Grandparenting Is Risky
Why we sign up for it anyway
In my case, though, there’s been no handing him back to the parents. For the past few months, my grandson has been in my husband’s and my primary care. We do a lot less “jacking him up”—at least not before bedtime.
Just when our nest was nearly empty, we’ve been thrust back into the days of preschool artwork, trips to the playground, and stories before bed. It’s the best.
What isn’t the best is not knowing how long we’ll be doing this. Not because I’m anxious to get back to my life as I knew it. And not because I mind answering 473 questions a day for an inquisitive five year old. What’s difficult about not knowing is the thought of having to give him back. I’m crazy in love with this child, and in so many ways, I wish I could raise him as my own.
But I’m not his mother, and my husband isn’t his father; we’re his grandparents. This means we get the responsibilities of Mom and Dad without the authority to determine what happens next—and when.
Now before you jump down to the comment box to tell me we have legal rights as grandparents, please understand, I’m simply discussing the emotional side of this issue here. More than 2 million grandparents in America are raising their children’s children, and many of them have obtained the legal authority to stand in the gap. For right now, ours is an informal agreement to give our grandson a safe, secure, loving place to live for as long as needed.
Knowing the emotional risk involved, why would someone sign up for a gig like this? Any foster parent could probably give you the answer, but I’ll take a crack at it. We sign up for it because we know no other way. For 25 years, God has been grooming us for this role. We’ve raised four sons of our own. It’s a rare opportunity to be called upon to use all of your life’s training and experience for the good of another human being. Getting to be part of shaping our grandson’s life at a time when he needs stability and security more than anything is a privilege beyond words.
This little boy’s life has gotten off to a bumpy start. But in the midst of so much change and uncertainty, our home can serve as an oasis where he can know with absolute certainty that he is loved. We’re not going anywhere.
Each week that’s gone by, I’ve had to find my own oasis—God—to be reminded of all the promises he has for those who love him. When I worry about our grandson’s future, Jeremiah 29:11 gives me hope: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”
When I fret over how long we’ll get to have our grandson in our care, I remember that God’s timing is perfect. He is walking beside our grandson, his parents, and us. None of us is experiencing this part of life alone. God has it all in hand, and he sees the beginning from the end, even when all we see is the messy stuff happening now.
Trusting in God means believing in him the way our precious little grandson is counting on us right now. He’s not worried about tomorrow. He’s just wondering whether it’ll be Grandma or Grandpa who’s going to play ball with him in the front yard.
Grandparenting is risky because love is risky. It hurts and it heals; it makes you soar, and it leaves you in despair. Disney has yet to build a roller coaster that can do all this. And yet, even in the midst of heartache for our grandson and the life we hope he can have, I know where our instinct to get on this thrill ride came from: We love because God first loved us. He knows better than anyone how it feels to be crazy in love with his offspring. He risks it all—the heartache, the joy—for all of us. And in Jesus he tells us, unequivocally, we’re worth it.
Today when our grandson wakes up, we’ll probably eat eggs for breakfast, work in the garden until he gets bored, and end the night with a couple of stories. My husband and I will trade turns with him according to our work schedules. We’ll fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, just like we did when our own kids were small. And tomorrow, we may wake up to do it all over again. Until the day comes when this cycle is broken, I’ll do the small part I’ve been given to do and love our grandson with all my heart, knowing full well it will get broken when it’s time to let him go. But I will also tell you now, unequivocally, he is worth it.
Marian V. Liautaud is editor of Church Management Resources for Christianity Today and a frequent contributor to Kyria.com.