Monday, July 4, 2011

The Gift of Surrogate Grandparents--Guest Post by Darla Haas

I am so honored to share this post from a lovely lady who has been special to my family for many years!  I am also unspeakably grateful for the incredible richness I have received in grandparents and surrogate grandparents.  They have added so many beautiful memories, and a wealth of spiritual blessing and wisdom.  I am so thankful that my children are also able to spend time with their grandparents.

Darla with her newest grandbaby, Katie
My paternal grandmother died while my dad was still a young man serving in the Air Force and before he had met and married my mother so I never knew the woman from whom I inherited my blue eyes and dimpled cheeks.  My grandfather later married a woman who either lacked the desire or the willingness to deal with small children; subsequently memories of being with that set of grandparents is virtually nonexistent.
On the other hand, the distinct personalities of my maternal grandparents are etched firmly in my mind but because we lived across the country from them most of my childhood those cherished visits were not nearly as frequent as we would have liked.
This distance, physical with one set of grandparents and emotional with the other, left a carved out void which a wonderful elderly couple would later fill.  I had no idea at the time what an invaluable gift I was being given and what an important contribution these two were making to the foundation of my beautiful childhood. 
My younger sister and I spent countless hours on this couple’s small farm helping with chores, playing with the animals, making mud pies outdoors and child-sized biscuits indoors, chasing butterflies and fireflies in the summer and gathering firewood in the winter.  We slept in goose down feather beds, drank warm milk flavored with coffee from real china cups and saucers, explored antiques in the attic and retrieved canned goods from the cellar.  We rode Nellie, the old farm horse bareback, rode the tractor on occasion and rode into town on Saturdays to visit the feed mill.  Sound like an idyllic experience for a child?  You bet it was!
After I had three children of my own and witnessed the exquisite delight both sets of grandparents found in them and the special place these adults had in the minds and hearts of my offspring I knew how important my set of “adopted” grandparents had been in supplying that same experience for me.
Although some of you reading this are lucky enough to have the support and involvement of grandparents in your children’s lives, others are not.  Much of this modern day estrangement has more to do with job related displacement than complicated emotional issues.  But whatever the reason for its absence I have deep regret for those not able to relish and realize the joy of grandparents.
My reason for writing this article, however, is to encourage you and open your mind to the possibility of finding a surrogate grandparent for your child.  This is a blessing that can definitely benefit both ways.  Several years ago my family made a job related move to Anchorage, Alaska.   My mother, who was widowed and extremely attached to our children, was devastated.   While I knew this move was the best thing for our family, I also worried about Mom being lonely in our absence.
One day as my mother sat down with her Bible, she absentmindedly opened it and her eyes fell upon Psalms 68:8 “He places the solitary in families”.  She began to weep as she told the Lord how alone she felt with us 2,000 miles away and how she missed the frequent interaction with family.   A few weeks later she met a wonderful family with whom there was an instant connection.  They had two children who were desperately needing a grandmother figure in their lives and my mom had a ton of grandmother love to give!  Theirs became a beautiful relationship which has lasted to his day.  Those “grandchildren” are now parents themselves and though Mom has since moved to another state they maintain contact through letters, cards, pictures, phone calls and even an occasional visit.
God places people in families for a reason.  It’s a place where we feel celebrated, accepted, wanted and loved.  It’s the soil that nurtures us as we grow into everything God Our Creator intended for us to be.   Grandparents are like special nutrients in that soil.  They can boost a child’s self-esteem, add an enhanced sense of security, delight in each small accomplishment and because they often live life at a more relaxed pace than a child’s parents, can sometimes offer relief in our much hurried world.
 Perhaps life has gifted you with this wonderful asset for raising your children.  If not, may I strongly suggest that you go to the Lord on behalf of your children and make a request?    Scripture says that God loves to give good gifts to His children.  And from my experience a surrogate grandparent is a good gift indeed!
I graduated with a teaching degree from Murray State University with a major in English and a minor in Spanish.  I've taught in 3 states:  Texas, Kentucky and Indianna, but mainly have been a stay-at-home mom. 
I've always been very involved in women's ministry and in various community activities wherever we've lived.  Here in Little Rock I've served on the Board of Directors of Women and Children First, a shelter for battered and abused women and their children and have directed various efforts and programs there.  I also was on the board of Second Genesis, a program for women exiting the prison system and trying to re-enter society.  I taught parenting classes for that group and mentored several of the women one-on-one.  My passion is to encourage women in their roles as wives, mothers and friends and to help enhance their sense of worth and to appreciate their own individuality. I'm married to Dr. David Haas who has a private practice in psychiatry and in addition works with a number of youth ranches that house children who have been removed from unstable or unfit homes.  We have 3 married children, 2 grandbabies and a third one on the way.
My hobbies are travel, cooking, reading and sometimes doing guest blogs for really special people!



granny2five said...

Enjoyed reading Darla's guest blog. We're going through that time when the children are becoming so busy with their own schedules that we don't get to see them nearly as often. A difficult time for us, but a busy, fulfilled life for them. So thankful we've planted into their lives. They'll have lots and lots of memories to draw from.

Hippie Housewife said...

Very sweet. My husband has a set of "surrogate grandparents", and he speaks of his experiences with them often.

Pippi said...

I'm very glad that my children get to live close to their grandparents. For various reasons I would like more distance between them and my MIL, but it's better than growing up without any relatives like I did. And now that my Dad's mother has come to stay with my parents, the boys get to bond with her as well, for which I'm very thankful.