This was originally a guest post written for my friend, Dulce Chale’s blog. I wanted to share it with you today. The Gift of Surrogate Grandparents
My paternal grandmother died while my dad was still a young man serving in the military, before he had met and married my mother so I never knew the woman from whom I inherited my blue eyes and dimpled cheeks. My grandfather later married a woman who lacked either the desire or the willingness to engage with small children. Subsequently I remember her only as grumpy and him only as detached.
On the other hand, the distinct personalities of my maternal grandparents are etched firmly in my mind but because we lived across the country from them most of my childhood those cherished visits were not nearly as frequent as we would have liked.
This distance, physical with one set of grandparents and emotional with the other, left a carved out void which a wonderful elderly couple would later fill. I had no idea at the time what an invaluable gift I was being given and what an important contribution these two were making to the formation of my beautiful childhood.
Having lost their only son in a railroad accident when he was in his early twenties, Marsh and Cora Vaughn had no living descendants on which to lavish their love. When they started attending my dad’s church, they immediately fell in love with our family. Oddly enough, their deceased son had the same name as my dad so it was easy to think of him as their son and his offspring as their pseudo grandchildren.
My younger sister and I spent countless hours on this couple’s small farm helping with chores, playing with the animals, making mud pies outdoors and child-sized biscuits indoors, chasing butterflies and fireflies in the summer and gathering firewood in the winter. We slept in goose down feather beds, drank warm milk flavored with coffee from real china cups and saucers, explored antiques in the attic and retrieved canned goods from the cellar. We rode Nellie, the old farm horse bareback, rode the tractor on occasion and rode into town on Saturdays to visit the feed mill. Sound like an idyllic experience for a child? You bet it was! We were adored.
After I had three children of my own and witnessed the exquisite delight both sets of grandparents found in them and the special place these adults had in the minds and hearts of my offspring I knew how important my set of “adopted” grandparents had been in supplying that same experience for me.
Although some of you reading this are lucky enough to have the support and involvement of grandparents in your children’s lives, others are not. Much of this modern day estrangement has more to do with job related displacement than complicated emotional issues. But whatever the reason for its absence I have deep regret for those not able to relish and realize the joy of grandparents.
My reason for writing about this subject, however, is to encourage you and open your mind to the possibility of finding a surrogate grandparent for your child. This is a blessing that can definitely benefit both ways. When my children were younger, my husband signed a three year contract for a job in Anchorage, Alaska. My mother, who was widowed and extremely attached to our children, was devastated. While I knew this move was the best thing for our family, I also worried about Mom being lonely in our absence.
One day as my mother sat down with her Bible, she absentmindedly opened it and her eyes fell upon Psalms 68:8 “He places the solitary in families”. She began to weep as she told the Lord how alone she felt with us 2,000 miles away and how she missed the frequent interaction with family. A few weeks later she met a wonderful family with whom there was an instant connection. They had two children who were desperately needing a grandmother figure in their lives and my mom had a ton of grandmother love to give!
He places the solitary in families
After completing the assignment in Alaska, we relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas and convinced my mother to move into a beautiful condo just five minutes from our home. Although happy to be reunited with us, her relationship with her “adopted family” remained a constant and joyful part of her life for the next two decades until her death. Those “grandchildren” grew up, graduated, married and became parents themselves and Mom was always happy to show me their latest pictures and share their latest victories. On the occasions when things were not going well for them she would ask me to pray. She genuinely cared about their well-being.
When Mom died and my sister and I were tasked with going through her things we found dozens of cards, letters, mementos and gifts from the family who had adopted her, each item a token of respect and honor they had sent her way. As her biological children, we were filled with gratitude for this extra love and attention lavished upon the woman we all felt blessed to have as a part of our lives.
God places people in families for a reason. It’s a place where we feel celebrated, accepted, wanted and loved. It’s the soil that nurtures us as we grow into everything God Our Creator intended for us to be. Grandparents are like special nutrients in that soil. They can boost a child’s self-esteem, add an enhanced sense of security, delight in each small accomplishment and because they often live life at a more relaxed pace than a child’s parents, can sometimes offer a sense of rest in our much hurried world.
Grandparents are like special nutrients in that soil.
Perhaps life has gifted you with this wonderful asset for raising your children. If not, may I strongly suggest that you go to the Lord on behalf of your children and make a request? Scripture says that God loves to give good gifts to His children. And from my experience a surrogate grandparent is a good gift indeed!