Who's Minding Your Grandchildren?

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Who's Minding Your Grandchildren?

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A few generations ago the answer would have been obvious. Today with two incomes required for the financial survival of most families, you may not be so sure.

Much has been written about the difficulties of finding good affordable day care and the stresses of working parents. Less has been written about the effects on the infants and toddlers who are forced to spend much of their childhood in the care of strangers who may or may not be suited for the care of these precious grandchildren.

In his excellent book, Grandparenting: The Agony and the Ecstasy, Jay Kessler makes the point that “God in his wisdom has ordained that each child should have six adults to provide care and back up.” He makes the point that in today’s society grandparents are increasingly important.

We have read a lot about the need that children have for long-term love and relationships in order to help instill godly values and character that will last them for life. It has never been easy to rear children and it is even more challenging today with the pressures and time constraints that are placed on young parents today.

Day care dilemma

Most grandparents are not familiar with some of the more modern forms of child care available today such as a day care center unless they have visited or worked at one as I did a few years back.

I was quite excited. I thought that it would be a great way to earn some money while my son was in school and be able to hug kids at the same time. What it did was open my eyes to the fact that it was not what it seemed to be.

The children were safe and got their physical needs met. The employees tried to do a good job and care for the children. Standards for care—such as being required to change diapers hourly, wearing rubber gloves and washing their hands after each diaper change, plus frequently sterilizing the toys—were strictly adhered to. Employees had frequent fire drills and were expected to treat the children with respect.

The problem was that employee turnover was ridiculously high, an average of every three months. At the time I worked, the state of Texas allowed a ratio of four infants (from 3 months to 1 year old) for every teacher; six toddlers (up to age 2) for every teacher, and nine 2-year-olds for every teacher.

As any grandparent can tell you, there is no way that your grandchildren can get their needs for individual attention or nurturing met in such an environment. If your grandchild has brothers or sisters, then chances are good that he will be separated from them during this time as well.

The grandparent option

As grandparents we can’t change society, but perhaps we can change the childhood experiences of our grandchildren by making a few sacrifices and postponing some of our pleasures at least during their critical formative years. Perhaps we can help our grown children by moving closer and offering to take care of our grandchildren while our children work. Even Grandpa can pitch in so that the entire burden doesn’t fall on Grandma.

When our daughter and son-in-law were pregnant with our first granddaughter, they faced the child care dilemma. Not only was day care expensive (nearly $5,000 a year for their soon-to-be infant), but they also weren’t excited about leaving their most precious possession in the care of strangers.

They were very grateful that Grandma volunteered to take care of their daughter. Grandma benefited too, in that I was able to provide needed stability to a young family and one-on-one nurturing to a precious little girl made in God’s image. I knew that my granddaughter would be getting good care and plenty of individual attention.

Now that I am taking care of two precious granddaughters, ages 1 and 3, I am still convinced that this is a marvelous way to serve and make a lasting contribution to beloved family members. It is a major sacrifice and Grandma does get tired. Still it does have its rewards. Seeing how excited two little girls were to see their Grandma after I returned from a trip is just one example of the many joys.

Even though they can’t have their parents full time, at least they are getting the next best thing. They are getting grandparents who are crazy about them, who know their mom and dad and who are like them. They don’t have to be separated from each other for long periods or worry that Grandma and Grandpa will suddenly decide to quit, move or go on to other things.

Grandparents, if you can at all, offer to take care of your grandchildren. The sacrifice is well worth it, and the benefits will last forever. You’ll know who is minding your grandchildren. They will someday thank you for it!