Grandparents On the Clock

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Parents Can’t Always Do It Alone

By Pamela Crabtree

When my 37-year-old son, Eric, decided to enter the realm of single fatherhood, the whole family was behind him 100 percent. We knew he was venturing into unchartered territory, since being the residential parent of his then 2 ½ -year-old daughter in Ohio is uncommon. According to the 2013 U.S. census, only 1 in 6, or 17.5% of, fathers have residential custody of their child(ren).

    Knowing the odds were against him, he retained a child custody lawyer at a cost beyond his financial means. He received financial help from his parents, siblings, friends, and a fundraiser, and worked overtime to pay his attorney.

     The ups and downs of the path to gain custody of his daughter was wrought with exhausting emotional turmoil that could’ve weakened and discouraged even the most loving father. Still, my son pursued what he felt was best for his daughter.

Nobody wins in custody battles

    Custody battles are horrible at best, as there are no winners. In my son’s case, he was awarded custody and, along with that, the full-time responsibility of being a single dad. Enter Mom and Dad Crabtree. We supported our son because we felt, through frequent observation of both parents, that he was the best parent for our granddaughter and had the temperament to offer unconditional love, stability, and the nurturing a toddler requires. Our support included emotional and financial responsibility. A growing number of grandparents open their homes and give their time and resources to their grandchild(ren) and, in some cases like ours, their own child.

     My husband and I are 70 years old and will celebrate 50 years of marriage this month. We raised four children, which at times was challenging, but we did it together.

  We are fortunate to assist our son as he raises his now 4 ½-year-old daughter. We do not have or want 24/7 responsibility. We do not make medical, discipline, recreational or educational decisions for our granddaughter. Not to say we never discipline her, but we view our son as the defining authority on all aspects of her upbringing. We see many of the values and traditions we instilled in our children reflected in how he raises our granddaughter.

Starting early

      Days, when we are on the clock start early, when our granddaughter awakens. The routine is simple: brushing teeth, changing clothes, making her bed and eating breakfast. Our TV viewing is usually Sprout, Cartoon Channel, and the Disney Channel. We’ve become expert Old Maid card players, can play Chutes and Ladders and HiHo! Cherry-O with our eyes closed and receive all manner of help with cooking, baking, cleaning and outdoor work. Working with numbers and the alphabet and coloring are also activities we work on to help prepare her for kindergarten.

    We encourage outdoor play and have our own Crabtree Park, in the backyard, which has an array of activities, such as a simple swing set and slide, a huge-truck-tire sandbox, and a basketball hoop. We are playmates, like so many grandparents, and suffer the bodily aches and pains that age brings as we try to keep up with our granddaughter.

    When Daddy comes home and we are off the clock, we enjoy a rest not availble for many full-time grandparents on the clock 24/7. It takes immense love and devotion to raise a grandchild. Those who forsake their own freedom, financial security and in some instances physical comfort, should be commended.

There are services in our area to assist grandparents, like the Kinship Navigator Program through the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc. If you find you may need assistance, contact them at 419-382-0624, ext. 2231.

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