We had one hard and fast rule for our kids: don’t bring any babies home. As much as we looked forward to grandchildren, we preferred not to do the child raising. But, as many grandparents have learned, you can never say never. Death, illness, or impairment can leave children parentless and many times grandparents step up to the plate.
“Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” is the subject of State Representative Karen Yarbrough’s program this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Forest Park Library. Speakers will describe the governmental resources available to grandparents and support groups they can join. Yarbrough wasn’t sure she would tell her story but, if she does, many will be moved.
Karen and her husband Henderson were empty-nesters, when they suddenly became parents of a 13-year-old grandson. The boy’s mother died when he was three and his maternal grandmother raised him. When she became terminally ill, the Yarbroughs promised to take care of him. He was dropped off at their house right after his grandmother’s funeral.
The Yarbroughs had ample resources to take on child raising, providing their grandson with his own room for the first time. They also knew how to advocate for him. So, when Karen visited his school and learned the teenager was stuck in fifth grade, she was appalled.
She read her grandson’s thick file, documenting his learning disabilities. Thankfully, he had no behavior problems. He was promptly promoted to eight grade, where he was fortunate to have the “best teacher in the system.” Karen said this teacher made all the difference and he ended up graduating from high school.
In the meantime, she became a mom again: helping with homework, driving him to school events, taking him to doctor’s appointments, etc. It was a huge adjustment to their busy schedules but they were always there for their grandson. Karen confessed she “didn’t know how to raise a boy,” having no prior experience. But their grandson made it easy, with his agreeable disposition and self-starting attitude. They never had to wake him up for school and he didn’t miss a day of class.
Now the 25-year-old is on his own, earning a good living. He once showed Karen photographs of 13 incarcerated first cousins and said, “Grandma, if it hadn’t been for you, I’d be in there, too.”
The Yarbroughs can be proud their second try at parenting went so well and want to help others get it right. Though there’s a perception this is a black or brown issue, Yarbrough said more whites are raising grandchildren than minorities.
So, if you find yourselves in the Yarbrough’s position, come to the library to see what help is available. I’ll be there, because we can never rule out the possibility, no matter how many times we told the kids.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.