will hopefully be in the best interest of the children involved.

Remember that I am just another relative, a grandparent raising grandchildren; not an attorney, not a law enforcement officer, not a social worker; just another person who has been through the muck and mire of the process. I will explain, based on what I've gleaned from fact-based places and not tirades, what you might need to successfully walk through the process of temporary custody.

If you need this information, make sure the printer works or that you have pen and paper at the library or Internet cafe to take notes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Are You In It For The Long Haul

Not every grandparent is called to be a retread parent.

There are the so-called normal grandparents, who will not need any of this advice. They will be content to spoil 'em rotten, as the saying goes, and then send them home. Their adult children will ably parent the little ones, and the grandparents will beam with pride as they dance at the grandchildren's weddings. You folks are the bedrock of America! Good job! Best wishes! Thank you! Really, thank you. You have been blessed, but you have also contributed to Society.

There are the grandparents called back into parenting for a crisis or a short-term need. Mom has a complication due to delivery of a baby, and Dad is juggling long hours at work and small children. Dad is going to Iraq. Mom and Dad get transferred to Korea, and don't think it's in Jane's best interest to take her with them. Some of the advice here will help you. However, some day you expect that your detour back into parenting to end. That will be fine. Thank you for stepping in when your adult children needed you. You may not think that's an activity worthy of praise, but it is. You will provide or provided continuum to those grand babies, security, safety, consistency.

And then there are those who want to continue on just as they have, without stepping into the role of retread parent, even if called to do so. That's OK. You've earned your retirement, or your life after children. You know your limits. This is clearly healthy, and clearly a good thing for you. You've explained to the kids. It doesn't make you evil.

Now, for the rest of you grandparents out there, those seeking to raise grandchildren: I want you to look to the grandparents who refuse to go the route of raising the grandchildren, even temporarily. Why? I just said it. Those folks know their limits when it comes to raising grandchildren. Do you? Are you in it for the long haul?

Are you willing to spend the next 4, 8, 10, 16, 18 years with yet another child, and all that entails? Kids aren't puppies. You can't commit to this, only to hand them back or worse, abandon them yourself.

You are about to possibly have your freedom seriously curtailed. You might be changing diapers. You might be potty training. The back seat of your car might sport a car seat. You will be back on a schedule, because Sunday night through Thursday night, you'll be getting at least one somebody ready for school. You are about to embark on day care fees, day camp fees, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys vs. Girls. The Menses, AKA The Monthlies, Aunt Flo, Mr. P., all might descend upon your house, and if you have more than one female child- stand by. PMS in two girls simultaneously is not pretty. All the junk that appeared on your doorstep with the bouncing baby known as the biological parent of these kids might reappear. You are older, sometimes much older. All that stuff will be on replay. Are you up to the task?

Speaking of your own baby, that lug who drinks himself to a stupor, the abuser, the woman who sleeps with anybody, the mentally ill who refuses medication from the doctor but is willing to take street meds- Are you prepared- for the sake of your grandchildren, to look that person in the eye, who you once diapered, who you held in your arms as she sobbed over a dead hamster, the person who was once small and ran a fever of 105- Are you prepared to look that person in the eye, or through the lens of your attorney, and say, "No more. You can't see them. This stops now." You might be obliged, for the sake of your grandchild or even court order, to put an end to the madness of dealing with your adult child until the grandchildren are grown. It truly hurts. Be prepared. By the same token, if you go to court and get handed a visitation order, are you prepared to do the drop-offs and pick-ups, or wait around with the visitation supervisor so the little ones feel safe, or wait around with the visitation supervisor until the end of the visit, because good old Mom and Dad chose to party over visit the kids?

