Grandparents have become ‘the’ parents. Yes they have always been important in the extended family of the past. Every grandparent was special and they were fun to visit because they often took the role of proving little extras and took us on outings. They were also the voice of reason when things weren’t going so well with one of our kids. They provided balance. OK--- my description is one from an idealistic world, but it does contain some truths.
What’s happened over the years, it seems is that we now have many grandparents acting as the ‘primary’ caregiver, because for various reasons the children’s’ parents are no longer able to cope and they are simply not ‘providing’ in all the sense of the word for their children. I do not know the numbers of grandparents in this situation. Yes, grandparents have stepped into the gap throughout history in many cultures but the new model is an increasingly common one.
I feel for these brave grandparents. At a time in their lives when they should be able to say--- ‘I love it when my grandkids visit, but I also love it when I hand them back.’ Out of necessity they now step in and face the daily task of providing and caring for the kids. They are often tired and financially stressed. They can reach a point where their own health is a factor that makes the job even harder. The kids sometimes run them around; they know how to get around stressed and tired grandparents and we too often see a ‘new family’ in crisis.
I have also seen many of these families coping, but there is always the underlying fear about what will happen when the grandparents hit the wall. At a time in their lives when they should be taking it a bit easier, they are faced with this huge new challenge.
We all need to acknowledge these special people—they are heroes. Without painting their predicament with the same brush, we do need to ask--- why has this situation become so common? Society has some huge questions to ask. I am merely raising the fact that we need to do just that. Let’s have some real discussion.