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Grandparents carrying the burden

Grandparents carrying the burden debbiegardner.jpg
Editor's Note: My story on grandparents raising grandchildren was already complete when I talked to this couple. I wanted to share their story, too. September 11 is Grandparent's Day. But for some grandparents, like James and Julia, the words "Grandma" and "Grandpa" are synonymous with "Mom" and "Dad" After raising seven of their own children (one, age 9 is still at home) and becoming grandparents 22 times over, this couple is now parenting four of those grandchildren, three from a daughter, one from a son. James and Julia became legal guardians of three of their daughter's five children when she passed away from complications of breast cancer a little over a year ago. All girls, the eldest is 15, the youngest, six. Their father is out of the picture at this time, but his mother also helps with the girls. The couple adopted their son's child directly. That little one is only three. The mother couldn't care for the child and their son was ready to put the baby into the care of the Department of Social Services. "Me myself, as long as I can [do it], none of my grandchildren will end up in the system," James told PRIME. His daughter's children get "a little bit" from Social Security survivors benefits. He gets no aid to raise his son's child. At 55 and 54, he and his wife don't have plans to retire anytime soon. "Sometimes, it gets hard, [but] I have faith in God that everything will be all right," he said. We talked about the difficulties of raising children in today's society, of how parents have to compete with the influence of peers and the outside world. Of how even the best efforts of good, God-fearing, hard-working people like James and Julia can be overcome, as he feels happened in his son's case. He understands how some parents can feel ashamed when things go bad and they have to step in with their grandchildren. "Just because your kids turn out that way... it's no reflection on you. We did everything we could," he said. He did muse that maybe, because of his own hard upbringing in Georgia he's been on his own since the age of 15 he tried to do too much for his own children. "A lady told me the majority of our problem is that we try to buy our kids ...sometimes we go overboard, give them things they should earn.," he said. He worries about the 15-year-old, that her anger at her mother's death might lead her to bad choices, despite their best efforts to help her cope. And he and Julia carry on. "I believe in God and I believe that he never gives you more than you can bear," James said. I told him how to find Jim Leyden and the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group he runs. Debbie Gardner PRIME Editor