You might be called to have your home invaded by child protective services. You might get lucky and get a qualified social worker, somebody who loves kids, doesn't have too big a caseload, and is willing to drop in just to make sure the kids are doing well. You might end up with a twit who thinks she's the greatest thing in the industry, who thinks you are old, and therefore stupid, when it comes to raising children. Most likely, if you go the public route, you will get somebody who has a caseload in folders taller than any of your grandkids, and is so overwhelmed it will take weeks just to get the TANF or foster care check corrected.

You will not get any younger, physically, doing this. Plan on taking care of yourself, taking vitamins, getting really good exercise, getting that annual checkup, being proactive when it comes to health matters and nipping them in the bud when possible, including optometrist's exams. Plan on using time and energy saving models if you decide to retread. It is not wrong, if you can afford it or the kids are entitled to it, to use hot lunch every day at school, as an example. It is not wrong to use a drop-off laundry service. If you can afford it, it's not wrong to have a cleaning person or team.

Your spouse might or might not want to go along for the ride. Almost all spouses will, but what about common law spouses, significant others, and ships that pass in the night? Can you do this on your own, if you don't have a spouse?

Money- Are you prepared? You will still be old when this is done. Have you saved for retirement? Do you have the income to support children? Health insurance? The teen years, also known as the grocery years, because they down so many calories? Kids need space, and most retirement or adult living communities exist to keep kids out. You might have moved to your locale because the home was simply charming and the senior activities were fantastic, never thinking you'd need the less-than-stellar public school system in that very same town.

Before you tell the grandkids that yes, they can stay forever or until they grow up, and Grandma will just love having them- THINK IT OUT. Your grandchildren need security and stability. Be that security and stability, or seek an alternative living arrangement for them so they have both.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vengeance Might Be The Lord's, The Retread Parent Can Have Justice

I enjoy justice. This does not mean I hang out in the local courthouse,waiting patiently with the witnesses. Oh no. I go out and get my own justice. And justice tends to find me.

My eldest was once living in self-induced squalor with her small children. We had given her every opportunity to pull herself out of the ashes of her decision to leave the military, and to rid herself of her ex-husband, also not a favorite around here. We were frequently held prisoner by her demands for this and that, with the threat of physical or financial harm to our grandchildren if we did not cooperate. We put up with a lot, including 911 calls because she barricaded herself in her townhouse with the children and threatened to kill them, then herself.

We were, however, given vengeance, the Almighty's retribution. We were the co-tenants on her townhouse. We were treated to how she kept the place by the manager, and also shown her stash of alcohol and such. This young woman could not bring herself to buy her babies nutritious food, to get up in the morning to go to work or take them to school. She could, however, hie herself to the liquor store and drug dealer. With a heavy heart, but the knowledge our cause was just, we snapped time-dated photos and removed the children's things.

We chose to utilize private resources, rather than involving our local child protection agency. Where we live, this agency does little to nothing to protect children, except when one of the children is dead or in a vegetative state. We instead went first to court for guardianship, then explored related adoption. Before we could even give our daughter a date to speak with our attorney, she contacted him, ready to sign away her rights. So did her ex-husband. There was really nothing to do at that point but go for our interview with the guardian ad litem, have a home inspection and visit, and go to court. We will never recoup the tens of thousands of dollars owed us for the support of these babies, but at least those two are out of our hair.

However, in first removing herself from the townhouse, then removing herself from the efficiency apartment which we rented for her, then storing her possessions in a common storage area via rental while she went homeless or slept on the couches of others, we came across more of her things, such as her bills. And in finding the bills, we found her household items. And this is where the justice comes.

The pile of thick, large, cream-colored towels sat in an open basket. These were obviously expensive. I'd been told she's won them at work. The charge slip said otherwise. And oh boy! Were they expensive.

I have taken great solace in using permanent marker to write each grandchild's name in the corner of each of these towels. These gorgeous, thirsty, expensive towels, no doubt inspired for a very sleek master bath, have made their way to day camp, the swimming pool, and school functions. They were used to take naps and sun in the back yard. Two of them sewed together made a great Christmas pageant costume. They have been dragged and snapped. Some of the towels once sat over a week's period in a mildewy changing room at day camp, only to be removed and then heavily bleached. Some of the fluff was lost as well as the creamy color. Oh well!

