Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group

Wow! What a night!  Our first Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group was a great success.  We had 12 grandparents attend and 9 children.  It was obvious that every grandparent in attendance, appreciated having a place where they can come and know that others understand their experience.  Each grandparent told their own story that led to their raising their grandchild.  Each story had its own uniqueness and yet, their were common themes of pain, chaos, uncertainty, and challenges.  Each grandparent also communicated the joy and blessing that comes with the opportunity to step in a provide a safe and loving home for their grandchild.

One of the other clear themes that came through was the challenge of dealing with a parent who is struggling with an addiction or mental illness.  Their is the paradox of the love you still feel for your own child and the anger and pain experienced when addiction takes over their lives, and interferes with their ability to be a safe and loving parent for their child, your grandchild.  One of our goals of our group, is to provide support for grandparents who are currently dealing with this paradox.

Another exciting part of what we are experiencing in our launching of our support group is the support of so many community organizations.  Prescott Unified School District has been great and providing a great location and helping promote the group.  They even provided the childcare for our first group.  Matforce has made a commitment to provide the funding for ongoing childcare for the group.  NACOG has also helped to promote the group and is helping with the cost of snacks for the group.  We also have had several organizations state that they would be willing to come to our group to share about the services that they can provide for the grandparents.

Our support group will meet monthly, on the second Wednesday of the month, from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Resource Center, located at the PUSD offices in the old Washington School building on Gurley Street.

Going Back to School

I often joke with the students that I work with as an outdoor education instructor that I am “Old School”.  I say, “I’m old and I’ve been to school”.  Some times they laugh.  Well, as grandparents, raising grandchildren, we have a choice to make.  Are we going to insist on being, “Old School” and parent in the same way that did our first time around, or, are we willing to go back to “school” and learn new ways of parenting and supporting our grandchildren? I am tempted to be “Old School”, but I am working on going back to school and seeking to learn.  So, what might be some of the things that I may need some education on.

First, I need to learn new and updated methods of basic parenting.  Overall, I think I was a good parent the first time around, and yet, I had some weaknesses, of course.  I struggled with consistency and setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries and limits.  I did too much protecting at times and always trying to prevent situations that might be painful for my children.  I am currently reading, “Love and Logic” that addresses those weaknesses particularly.  I still find myself making those same mistakes with Sebellah, and so, I am working on learning how to respond to her differently, that will be more in her best interest.

Second, and maybe this should be first, I need to constantly be a student of who Sebellah is.  I believe our children and grandchildren come into our lives as unique gifts, with unique talents, personalities, skills. learning styles and modes of operations.  I raised boys the first time around, so I am having to learn how raising a girl is different than raising a boy.  I need to learn how to encourage and build up Sebellah’s unique giftedness.

Third, I need to become a student of our ever changing world and the world that Sebellah grow up in.  I am fairly competent in today’s technology, and yet, I have so much to learn about that technology and the social media that will be a major part of her life.  I don’t believe that I can totally protect her from the evil’s therein, but I can be a resource for her as she learns to navigate her world.

Fourth, I need to always we aware of the impact of Sebellah’s life before she came to live with us.  In our case, we are fortunate that she came to be with us when she was only 5 months old.  And yet, those 5 months were very chaotic and traumatic.  I know that for many grandparents, their grandchildren are coming to them after many years of chaos and trauma.  It is important that we take opportunities through reading, the internet and workshops, to learn about how trauma can affect children.

These are only a few of the lessons that I and grandparents raising grandchildren, need to learn.  I like to say, “Life is a Process and that Process is Life”.  An important part of that process is the process of being a lifelong student.  When we practice being lifelong students, we benefit and those who are in our care will benefit greatly as well.

Sharing the Journey!

Pops (Rich)

Home

Well, we made it back home after our 26 day, 4,630 miles journey.  It was an amazing trip and we had a great time.  I am actually having some withdrawal symptoms from the trip.  I would do the trip again, in a heartbeat.  In fact, I am already mentally planning our next trip.  I am thinking about a trip to Montana to visit a college friend and then on to Glacier National Park, for next summer, and thinking about Alaska for 2020.  We’ll see.

On Tuesday, Sebellah starting talking about wanting to go to “my home”.  So, although she clearly enjoyed the trip, I think that she had reached her limit of being on the road.  That being said, she has also already started asking when we are going on another trip.

So, we are back to facing real life at home.  Allene and I want to turn our focus to getting a support group started for grandparents raising grandchildren.  Our biggest hurdle is to work out the childcare part, so grandparents will not be hindered by the need for childcare for young children.  So, stay tuned for word about the support group.

