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Tom Gordner: Selfless people raising their children’s children

You often see them, especially if you are a parent, attending an elementary school open house, or concert, or soccer game. Grandparents; no, not the folks who show up for the recital and then go home alone. I mean the grandparents who brought the child and will be taking him home with them, because they are raising the child as their own.

It is a sign of our times, I guess, for the last generation or so. What has happened? Mom is not up to the job maybe, and the dad is, well, absent. Stepping in to fill the vacuum are the kid’s grandparents.

I have seen several couples do this. There is little wringing of hands or second-guessing the decision to take on this giant, life-altering responsibility. The little one is their child’s child, their blood. She needs a functional home to live in. It is as if no decision is actually considered. Putting their own lives on hold for another 15 or 20 years, they rearrange their house, jobs and schedules to create a new family.

It has been my privilege to get to know some of these folks. They are often even more intently involved in their grandkid’s school career and general welfare than the rest of us parents. When our boys were in elementary school, we often sat at school events with a couple I knew, and was very fond of, who were raising their grandson. They were of an age that deserved somebody looking after them instead of the other way around. They attended every parent-teacher meeting, every school event and took an active interest in all aspects of their grandson’s education.

When our guys were little, I would often run into grandpa and grandson at community events. The kind of things dads would take their kids to, letting mom have a break. Things like the train show at the fairgrounds or the Naval and Military Park downtown. We would chum it up like we were in exactly the same situation. But we weren’t, exactly. He was giving of himself more than I somehow.

One caring grandfather reminded me that with male grandchildren, grandpa, regardless of his age, is often the only adult male role model the young boy knows – such an all-important influence. Grandpa is giving a possibly different kind of example than a young father would; less athletic, but more worldly and wise. I think the child benefits from that.

Though much younger grandparents, a co-worker and his wife are raising their granddaughter. I have never seen more dedicated parents. Their participation with teachers and administrators, their organizing of care and transportation and their constant companionship with their granddaughter puts my parenting to shame. The stories grandpa tells of school events and family weekend activities is endless.

There is a lot for families to do in Western New York and they take advantage of all of it. She is growing up to be a lovely young lady and will doubtless do well in adulthood. This from a young man who, when I met him, was still going out nights till 4 a.m. as a roadie for a local band, with parenting being about the last thing on his mind.

Learning from these lovely people, I understand why so many willingly jump right into the responsibility of raising their grandkids without hesitation. But it is still a gigantic sacrifice and I offer my admiration and respect for all of the kind folks who are living it.