Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Raising grandchildren
August 22, 2018
I have a good friend who became a grandparent recently. She went to the hospital to meet the new arrival, but what should have been a joyous occasion was marked with sadness as the little one was quickly whisked away.
He was born addicted to opioids and was having trouble breathing. It was not a surprise to anyone who knew the parents.
The birth mother entered and then walked out of a rehabilitation facility several months prior to her delivery date. There was little question the baby would be born addicted and with other health issues as well.
A rough start
Our community population demographics does not make a neo natal unit financially practical, so just hours after entering the world, this five-pound infant was transported to a facility some 45 minutes away and hooked up to a ventilator and a feeding tube and run through the necessary protocol. Welcome to the world, little guy.
The otherwise homeless parents spent the night at our hospital and then left the next day to a location unknown.
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Child Protective Services was called in, and a caseworker was assigned to take charge of the infant. Within a few days, my friend and the other grandparents went to court to be given visitation rights. When the birth parents did not appear, the baby became a ward of the state.
My sweet friend took a drive the next day to visit her grandbaby, who by then, was fortunately breathing on his own and detoxed. She could hold him, and she spent some hours talking to him. She let him know that he was loved and would be taken care of.
After a few hours, she handed him back to the nurse and left. Bereft, but also adamant that she would not be raising this child.
I cry for my friend and her painful situation. She is resolute. She is also optimistic, believing the best will come of the circumstance.
Is it possible that this life will save the life of her own offspring? Something she has been unable to force, cajole or coerce on her own. One can only hope.
I have seen it happen with another friend. Her nephew turned his life completely around following the birth of his son.
When the court took the baby away, he enrolled in, and successfully completed a rehab program, signed up for classes, found a job and fought his way back to parenthood. Five years later, he shares custody with the mother and is doing his best to be a good father. It is early days, but it does happen. I am not certain it happens very often.
Parenting is a tough gig even for those most prepared. I could not believe I was sent home with only the most basic idea of how to keep my firstborn alive.
I received more instruction buying a car — the car came with an actual manual and when the red light came on, I knew where to look!
Babies are precious and helpless and smell so sweet. But there are countless long and challenging times between newborn and adulthood. They test the most patient among us.
No one could ever fully express how difficult the job is — from sleep deprivation to potty training to fights about homework and teaching them to drive. Even the most joyful moments are surrounded by long hours and full calendars.
It's tough to raise a child
There was a time in our culture when grandparents did help in raising the children as part of the extended family. But they are not meant to be the primary caregiver.
Today, grandparents are the primary caregivers for a different reason. Statistically, 1.3 million children nationwide are being raised by a grandparent or grandparents. Many blame the opioid crisis.
A recent "60 Minutes" segment featured grandparents who stepped in to save grandchildren from drug addicted parents — one granddad facing a terminal disease — not the retirement he had envisioned. The story hits close to home.
Raising a human to be a responsible, independent person is fraught with so many challenges and variables. It has been said before, but bears repeating: the best parenting does not guarantee a successful, problem-free adult any more than the worst parenting guarantees delinquency.
I know wonderful families doing everything right who have lost a child to addiction or depression or suicide and I have met more than one remarkable adult who had the kind of upbringing horror films are made of. It's not necessarily a crap shoot, but there are simply no assurances.
I send my friend good wishes and hope for the best possible outcome, but I am not certain I know what that is. Given the difficulty of the task, what chance does someone fresh from rehab and homelessness have?
Of course, social services offer a remarkable team of support, should the parents decide to try. There is a chance my friend will be able to watch her first grandchild grow up. There is also a chance she will not.
She is at the mercy of other's decisions, having made her own. It is a difficult reality.
There is a saying that having a child means having your heart walk around outside of your body for the rest of your days. I understand that sentiment completely. Sometimes it beats with pride and joy. Other times, it loses rhythm, skipping beats out of concern and fear.
There is a new person in the world today, living in foster care, unaware of the difficult path he is on. We can only hope for the best, whatever that may be.
Welcome to the world, little guy.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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