The pets have enjoyed the comfort of the matching facecloths. These have made great rags for wiping muddy paws. The hand towels lined several boot caddies during the winter, and added an elegant touch to the dreary months.

When the children were in their undisciplined state, they took to drawing on sheets. Fortunately, those sheets were their dear Mama's, left behind for us to claim. The dishes made a great addition to the annual garage sale, as did the furniture that could be reclaimed.

I still have her photographs and albums from her military and early college years. I've often thought of sending them to her the same way we obtained justice from her ex-husband, when she and her children lived with us. The vengeance was absolutely free and was only a by-product of his misery.

After the divorce, he made himself scarce. After all, he had not only agreed to child support, but to repay the Mister and me money we had lent the happy couple over the course of time, quite a substantial amount. Every few months we would receive a piddle payment, certainly not keeping in the spirit of repayment.

And then, the young man wanted his things. Yes, he left behind a great many of his personal items, including some family heirlooms. He wanted them back.

We had already taken his extensive collection of paperbacks, in prime condition, to a local secondhand book store, and gotten a good hundred dollars for that. Craiglist and eBay took care of certain mementos via collectors willing to pay top dollar for such items. But we had some of his things left, and it seemed wrong not to give him the opportunity to reclaim them.

The items of real value were mailed to his mother.

Normally, I would feel empathy for my fellow traveler in life, another mother. But this woman hated me on sight without even giving me the chance to develop an acquaintance. She replied to my "Welcome to the family" letter in the most biting words I'd experienced in life. She hated Catholics, Italians, and Midwesterners, in that order. She insisted the wedding be held in her church (not Catholic), along with the reception in her locale, never even considering for one minute that she had daughters to whom she'd given weddings, and this was my turn (The happy couple eloped). She frightened our common grandchildren from the time they were babies.

Well, I am not one to hold grudges. I knew these things meant a great deal to her, the heirloom craftsmanship, the dainty stitches her grandmother had taken on some of the linens. I carefully catalogued them; boxed them separately and with plenty of strong, heavy, sturdy stabilizers; labeled them; and sent them to her- COD, $300 per box, plus shipping. If she wanted them back, she was going to have to front her son's irresponsibility, and collect the money off him.

As for his boxes- He once admired the rocks that decorated my driveway. I felt it was only a nice gesture that he should have them, in the bottom of each box, along with his things. I could always get more of them. I heard all his aftershave and cologne spilled all over everything, including paperwork necessary to public activities. So sorry about that, I thought I had packed it better. I guess one or two of our cats accidentally mistook the packing materials for the litter boxes, because I heard there were a few poops among his treasures. One thousand apologies. Still- $300 per box please, plus shipping. He did not claim all his boxes. And that's OK. Despite having to prepay the shipping, and then disposal, we were still compensated for our efforts.

So you see, retread parents, you can seek justice. You just have to think a bit and apply yourselves.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jive Turkey Winnings & Golden Corral

I have become the Meat Mogul of the Midwest.

It started innocently enough with an invitation to Turkey Bingo. I don't like Bingo of any sort. I am too young for Bingo. It is long, it is boring, and it causes me to eat way more than I need to eat. The friend was desperate for companionship. I went. I had to buy cards. I won not just a turkey, but a 24 pound turkey with a pie (I chose frozen key lime), a box of premade stuffing, 2 cans of green beans, a can of mushroom soup, a can of fried onions, and a can of cranberry sauce. My friend would not help herself to any of the bounty.

I apparently bought the most food besides the food pantry at food co-op. I won a spiral ham (22 pounds), a turkey (12.4 pounds), 2 cans of green beans, a box of premade stuffing, a premade pumpkin pie, a mini container of premade Jello, a can of pumpkin, and a can of cranberry sauce.