My main takeaway from our journey is that new adventures are awaiting us.  We just have to be willing to take the challenge, plan well and face some of the risks involved.  The rewards are worth the risks and challenges involved.  Both we as grandparents, and our grandchildren, gain by accepting the challenges and trying new adventures.  Hopefully, this is just chapter one in our book of summer adventures for the young family.

I appreciate those of you who followed us along the journey.  It was therapeutic for me to blog about my experience.  I hope you enjoyed the stories and pictures.  Please share this blog with anyone who you believe could benefit from it.  I will continue to post blogs about the experience of raising a grandchild and share resources that I come across.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich, “Pops”

20180815_132906.jpg

Exhausting Joy!

I am writing this sitting outside of the motorhome at a little past midnight, Texas time.  I am enjoying the coastal breeze of Galveston Island.  We decided to come to Galveston after all, and we are glad we did.  We had a rough day yesterday in New Orleans.  We were in New Orleans, but unfortunately, we did not “do New Orleans”.  It was a combination of bad choices and the limitations of the Uber system.  I will spare you the details but I felt bad that Allene did not get to experience Cafe Du Monde.  We tried to make it work, but it just didn’t work out.  So, on to Galveston.  We did have a good day traveling here and we had a good lunch at “Steamboat Bill’s Seafood Grille” in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  It was a fun place and they had good Cajun food.  We like our spot at the Galveston Island RV Resort.  It’s not Destin, but it is nice and the resort is very nice.  We will check out the beach but probably spend most of the day later today, at the two pool areas here.  Today (Sunday) will be are last day of relaxation before the three long driving days to Prescott.

As I sit here feeling the cool Texas coastal breeze, I am reflecting on the trip overall.  It has been an amazing trip that I am so thankful that we have chosen to experience.  It has been exhausting at times.  Sebellah is a high energy child and requires a great deal of patience on our part. The driving has been exhausting at times but actually, not as bad as I had feared.  Of course, the longest days of driving are to still to come.  The crowds and heat of Disney World were exhausting as well.  Yet, without question, the experience of Joy has far exceeded the times of exhaustion.  The joy of the 11 days traveling alone with Sebellah is still the highlight of my part of the trip.  I enjoyed the time of bonding we experience during that part of our trip.  The joy of hanging out with Jeremiah, Kristen, Kamdyn and Evie was tremendous and well worth the Orlando humidity and crowds.  We had many moments of joy splashing around in the clear emerald waters of Destin.  One of the greatest joys has been watching Sebellah grow during these 22 days, today will be day 23.  It seems that she is at least six months older than when we first pulled out of our driveway on July 21st.

Raising a grandchild is exhausting!  More exhausting some days than others.  There are moments when it feels like, “I can’t do this for another 15 to 20 years”.  I know that the physical demands will diminish over time, but right now, physically, it is exhausting.  Yet, the joy and fulfillment still far exceeds the exhaustion and I have no question that the effort is and will be worth it.  I believe that it will be worth it for Sebellah, of course.  It will also be worth it for Allene and I as well.  We are no doubt, becoming better people through this process.  Sebellah does challenge me to continue to grow and develop and to become a better man.  She needs and deserves me being the best man that I can be.  I am working at it  and some days I am more successful at that than others.  I am reminded of Jesus’ message about how we treat “these little ones”.  There is probably no greater test of our integrity as a human, than how we treat our children, especially when no one is watching.

So, as exhausted as I am after 22 days on the road, living in our motorhome, I am so thankful for the opportunity and feel blessed.  I am also blessed to have a great partner in Allene, who is very patient with me, especially on those days when I am not necessarily the better man that day.  Say like, yesterday in New Orleans for example.  She is a woman of great patience and grace, and I am very thankful for her.

So, those are my thoughts during the early morning hours of day 23, from the Texas gulf coast.

Once again, Sharing the Journey,

Rich, “Pops”

The Long Journey Home

We have had a great time at the beach in Destin.  Our site is very close to the beach and we can see the water while sitting at our site.  The water is warm and very clear.  Sebellah has had a good time playing in the water and she has made great progress on this trip with her comfortableness in the water and swimming skills.

Today, we will be heading to New Orleans for a day and then westward, toward Arizona.  We are debating skipping Galveston, so that we can have shorter drive times each day.  We have about 2200 miles to travel to make it home.  It is a long journey.

The long journey is a good metaphor for the adventure of raising a grandchild.  It too is a long journey.  Thinking about all that we will have to face over the next 15 to 20 years, particularly, can be overwhelming at times.  Thinking about school issues, broken bones and broken heats to come, is daunting, to say the least.  Yet, just like our trip home from Florida, there are no short cuts.

The trip home for Sebellah and I will at least be experienced with “Lolli”, which will make it much more manageable.  Having significant people to share the journey does make all the difference.  That is one of the reasons that we are planning on starting our support group this fall.  Having a place to interact with others who are experiencing a similar journey can make a huge difference.  We need each other’s support and also the benefit of shared resources.  It is an especially long journey, traveled alone.

