We spent a month — no, it was a long weekend — caring for some of our grandchildren while their parents were out of town. There were four of them, 5 and under, abetted by a dog. There were only two of us.
Somehow, we managed to survive while keeping them clean, fed and mostly free of mortal danger. On the way home, we noted that we had forgotten how demanding and exhausting childcare could be.
Proverbs reminds us: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged... .” Of course, later in the Good Book, we learn that some crowns can be downright painful. The other night, I was sitting with a group of inmates. One young man shared that he had just lost his grandmother. She had raised him during most of his childhood.
His eyes filled with grief as he talked about this woman and the enormous hole she left in his life.
The man sitting next to him patted his knee with a cuffed hand. He said that it must be tough. He had lived with his mother’s mother when a drug addiction kept her from answering the bell to maternal responsibility.
This big guy with tattooed sleeves turned somber when talking about his grandmother. She just lost her baby sister and was in poor health herself.
More than anything, he wanted to get out and take care of her, to give a little back for all she had done.
While the sadness is real, some might question the parenting skills of these women, pointing to children willing to abandon their little ones to kinship care, and to their grandchildren sitting in a county jail.
I don’t know if these women were good parents or not, but I do think they were good women, raising their children to the best of their ability.
Why else would they were willing to sacrifice their “golden years,” or at least what should have been easier years, for the sake of their children’s children?
Grandparents should be able to swoosh in, play with their grandkids, tell stories, bake cookies, watch games, let them stay up late and generally sprinkle pixie dust over their lives.
They should not have to take on extra years of work, of worry, of constant care for yet another generation of children.
But they do, some 3 million of them. Most of us have no idea of the depth of their pain or the span their love.