THE REAL WORLD OF A SINGLE GRANDPARENT
When my children were in high school, I watched “Good Morning, America!” every day. As I fixed breakfast, packed lunches and shooed my sleepy teens out the door, I listened to the breaking news on TV. One day Robin Roberts, an anchor person on The Morning Show, told her personal story of being diagnosed recently with breast cancer. At the end of the segment, she shared her mother’s encouraging words, “Robin, make your ‘mess’ your ‘message’ to the American people.” Consequently, Robin decided to go national with her news rather than keeping it private.
Today, as I write this article, I am making my “mess” my “message”. I am not excited to share the fact that my husband of thirty-four years divorced me. In fact, I am sad and broken. However, through the years I have experienced the healing touch of the Lord on my single life. Certainly, there have been times where I wanted to sit on my sofa with my arms crossed and wallow in self-pity. But the Lord has shown me He has as much of a plan for me as a single grandmother as He does for those who grandparent as a couple.
Several years ago I took my three grandchildren to supper. It was the first time I had the three of them by myself. As the waitress placed our food on the table, my fourteen-month old grandson looked at his plate and began to cry furiously. I had no idea what his expectations were, but it was clear I had not met them. What I did know was that I had seconds before everyone in the restaurant would need ear plugs to protect their hearing.
Quickly, I glanced around the room to see if I saw anyone familiar in this small town restaurant who could watch my six and four-year old grandchildren while I took the baby outside. I looked fervently for the waitress. She had disappeared. Alone, I did the only thing I knew to do.
I slapped cash on the table, leaned over to the older two grandchildren and said, “We need to leave … NOW!” They looked at me in disbelief. When they saw me grab the baby, my purse and one quick bite for myself, they got the message. They reluctantly exited the restaurant with me, our uneaten dinners left behind. We barely made it outside the building before Caleb let loose a high pitch scream.
Once home, I tried to balance a fussy baby and two disgruntled children. There was no one to assist me in either of these tasks. I quickly assembled some peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches. All alone I gathered the troops, marched upstairs, and proceeded with our nightly routine — all with a smile.
It was not their fault juicy chicken tenders with macaroni and cheese had been abandoned for “Nina’s home menu”. Alone… I closed the day with a Bible story, prayers and a blessing. Alone… I kissed them good night. Alone… I returned downstairs to clean the kitchen before falling into bed myself.
Being a single grandparent often means being alone. It means I am the babysitter, the cook, the clean up team, the dishwasher, the entertainer, the travel guide, the prayer warrior, the Bible story teller, the face washer, the tooth brusher, the “boo-boo” consoler, the seat belt fastener, the chauffer AAAND … more! Often, I am alone doing one, two, and sometimes three of these jobs, simultaneously. Single grandparents are the Houdini’s of grandparenting.
In spite of it all, I love being a grandmother! But being a single grandmother was not what I had anticipated. I had always imagined sharing with my husband the joys of our children’s children. Actually, it was an assumption. Never did I imagine I would be living into this role alone.
But alone I am. There are days where I feel the solitude of every moment. The restaurant was only one example of the reality of single-handed grandparenting. With no one to watch the older grandchildren while I comforted the baby, I had to take everyone with me. It is easy to let anger, self-pity… even bitterness consume you. Thankfully, the Lord does not want me to reside in that place.
Through Isaiah 61 the Lord has reminded me that He specifically came to this earth to bind up my broken heart. He wants to set me free! I do not have to be bound or bitter. If I give it to Him, the Lord will take my “spirit of despair and turn it into a garment of praise”.
Even though my life is not the way I had pictured it, I have much for which to be thankful. I am the one who gets the kisses, the hugs, and the “I love you, Nina!” I am the one who gets the drawn pictures entitled “To Nina with love”. I am the one who gets to hold them, hug them, rock them, kiss them, love them. In the end, joy fills my soul as my grandchildren add purpose and presence to my single life.
So, this is my story, my mess, my God-given message. What I consider to be a mess, the Lord sees as an opportunity to redeem. This story is about sanctification, a process that is often painful. Yet, through each struggle the Lord molds and shapes me into the person He created me to be such that I become stronger… even better. He never desired for me to be divorced. But He does have a plan. By running to Him in my loneliness, He gives me “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Cathy lives in Charleston, S.C., where she raised her four children. For fourteen years, she worked as a children’s pastor in her church. She loves being the grandmother of four. As Executive Director, Catherine is a speaker and writer for Pass the Legacy Ministry, and a charter member of the Legacy Coalition.