So, we will share the journey.

Rich, “Pops”

20180809_142424.jpg20180809_090119.jpg

A Lifetime of “The Magic Kingdom” and the “Brother/Uncle” Dynamic

As a kid, two of my favorite places were Dodger stadium, and Disneyland.  I grew up in Huntington Beach, California and lived a short distance from both of my favorite places.  Visiting Disneyland was always a magical place for me and I have very fond memories of my times there.  I also had the opportunity to take my sons to both Disneyland and Disney World.  We also had fond memories of our visits there.  I remember how excited Ryan was when he got to pull the sword out of the rock at the King Arthur show.  Now, I have had the joy of sharing Disney World with Sebellah and Allene.

These past three days at Disney World has been a lot of fun, although hot, humid and exhausting as well.  We spent a part of a day at the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom.  I believe that the Magic Kingdom was Sebellah’s favorite.  We were not so sure how she would do on the rides, but she loved them and wanted to do more.  Jeremiah and Kristen, as well as, Kamdyn, are quite the Disney World experts and helped us get the most out of our short stay here.  They left this morning, to return home to Tennessee.  We had a great time hanging out with them, although it was a little tight in our motorhome.  Four adults and three children and one bathroom, is a little challenging, but we made it work.

There is an interesting dynamic that we experience and this week is a good example of when it really comes into play.  Allene and I joke with her son Jake, and call him, “Brother/Uncle”.  It is a joke and yet, there is a real dynamic that we experience related to having children now that are a part of two generations.  We have five grandchildren, and we are raising one of them, Sebellah.  The reality is that the time and energy that it is required in providing for Sebellah does affect the time and energy that we have to grandparent our other four grandchildren.  The week as we shared the “Happiest Place On Earth”, which is really Disneyland, but I guess that Walt would be okay applying it to the Orlando property as well, we were operating as both parents and grandparents.  We were in the role of parent with Sebellah, 3 and 1/2 yr-old and grandparents to Kamdyn and Evie, 5 yr-old and 18 months.  Our adult children have been very supportive of what we are doing and we greatly appreciate that, but the reality is that our parenting of Sebellah does take away from what we can offer their children.  On the other side of this dynamic is the reality that we have a similar and shared experience of parenting along side of our own children.  One thing that does help is that we do talk openly with our children about our experience and even the reality of this dynamic that we are discussing here.  It does help to openly talk about it.  It is always beneficial to have an open line of communication with those who are involved in our world, as we take this journey together.

So, I hope that you enjoy a few pictures of our experience at Disney World.  Tomorrow, we are off to Camp Gulf in Destin, Florida for 5 days at the beach.  The next part of our adventure.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich, “Pops”

20180802_102022.jpg20180802_093458.jpg20180802_083301.jpg20180801_163256.jpg

We Made It!

We Made It!  We made it to Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World.  We traveled 2275 miles to get here in 11 days.  I would definitely say that the trip was worth the challenges.  Sebellah was amazing and we had a load of fun along the way.  I will always remember the journey and it is truly one of my favorite experiences of my 62 years on this earth.  We still have 4 days at Walt Disney World and 5 days at the beach in Destin, but I actually think the 11 days with Sebellah will be the highlight of the trip for me.  We were both very tired, in fact literally as we crossed through the Walt Disney World sign, she fell asleep.

Lolli made it too.  We are so excited for her to join us.  Jeremiah, Kristen, Kamdyn and Evie have also joined us for 3 days of experiencing Mickey and Minnie and all that Walt Disney World has to offer.  I think that Sebellah and Kamdy will have a lot of fun together.

I will admit that as I left the Costco parking lot on the 21st, I felt overwhelmed and anxious, but that anxiety shortly dissipated and was followed by an amazing 11 days that I will never forget.  I would say that one of the clear takeaways related to the experience of raising a grandchild, is the importance of looking for creative ways to be able to do the things that are important and will make a difference.  We had to be creative to make this trip work and it took taking some risks, but it has been worth it.  I believe that it will forever be an important element in the bond that Sebellah and I have.  I think the remainder of the trip will also be very special for the three of us and for our relationship with Jeremiah and his family, as well.

Next summer, we are off to Hawaii with Ryan and Hannah.  We can still do similar things that we had planned on doing if it we just Allene and I.  We just have to be more creative in how we do them.  I like to say, “Life is a Process, and the Process is Life!”  We are experiencing a different process than planned, but it is still a great process and a process worth the challenges that are involved.