I offered the bounty to family. Why? My husband was really enthralled with Golden Corral last year for Thanksgiving.

My dearly departed aunt and best friend had just gotten out of the hospital, and the usual suspects for Thanksgiving either didn't feel up to the turkey meal, or didn't feel up to much of anything besides broth. We took the girls to Golden Corral, thinking we could have everything we usually have without clean-up or a lot of fuss. Our family of four is small, and most people, we thought, would be with extended family and friends.

Golden Corral was filled to the brim with extended families and friends. Some had matching Thanksgiving sweatshirts. Some were dressed to the nines. Some brought board games. Some brought cards. Golden Corral had football on four TVs.

For those who wanted it, there was Thanksgiving goodness, with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. And mac n cheese. And steak. And fried fish. A full salad bar. A full dessert bar, which included red velvet cake, carrot cake, brownies, sugar-free chocolate layer cake, and bananas foster. Tacos could be had, as well as nachos and Asian offerings. The baked potato bar was also open for business.

People prayed out in the open without fear of embarrassment. Kids played together, even those not in the same families. Even Islam was represented as a family of 20 or so, ladies complete with hijab, husbands at the other end, children and teens scattered between them by gender, decided to celebrate the day without having to cook.

A good time was had by all: White, black, brown, tan, Christian, Muslim, Jew, or just plain turkey connoisseur. Friends who spent a rather lot on their meal and were not as pleased begged to know the location of the Golden Corral in question, and what time it opened on Thanksgiving this year.

Our Thanksgiving regulars were kind enough to extend an invitation for another year. This was not anticipated, and I told them I did not give them the meat simply to prompt an invitation. I was told that I was being silly, that we were family (and we are, by blood and marriage), and were expected, with or without the meat.

Hubby did have a request. In addition to the ham and turkey, I am bringing roast beef. Seems he acquired a taste for it at Golden Corral last year.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fallacies and Just Plain Myths

People presume. It's in our nature. And those adult children we cherished spread their own rumor and innuendo. So, let's examine, in no particular order, the crazy ideas people have as to why we would want to be retread parents and how that's going to work.

1.) Grandparents steal their grandchildren because they can't expand their family on their own, and want children who are related to them, rather than adopting strangers.
FACT: I have yet to meet a grandparent who did not want to stay a grandparent. But, for whatever other reasons, out of love for these grandchildren, they took them into their home.

2.) Grandparents want to raise their grandchildren because it makes them feel young again and restores their vigor.
FACT: I know only one guy who wanted to do this. I guess he is the only guy who wanted to make grandchildren and steal them. He purposely left his young teen daughter alone with boys and left, hoping she would get pregnant. He got angry when she did not. His daughter eventually left because of his abuse, to live with her mother's family, her mother being dead. This so-called gentleman eventually "bought" a child from one of the neighborhood girls in a family way, after my baby sister turned him down on the purchase of one of my beautiful nieces and nephews.

Otherwise, raising a grandchild does not make one feel young. You are all advised to eat nutritionally, exercise regularly however you can best afford to do so, and get plenty of sleep (Take a nap every day if retired). Those kids are going to keep you busy. This is not a sprint, but a marathon.

3.) Grandparents are critical of their adult children, and took the children based belittling and controlling the adult child.
FACT: Let me introduce you to Grandma Jane and Grandpa Jim. They live in the suburbs of San Francisco. They raised four children. Good members of the LDS, they raised their children in the tenants of their faith. The kids joined Little League, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, went to parties and dances, had friends to the house. All the children grew up, save one, married, had families, live all over the country, but still go to see Jane and Jim. Jane and Jim looked forward to an empty nest and grandchildren when they wanted them to visit.

Then there was Peter.

For whatever reason, Peter decided he preferred drugs. Jane and Jim did their very best to see that Peter did not feel loathing for his drug use, but that he did have opportunities for rehab. Instead, Peter chose to have sex with a young woman who was also a drug addict.

