Silver face paint will have to wait. I won’t be sitting between two grandsons this year, sharing popcorn and wearing Air Force blue. I’ll pass on the tickets and sit out the season, hearing highlights later like an ejected athlete.
I never dreamed I would be a grandmother who wasn’t allowed to see her grandchildren. But I am.
I find myself alongside other boomer grandparents experiencing the devastating consequences of adult children still in rebellion. They’ve delayed the full responsibilities of adulthood, sometimes into their 40s, and continue to behave irresponsibly, even dangerously, which may result in divorce, unhealthy relationships, abandonment, addictions or incarceration.
Motivated by love or fear, we attempt to reason with them – adult to adult. When Grandma steps into the territory of parental advice, anything can happen. Toss in some unhealthy emotions, mental illness or mind-altering substances, and you may find yourself removed from contact. Benched.
The hard choice
I’m an advocate of parents retaining full rights to make decisions regarding their children. But when parents fail to do what is in the best interest of a child’s physical or emotional health, then we, as wiser adults and blood relatives, have a responsibility to come alongside our grown children with compassion, mercy and, if necessary, justice.
The day I decided to call child protective services was traumatic for me. What bolstered my courage was imagining a future conversation with my grandsons. I envisioned two mature men looking me in the eyes while I tried to respond to questions like: “Grandma, why didn’t you intervene? You saw, you knew. Why didn’t you do something to protect us?”
That’s a conversation I never want to hear. With my husband’s encouragement and a counsellor by my side, I did what I feared most. I told the truth.
In my situation, relational solutions with the parent had ceased to be effective. Within a few months, the risks to my grandchildren’s safety escalated. Even knowing it would increase friction, I chose to trust the intent of family law and involve a lawyer, social worker and the court.
The high price
Sometimes the repercussions of intervention are painful. My story is still playing out; perhaps yours is as well. You may be, as I am, temporarily excluded from your grandchildren’s lives. But we can still play first-string on the prayer team, asking God to protect, guide and strengthen our children and grandkids.
Remember, too, that by being a heroic grandparent to your grandchildren, you may one day win back the heart of your child. Don’t quit now. The story isn’t finished.
May what your grandchildren see be the truth of your love in action, and that you acted courageously on their behalf. Let Psalm 103:17 provide you with comfort and confidence: “From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children.”
* * *
Self-inspection before intervention
Before you risk intervention into your adult child’s home life, take a good look in the mirror. It’s imperative that you ask God to examine your heart. Psalm 139:23-24 offers a great place to start. Then ask yourself:
- Am I truly motivated by love?
- Are my thoughts toward the offending parent merciful?
- Am I seeking and listening to the advice of my spouse, pastor and/or counsellor?
- Have I consulted rational friends, the ones who ask me the hard questions and hold me accountable to Biblical standards?
- Have I asked God to forgive me for unkind remarks or gossip regarding the situation or the people involved?
- Do I understand that I may not see the results of my prayers or actions on this side of heaven?
If your grandchild is in danger – sexual or physical abuse, neglect, living in an environment where drugs are used – you must act. This can be a heart-wrenching decision but a necessary one. Research your provincial laws and don’t be afraid to contact a family lawyer. Some things are worth the investment, like fighting for what all children deserve: a loving and safe environment where they can thrive.