On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

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Me, a parent again at 54!

How could this happen? My husband and I had agreed to act as guardians if our daughter was unable to care for her children not thinking that if she were to deploy we would become parents again.

Then our daughter, Air Force Technical Sergeant Erin Caldwell, deployed to Afghanistan.  I was a grandma for 10 years and now I was becoming a parent to my granddaughters.

Debbie Nichols, a military mom and grandma, shares time with her granddaughters, Ivie, 10, and Bailey, 6, during the holidays. Courtesy photoDebbie Nichols, a military mom and grandma, shares time with her granddaughters, Ivie, 10, and Bailey, 6, during the holidays. Courtesy photoBeing a grandparent is all of the fun parts of parenting— not worrying about raising children, sending the kids home when you want—but now that would go away.  I was to become a mother to two school-age children.

As a grandmother I took the time to play games, dolls, or just listen to whatever my granddaughters wanted to share with me.  We had fun being together. But as a parent, that role would change somewhat.

I knew day-to-day life as a mother is very time consuming and there’s very little time to spare.  I asked myself at that time, “Can I do it?” 

At first, I felt cheated having to be a mother versus a grandmother. I had so many mixed emotions about it and so many questions. How will it feel being a parent instead of grandparent?  How will they react to me telling them what to do?  Will they listen to me?  Will they resent me?  Will they have anger issues? Will they communicate with me?

The first thing I did when my granddaughters came to live with me is explain my new role to them. I told them it would require me to set rules, to discipline, and to be responsible for their well-being.  They understood. I knew it would be challenging for me, and for them.

I’ve always been a firm believer in discipline.  I believe children need rules to live by.  It gives them a sense of right and wrong as well as a sense of security and love.  This was one of the hardest parts for me as I took on a mother role rather than a grandma role.

Sometimes it tore me up inside having to see my granddaughters angry or upset with my decisions, but I had to do it regardless.

Being a parent again also required me to step up my organization skills.  I had to keep track of the children’s school schedule, homework, their school friends, and eating habits.  I had to create balanced meals, be sensitive to their feelings, give them personal attention, comfort them when they missed their mom, and build their self-esteem.

There were days when I felt I just wanted to be the old me again not this mom figure.  But that was exactly when one of my granddaughters would come and share something special with me.

One day Ivie, the 10-year-old, said, “Grandma, thank you for letting Bailey and me come live with you and Grandpa.” My heart melted, and today I still get choked up thinking about that statement from someone so young.

It's hard work being a parent, but it can be very rewarding as well.  Being a guardian is being a parent, and it does impact the children.  They will never forget the time they spend with you.Don't look back at your old role as grandma.  Be a new you.  Be " Grandma Mom."

Today my granddaughters brag to others that my husband and I are their second parents.  And I would be a guardian again, in a heartbeat!  

Debbie Nichols and her husband have two grown children and two grandchildren, Ivie and Bailey, now 14 and 10, respectively. After caring for their grandchildren while their mother was deployed to Afghanistan, Nichols started Grandparentsbeingparents.Com, an online community for grandparents who find themselves parenting grandchildren.