The result of that union was Robby. Robby has lived with Jane and Jim since he was six months old, because Peter and his ex-girlfriend did not feel compelled to care for Robby. Robby is now 13. Grandma and Grandpa do right by Robby.

Jane and Jim, good Californians, still feel maybe it is good for Robby to see Peter and his mother, when they can find their way to Jane and Jim's door. They don't want Peter or his ex to feel they are ever intrusive, ever an inconvenience or just plain a problem.

4.) If the adult child turned out badly, that is the fault of his or her parents, and the grandchildren will also turn out badly. They should be placed in foster care.
FACT: Foster care is jammed with kids. In most states, children's protective services welcome grandparents and other other relatives who will take the children.

More importantly, it is a fallacy to believe that every parent who has an adult child who has chosen to do evil or wrong caused it. There comes a time when a person has to stand on his or her own two feet, and make his own decisions, accepting the consequences for his or her actions.

Besides, many of these families have siblings who have gone astray also have teens and adult children who are making it in college and high school. They are not doing drugs, going on drinking binges, or sexxing it up with their peers. They do not rob banks, sell drugs, or lock themselves into their homes threatening to kill themselves and their children. These aunts and uncles have been known to help out with their abandoned nieces and nephews.

5.) Grandparents have plenty of money in retirement savings, and can easily afford more children.
FACT: Grandparents may not have enough money to retire themselves, let alone raise grandchildren.

6.) Grandparents who raise grandchildren will spoil them as a matter of course.
FACT: Grandparents raising grandchildren bend over backwards to avoid any mistakes they made with their errant adult child.

7.) Grandparents are too old to raise grandchildren.
FACT: Not always.

Some people are made grandparents as young as 33. Some sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings run marathons and do Ironmen competitions. It's not cast in stone.

8.) There are plenty of resources out there for grandparents raising grandchildren.
FACT: There are maybe four books out there, and not very helpful. Government agencies either write at the fifth grade level and skip information, or write as if they work for Microsoft and explain in too much detail. Grandparents.com is filled to the gills in its fora with grandparents looking for more info on raising the grandkids. There is not much to offer.

9.) Parents always have precedence in court over grandparents, and can come get their kids any time.
FACT: To a degree. Parents who hold down a regularly paying job, keep a clean home, have friends and normal life should be raising their children. Parents who do drugs, drink to excess, have flashbacks, have bipolar episodes and don't treat their symptoms, who molest their children, pimp their children, run off with the first bozo or floozy that comes along abandoning their children- See you in court. Your best bet is to sign over your rights to Grandma or Grandpa now. Save your time, money and energy for the pursuits that got you in this mess in the first place.

10.) Grandchildren will grow up to hate their grandparents for raising them and not giving them back to their parents.
FACT: I have been interviewing adult grandchildren raised in their grandparents' homes. I have talked with a few who feel little toward their parents. A few are downright angry with their parents. None have expressed a desire to contact parents who have abandoned them.

They love their grandparents. They are appreciative for being rescued and given a chance in this world. Some have said their grandparents saved their lives.

Somebody else makes you a grandparent.

I never expected to be a grandparent raising grandchildren; in fact, I never expected to have to adopt my grandchildren for their own safety and security. Yet, here I am, joining too many of you on the journey into retread parenting.

For some of you, this is a little bump in the road. You have a child proudly serving in the military who has been deployed, and either does not have a spouse or the spouse is also deployed. You have as an adult child a single parent with custody who needs to go get job training or even a college degree away from home. This will be over for you in a matter of weeks or months, God willing. So, you will experience again the joys and heartaches of report cards, soccer practice, sibling rivalry and nightmares. Your adult child is paying his or her own children's way in the form of support, which is a very big deal. Still, if you are over 40 and haven't done the little kid thing in a few years, your midsection or your keester may not respond the way it used to respond when you're running out to the garage to do carpool. It's still an adjustment, no matter how temporary.

