This has been the week of grandmothers it seems. The majority of the Amachi children that I have set up for an interview are being raised by their grandmother. To imagine going through the years of lunch making, early hour waking, shoe tying, kite flying and to know that it all starts again must be overwhelming. The grandmothers this week wouldn’t express that straight out but I could sense it. They acted like it was their duty and they would raise their grandchildren to the best of their ability no questions asked, no matter what. The desperation in their voices was apparent. One grandmother was frustrated that she couldn’t play by the creek with her granddaughter because it just takes too much out of her. Not only were they raising their grandchildren but struggling with disability or in one case helping take care of a diabetic husband on top of all of this. The phenomenon of children being raised by grandparents is not a new concept and is not isolated to the USA. The fact that all over the world this is becoming commonplace is shocking. In sub-Saharan Africa AIDS has done this, in the US even more so than AIDS incarceration has done this.
I can imagine that the children can sometimes suffer in subtle ways. The generational differences might be frustrating. Children often think their parents just don’t understand them and what they are going through but these feeling are illuminated and exasperated with the case of grandparents.
“Mothers most often said their children's grandparents were the care givers (53 percent), compared to 13 percent of the fathers who said their children were
with grandparents.”( http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/iptc.pr)
“In the majority of cases, these grandmothers are in need of external support in this inherently demanding endeavor as many are poor and/or infirm and are barely able to care for themselves, yet they are taking on the huge responsibility of raising a second generation of children. Grandparents often become financially vulnerable when they become primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Typically, they do so without any additional income. Further exacerbating this problem, grandparents who are employed may be forced to quit their jobs, reduce their work hours, and/or exhaust their savings in order to cope with their new caregiving responsibilities.” (Minkler & Roe, 1993).
BBBS of Middle Tennessee was fortunate enough to take ten children who live in or near the Napier Public Housing area to a water park, Nashville Shores. It was a big hit with the children that they asked when we were going back, hoping my answer was next week. The children really thrived. Water just makes children feel alive and brings out their carefree nature. It has a cleansing affect too, water represents purity, hope, and new beginnings: which I feel Amachi children enjoy a reminder that despite some hardships they are children. One of the mothers told me that there had been a shooting everyday that week in their community and that just really stayed with me. Time with their Big or time at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event give the children the chance to know something different and not succumb to the violence that might plague their community well at least in the case of the children in the Napier area.