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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! :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How'd we get here?

It always bothered me when I heard stories of kids in custody situations not of their own design. One of the lousiest to my mind is a person who nurtured and raised them- be it a custodial parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or even an unrelated foster parent- who usually did this for years, suddenly got shoved aside by a court order and a judge with an axe to grind. The child had a home, a good home, stability, and there was no promise or expectation of the same with the parent. But because the parental tie is allegedly so strong, the child HAD to go live with the parent, even if the parent has not seen the child in years. In cases where that new custodial parent has harmed or even murdered the child, I wonder how judges sleep at night. 

There are such stories. Simply Google and you will see Lulubelles and Juniors bearing the title of Dad and Mom who, after promising protective services and a judge that NOTHING will ever happen to the kid again, he drove into traffic in the wrong direction, killing himself and the child. She took the kid out of the country, and it takes money and years to see that kid again. He got in a drug-induced snit, lost patience and beat the child beyond recognition.  The voices in her head told her the child was possessed by Satan, so she drown/ dismembered/ choked/ poisoned the child. He decided he didn't want to live anymore, and when his children were on a supervised visit in his home (a stupid idea if ever there was one), he shoved the case worker outside the door and blew himself and his children up. One fine day, protective services received one too many reports on a person, and went to investigate. There, among the filth, were little children of varying ages and sizes, without food, without clothes, without supervision. Take your pick.

You will also see plenty of stories where protective services has blown the load and taken away children for no darn good reason. I think of Illinois, because I am from Illinois, and the case of a family who lost their children for weeks on end because of a young teacher who imagined more than there was. I think of the family who ran a daycare, whose young daughter was accused of being a child molester, for no reason other than an odd parent among the daycare clients. I think of a family in another state, who lost their children in their later childhoods, because another child said the father was molesting them; no proof, but there was protective services, butting in and taking them away, until they turned legal age and went back to their parents. One guy almost lost his children because he couldn't speak English. So, I would be the last person on earth to support anything protective services said. 

So when it comes to the Lulubelles and Juniors of this world, I like grandparents to have a way to think out the situation for themselves. Judges have their own political party and theories. His or her spouse might have custody obtained in a bitter divorce, as an example. Case workers are overloaded with complaints, client children, foster parents, and may not have any background in child psychology or social work, but need a job. You know what's going on, and you know the facts. One of the best ways is to reflect on where we've been, and where we are today. How'd we get here?

Often, when the kids are placed in your care, there's little time to think about what's going to happen. You don't know what you're going to do next, it's all moving quickly. You barely have time to call the school, fill the fridge, and borrow a folding bed.

Then, there is a lull. Maybe the errant adult child straightens up in a few weeks or months, and the kids go back. Maybe not. I'm here to tell you from the reports I've received as well as my own experience, "maybe not" is what's likely to happen. 

Regaining custody takes work on the part of a person who has already proven that his or her favored way to do things is the easy way. Therapy sessions take time. Visitation takes time. Legal work takes time. Lulubelle and Junior simply have no more time for such things! There are people to date and bed, drugs to take, legal drugs to skip, booze to drink, video games to play, horses to race, bets to make.  It's so much easier to just skip it "this once" and show up at the extended family gathering, bearing whatever in the way of gifts and bragging on the clean, well-mannered child Lulu and Junior have not raised, as if he or she did in fact do all the work.

And let's face it, we probably indulged the adult child, what's known as "enabling" a person. We love our adult children, no matter how it seems now. We wanted to help them.  They were once our babies. We ignored the falsehoods, the downright lies, the hidden agendas, especially when bullied with "the grandkids" and their welfare. We are not guilty of what our adult children have done, by any measure. But there might have been times when we should have put on the brakes and said NO, in big bold letters. There were times we should have questioned the story we were being told. There were times we squashed down that instinct in our gut that somehow, we were being deceived by our very own children. We gave them money we shouldn't have, time we shouldn't have, leisure and material goods we never should have given them. 

So, there came the day when we opened our eyes fully. Maybe a local or state agency opened those eyes for us. Maybe we walked into a situation that was sufficiently horrific to wake us up. And there was a child, our grandchild, our grandchildren, who were in harm's way, who have had no real parenting, who were hungry, who were being raised in filth, left alone for who knows how long without adult supervision, who have been injured but pulled through- and they need us. They are children, after all. There might have been a phone call, a knock at the door. Our Lulubelle or Junior might have simply left the kids for a brief visit or overnight, and slipped out into the world. 

We might be older. We might have just sent our last off to college, and looked forward to an empty nest. We might be on social security and a pension, and have been for years. We might still have kids at home, the siblings of the adult child in question, who are doing their best to be their best. We might have a significant other or a spouse. We might still live in the same place where our adult child grew up, or a condo, or even a trailer home. 

But we decided to choose, even though it broke our hearts, and we chose the grandkids. Then we rolled up our sleeves and got busy. We hired experts. We did some fact-checking. We called on teachers and daycare providers to fill in some blanks. We took pictures. We got a therapist and an attorney. We checked to see if the pediatrician we used 15 years ago still practices, ditto pediatric dentist and orthodontist.  We went to court. The judge was impressed with our evidence enough to give us custody, or even allow an adoption. In our case, we had the intervention of the Servant of God Vincent Cappodano, along with the best attorney money couldn't buy. Many, many people prayed for us for years, living on Earth and in Heaven. 

And yes, we miss how things were! We didn't stop being parents to our adult children. They will always be our children! We would like to have a better relationship than visitation drop-offs, than family therapy, than always suspecting our adult child of lies because we discovered we'd only known lies for so very long, and that adult child has yet to earn our trust! We didn't like having to move to get away from abuse, manipulating or bullying at the hands of our Lulubelles and Juniors. We didn't like getting orders of protection, restraining orders, supervised visitation orders, guardianship, custody agreements, and the most final of all, adoption decrees. But we had to make choices, and we were given very little leeway. 

So here we are. Here I am, almost seven years from the time the Mister and I took action. I have to say, the grandkids have given us much, much more than we have ever given them. How we are raising them not only reflects new methods learned, but things we didn't want to see happen again. They are bright stars, now and in the future. 

I miss both my adult children, for the brother has taken the side of my Lulubelle, without really knowing the whole story. I am sure he's afraid he's going to somehow lose his children, and I don't blame him for that, even though he seems to be a hard-working guy who takes care of his family. I wish our son every happiness, and every good thing in his life.

But if I had to do this again, take custody and adopt this set of grandkids, YES, YES, YES, I would do it again! There is so much I've discovered over time that they were spared because we did this, on both sides of their DNA. 

As a good example, I don't think anybody would have tested them for academic giftedness. I know my Lulubelle wouldn't even consider interrupting her daytime nap to take Belle to speech therapy as a Kindergartner. I know my ex-son-in-law's present wife can barely spell, and at one point, wrote by typing one long sentence in caps, no punctuation, until she had a paragraph. I could easily see where Belle and Baby would have become permanent baby-sitters for their various biological siblings without breaks for silly interruptions such as school, especially Belle, who my Lulubelle simply hated and showed it.

So YES, I would do it again, and I bet there are many of you who would do it, as well. Nobody else is patting us on the back, and there's always the naysayers who think we've done something against nature. So, let's be glad we got here, and pat ourselves on the back.           

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