When Grandma’s Called to Take Over

Grandmother reading to grandchildrenCalling all grandmas, calling all grandmas, they’re after you again, the people who have babies but don’t or can’t actually raise them. You are being tested once more on your ability to care for the children of your children in an age that is altering the dynamics of family at the speed of a thunderclap.

It is a warning gleaned from reports indicating that more and more grandparents are going to be called upon to raise their grandchildren, stirring the traditional American family unit into a kind of cultural stew, more complicated and demanding than it has ever been.

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Already, almost 8 million children in the United States are living in homes where grandparents are the heads of household. They’re called “grand-families.” The reasons are multiple and varied, from parents too drugged or drunk to handle the responsibilities of raising their own children to traumatic events that just don’t leave anyone but Grandma to do the job. Some reasons are legitimate; some are not. Perhaps the scariest one is that the kids who have the kids just don’t want their parties to end.

I’ve heard that reason ad infinitum as cultural anthropologists explore the emotional complications that allow new parents to more or less just give up their babies for someone else to raise because they want to remain young themselves, and having to be mothers somehow ages them. So they’re trying to undo the aging process and dance on. This, goes the rationale, is due to a new standard that makes it seem OK for teenagers to have sex but not deal with the consequences of their passions.

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Years ago, due to family problems, our granddaughter Nicole became our ward as she attended high school and then art school. We returned her to her parents in good shape three years later. In a few months, she and her husband, Adam, will have a baby, and there will be no giving it away. We helped her learn how to love, and it still shines through.

Love really is the answer, as the song says, and it is a truth well applied where kids grow up too soon and tomorrow comes too fast.

Photo: Brooklyn Production/Corbis

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