There are those of you, like me, for whom this is permanent. You are retreading because despite your best efforts to raise them correctly, one or more of your own children, now grown, flew the nest and for whatever reason decided not to be a parent, having first created children. Perhaps it was alcohol, drugs or organic but treatable illness such as bipolar disorder that causes you to do this again. Perhaps there was a tragic accident (please accept my sympathies on the loss of your beloved child). Whatever the reasons, we now have one, two, three or even a whole brood for which we are now responsible. That responsibility will not end when Mommy or Daddy comes home, because Mommy or Daddy, maybe even Mommy and Daddy, are not coming home. The ball has been dropped into our laps; sometimes with a very hard thud of neglect and abandonment, other time almost a gentle game of Catch, with a gradual binding and loosing to the point where it just becomes a permanent situation.

With this permanent retread state, there are some who cannot afford to raise the grandkids without some kind of assistance. Kids need some sort of education, clothes, food, beds, a place to put their stuff, medical care. I am not an attorney and I am not a case worker for my state. I will try to get you as much information as I can, and let you supply what you've found through your experiences as well.

So we will be here for each other. We will remember that our grandchildren did not ask to be born, even when they demand, whine, stomp their feet, and drag the puss on their face down to their knees to try to get us to do their bidding. We will look for help, as we realize that sometimes we are our own best resources. We will be resolve when we know that it is better for these grandchildren to stay with us, and look for the best legal and emotional options for these children when Mom or Dad tries their hand at reclaiming them without the work necessary to reunify functionally. It might also mean looking at the possibility of placing these babies for adoption, or going through a reunification process. It might also mean taking the steps toward adoption of our grandchildren.

We did not make ourselves grandparents. Somebody, a child of ours, had sexual intercourse and created a child. That first child became our grandchild. We had no control over the matter. God has blessed us with life through our children. Though I'm Catholic, it makes me want to yell, "Mazel Tov" and "L'Chaim." Congratulations, to life!

I might go off the beaten path a bit. I have more about which to write than grandkids who are now the younger of my own kids. My opinions are my own, sometimes uniquely my own. They are from my viewpoint. Don't be surprised in the next couple of entries when you read about the Jolly Old Elf and his enterprise. Don't be surprised if I tell you the story of my late, great aunt, or recent memory. Don't be surprised if ethics or politics sneaks into the entry. Yes, we are retread parents. We are all also human.

As you read what I write, and participate through comments, please be aware: As the chief-blogger-in-charge, this is my story, and my information. You can comment. I want you to comment. I want you to have the opportunity to give suggestions to each other. I want not only retread parents- grandparents, aunts, uncles, other friends and relations- to participate. I welcome those in intact families, people in blended families, single people, people looking to adopt, young people, old people, and everybody in between the age range. I even welcome the parents who have given up their children to their parents.

All comments will be screened. I do this not to be an evil troll and censor, at least not that way. I do this because I have been flamed, allegedly by family members. I am not talking about "I disagree with what you wrote." I am talking about attacks on my sanity, my parenting, my memory of how things were. I am talking about "You have a loose grasp on reality" and other hurtful comments.

I don't care if you have a PhD in Psychology from an Ivy League university with post-doctoral work at a top think tank. God bless you for your diligence and effort to obtain your well-earned laurels. You still have no right to be rude, obnoxious and to condescend to my bloggers or to me. You have no right to question a person's sanity, mine or any of the bloggers who participate. You have no right to flame, because flames burn a person's soul and heart. Go open your own blog if you feel the need to tell your version of the story or offer your advice. Leave mine alone.

I hope you know that I will never use real names. I hope you have the same common sense. There are too many rude, and even harmful, people out there who would like nothing better than to prey on grandparents raising grandchildren. Be on guard! Evil exists in the world, and takes many forms.

So, let's begin!