Extended Family, Substitute Parent and Teacher
Sometimes things happen within families, things like divorce, inexperienced parents, sick parents, missing parents, problem children, that will cause parents to share the responsibility and care of the children with another family member. Sometimes it is just a matter of needing care for the children so that parents can work.
In our family it was a combination of all of the above. My parents got divorced when I was five years old, They then remarried, had another child, my youngest brother, and got divorced again when I was ten years old. This split up causes more stress on kids than parents care to admit to. I can remember right after the second split up, sitting at my grandma's house while my mom and dad screamed and argued with one another for over two hours over the phone. They called each other every name in the book, and the worst part of it was the main theme of the fight, for it was a disagreement about who was going to get the three of us, or rather who was going to get stuck with us.
It was absolutely without a doubt the worst fight I ever heard come from the pair of them, as I sat there and heard parts of sentences like these....."You wanted to have kids, not me, why should I get stuck with them, you bring them brats over here and drop them off on my doorstep I promise you that you will never see them again. I can't have the little bastards here, and I won't have them here so that you have a reason to come over here. You are not scraping those little f****rs off on me. You are the one who thought another one would make things better, what an idea, all they did was get dumber and dumber as we went on, your mistake, your problem, I want my life back, you are not sticking me with them." These things were screamed back and forth by both of them. They were fighting not over who was going to get us, but who was going to get stuck with us. Neither of them wanted us. Those words burned in my ears my whole life.
Why would parents say these things in front of their own kids. I didn't understand then and I still do not understand now.
Luckily, there was one person in our family, that was truly a good person, she had a heart of gold, and she cared and we could tell she cared. This person was part of our extended family, she was my grandmother. My mom's mother, actually. I never could understand how my mom turned out as she did when she had a parent like my grandma.; She was patient, loving, and very very small of stature. She swore she was five foot two inches tall, but I measured her more than once, and she was according to my measurements, a solid four foot eleven inches tall. Still she had the ability to command the attention of everyone in the room when she simply walked into it. Nobody ever cussed or swore in front of her, and she never raised her voice, or cussed, ever.
She took us into her room when she realized what was going on with the phone call. She told all of us, very calmly that we should not concern ourselves with what our parents were screaming at each other in the other room. She said that both of our parents were so upset by the divorce that they did not even know what they were saying, and went on to explain that our mother was a sick person, and that she had a sickness that could not be caught from one another, but it was a sickness in her head. She said that her brain was not working right, and that she had "an emotional disorder or disease" and couldn't help how she felt. She said she was going to go to a doctor who specialized in thoughts and feelings, and that everything would be ok.
We knew we could trust her, and we felt better. She also said that until my mom was cured, and got some medicine for her problem, we would be staying with her and grandpa. We spent the whole summer and most of the next school year with them. It was the first time that I could remember feeling settled, not scared, safe, and that we had a regular routine. Dinners at a certain time, homework after school, we had chores, but we were not made to do all of the housework, like little slaves, for that was how it was at home.
I felt for the first time in my life, like I could be a kid and enjoy it. I could play, have a friend over, I could just be a kid. It was the best summer of my life. During these months my grandparents taught us that there were two ways that things could be done. Both ways got the lesson learned, but one way was taught with punishment, if we did not do what we were supposed to, and the other way was grandmas way, with kindness and love. She simply explained it to us, and we knew that there was a right and a wrong. She helped us with homework instead of yelling at us because it wasn't done, and mostly I guess, I felt like she just treated us like human beings, like she cared, and she did care;
I can honestly say that if I had not spent that time with my grandparents that summer, I would have been a very different parent to my children. I learned the biggest and most important lessons of my life that summer. I learned kindness, and patience. I learned to be soft and caring, and I learned that a person could get things done, and could deal with others much easier with a bit of kindness, instead of violence, and verbal assaults
I will always be grateful to my grandparents for they taught me the most important things of my life. I also learned something else. It is this, everyone sometimes has times in their life when frustration and stress builds up. This is not the time to deal with your children and try to do anything with them. This is when it is best to ask for some help from someone you trust, whether it is extended family, or just a close friend. Take some time, and give the children some time, then come back together when things are cooled off. Take advantage of that extended family if you have them, for it is a good thing for everyone concerned.
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