A couple of days ago, as I was writing a section of the book that I am writing related to our journey of being grandparents raising a grandchild, Sebellah walked into my office and saw what I was doing and said, “Read me the story about me.” She knew that the story I am writing was about her in some way and that she was going to be contributing to it with her art pictures. I told her that I didn’t want to read it to her, but I could tell her what the story was about. She said, “Tell me the story”, so, I took the opportunity to tell her a little more of the story. We have decided to share with her the story, primarily when she asks questions. We have also strived to honestly answer her questions as she asks them, answering in a manner that we feel is age appropriate. So, I took the opportunity to share a little more about her “birth mommy and birth daddy”, as we call her biological parents. She has some awareness of Beth, her biological mom, our daughter, but very little or no awareness of Derek, her biological father. I told her that they loved her, but that they did not make good choices and were not able to take care of her. We talked a little about our “adopting” her and we talked about her birth and how she had to stay in the hospital for a long time when she was born and how we attempted to help her birth mommy and daddy, take care of her. We also talked about the fact that her birth daddy had to go to jail, which led to a beginning discussion of “drugs”, “medications that people take that are not good for them”, and that there are laws to protect people from hurting themselves with these medications, and that is why her birth daddy had to go to jail. We talked again about her “tummy mommy”, her preferred term for Beth, dying two years ago because she took too much “medication”. I had some concern about using the term medication, but I felt like it was a term that made sense to her. We talked about how, her birth daddy Derek, I used his name, was out of jail now and lived in Arizona. I made the connection for her, that Derek was Grandma’s son and DJ’s daddy. She has some awareness about those two from her visits with them when we lived in Arizona. She asked if I thought that they missed her. I said, “Yes”, and I let her know that we keep in touch with them and that we send them pictures of her and let them know how she is doing. I said maybe someday you will meet him, her birth daddy, but left it at that. It was a good conversation and another opportunity to share more of her story with her, and yet, it didn’t seem to impact her in any way. I also said that anytime that she had questions about any of this, she could always ask us. She seemed satisfied and went off to play with her barbies in her room.
It is challenging at times to know how to share “the story”, “our story” with our grandchildren. We all have different stories to tell and different sets of circumstances to communicate. I believe that our grandchildren need to know the story that they are participating in and has impacted their lives, as well as ours. I believe that we need to be honest in an age-appropriate manner and that we can be careful with our terminology. We need to be careful how we characterize the activities and choices of their biological parents and yet, it is also not our role to protect them or to create a fantasy image of them. I believe it is wise to allow our grandchildren to “lead” the way, in that we offer information and elements of the story as they ask questions and seek understanding. It is like my suggestion to parents about sex education. You don’t have to have the “Big Talk”, it is better offered in small conversations that are usually initiated by a question from them.
Another lesson from my experience with Sebellah a couple of days ago is the importance of being open to “interruptions”. They are often precious moments that we will cherish forever.
Sharing the Journey,
Rich (Better known as “Pops”)