So, we are off this morning to the “Magic Kingdom”.  I appreciate those of you who have followed us through this blog.  We will continue to share our journey over the next 15 days and beyond.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich, “Pops”20180731_100300.jpg20180731_142446.jpg

Milestones and “Once Upon A Times”

Well, days 8 and 9 involved driving from Nashville, Arkansas to Lafayette, Louisiana and then on to Milton, Florida.  We have now driven over 1800 miles so far and have about 440 miles to go, which we will do in the next two days.  I am including the picture of what Sebellah was doing, literally, as we marked our 1500th mile.  Being a little crazy from time to time has helped us keep our sanity.  We have intentionally designed the trip into manageable mileage each day, especially for Sebellah.  She has done remarkably well, for an almost four year-old.

As grandparents raising grandchildren, milestones are an important part of our journey as well.  I believe it is important that we recognize and honor the accomplishments and progress both that our grandchildren are experiencing, and the progress that we as grandparents are making in raising our grandchildren to be healthy and productive young people who will participate in making our world a better place.

One of my favorite experiences of our trip happened today.   For some reason, which I never quite figured out, Interstate 10 today was as much a parking lot, as a interstate highway.  I know that we lost at least an hour and probably more like two hours, due to the slow traffic and at times, literally sitting there not moving at all.  During that time we decided to start telling “Once Upon A Time” stories.  We took turns telling stories that we were making up on the fly, but of course, all started with, “Once Upon A Time”.  All of them had either, Sebellah or Pops as the main characters, who were usually captured by an evil black knight, dragon or some other time of evil character.  Of course, they were always rescued and a couple of times the rescuing superhero was none other than a character named, “Lolli”.  She is after all, both of ours favorite “superhero”.  We had a lot of fun, clapped at the end of each other’s stories, and it did help us not focus on the frustrating traffic jams that were cutting into our anticipated swim time, once we got to our new RV park in Milton.

I think that every grandparent raising a grandchild is definitely a superhero and deserves to be recognized as such.

So, tomorrow we have a short day, travelling to Tallahassee, before making our final descent into the Magic Kingdom of Disney World.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich, “Pops”20180728_122727.jpg20180728_140541.jpg

Refreshing Reconnection

Days 6 and 7: One of our planned spots to stop and refresh was in Nashville, Arkansas.  It is the birthplace of my father and the home of the “World’s Greatest Big Sister”, explanation to come.  I grew up the youngest of four children, with three sisters.  I thought our trip across country was a great opportunity to stop in and see my sisters.  I am grateful that my two other sisters, who both drove a ways to come spend some time with all of us.  Sebellah had fun playing with my niece’s daughter, Micah, as well as Trey, who is a gentle giant with a great heart.

My sister Barbara has used her amazing grandma skills to make Sebellah feel quite at home.  In fact, she has already starting calling the room we are sleeping in, “my room”.  She loved playing with some old style toys.  We even came across an old toy guitar of mine, that is somewhere between 50 and 55 years old.  It is a plastic “Sears” guitar.  It still has the letters, “ICH” on it.  That was my stage name in the early years of my musical career.  I am sorry, I don’t have time to talk about that story.  The guitar may make into our motorhome for Sebellah to play with.

It was fun having a time to reconnect with my three sisters.  We are all unique individuals with different lives and perspectives on how the world works.  We did some reminiscing and Barbara had gotten us all t-shirts and an old picture of the four of us.  The picture was the three of them watching me play in a very small blow up pool, while visiting our uncle Kenneth.  The three of them did not think it was fair that only I got to play in the pool.  As you can plainly see by the picture, there was hardly room for anyone else.  Barbara’s t-shirt said, “World’s Greatest Big Sister”, Pat and Doris’ shirt said, “World’s Greatest Sister” and mine said, “World’s Okayist Brother”.  It appears that the three of them are still dealing with some leftover jealousy.  That’s the only thing I can think of.20180727_193105.jpg

Well, it was a very good day and we all had a lot of fun.  It was also fun introducing them to Sebellah.  They were all very gracious and made her feel very welcomed.  We have been able to refresh and reconnect, before heading out on the second half of our journey to Disney World.  We will be taking our time, 4 days, to drive the last 1100 miles.  We are excited about making it to Mickey and Minnie’s world, and more importantly, reconnecting with our “Lolli”.  She will be flying to join us on Tuesday.  We have had a great adventure but both of us miss her terribly.  We are a family of three, after all.  I’m sorry, a family of four, counting our dog, Maddi.  Maddi will not be joining us on this adventure.

Day 8: Off to Baton Rouge area.

Enjoy the pictures!

Sharing the Journey,

Rich, “Pops”20180726_142445.jpg20180727_064241-1.jpg20180727_190338-1.jpg20180727_190403.jpg20180727_190518-1.jpg20180727_144503.jpg20180727_145132-1.jpg