By Cathy Griffith
Twenty-seven years ago I had no plans to be a mom, let alone a grandma. Twenty-six years ago a baby entered my world. Her name is Caitlyn and she calls me “Mom.” Her children call me “Mammaw.”
Beginning any new adventure can be stressful, but beginning a new job and becoming a parent, and a reluctant one at best, proved to be extremely stressful. Not just for me (in my late 30s), but also for my parents (in their 50s). I was driving three hours each day from home to work. My dad was still working and my mom was keeping the plates spinning while we worked. We did our best to care for a baby who melted our hearts and who also didn’t like to sleep at night.
Our hearts would break when her mom would take her; and then break again when she (Caitlyn) would come back to us because her mom wasn’t ready to be her mom yet.
Three years later Caitlyn’s sister was born and another year later her brother. Over the next four years Caitlyn, Jayona, and Uriah were shuffled back and forth. It was painful to watch and painful to see how my parents’ hearts were hurting. Every time the children would come back to us, the process of temporary custody, guardianship, and paperwork with Children’s Services had to start all over again. My mom fought tooth and nail for her grandchildren as the pattern repeated.
In the midst of the turmoil—and lack of sleep—you wonder if you will ever know peace and joy again. The words, “I will never leave you or forsake you” became so very real to me during those years.
But God is faithful, and we survived. Eventually, my parents (in their 60s) officially adopted Caitlyn, Jayona, and Uriah. Caitlyn came to live with me and Jayona and Uriah with my parents.
Our journey toward adoption began with temporary custody, guardianship, and Children’s Services. Along the way, through God’s providential touch, we became a part of Kinship Care, a wonderful support group offered through our county’s Children’s Services. Monthly we met with other “kin” raising family members. Caitlyn, Jayona, and Uriah met children in similar circumstances, many from abusive situations. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us.
Our family was the first in our county to adopt through Kinship Care. Caitlyn was 10, Jayona was 7, and Uriah was 6. Making the decision to adopt was tough. My parents did all they could to keep the children in touch with their mother while giving them the stability they needed.
It would be wonderful to say that the last 16 years have been smooth. Along with the normal angst of teenagers, children who are in foster care or being raised by family members go through the emotions of abandonment and anger stemming from being separated from their parents. It’s not an easy road, but it was the road we chose to travel.
Caitlyn is married now and has two children. Jayona is also married and has one child.
In the intervening years there have been some tough times. My mom passed away, a loss for all of us. Uriah has struggled and we pray that one day he figures out the potential that everyone else sees in him. Proverbs 22:6 has been my prayer for years: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
As in all lives there is good and there is bad. I choose to thank God for the blessings. My life is richer because God placed three children in it. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11).
I’m off now to the ballfield. A 7-year-old who calls me Mammaw is playing baseball. I’ll be the one with the smile on her face sitting behind home plate.
Cathy Griffith is the Executive Director of the Southern Ohio Pregnancy Center in Hillsboro, Ohio.