The River Center: Deepest respect for the grandparents who find themselves parenting their grandchildren

Published: 6/25/2019 2:28:07 PM

I have just spent some time in North Carolina with our 21-month-old and 4 ½ year old granddaughters. My daughter and her husband had an opportunity to go on a vacation and we offered to help care for Lila and Linnea while they were gone.

Dave and I have three grown daughters. Our middle daughter has two daughters. We’ve done this before. It’s like riding a bike, right?

It was wonderful to spend a chunk of time with the girls – over two weeks. We got them up, helped them get dressed, fed them, played with them, settled them for naps, read them books, bathed them, and tucked them in. We showered lots of love on them and received lots of love return – hugs and sloppy kisses in abundance.

We also wiped bottoms, dried tears, applied band aids, received a good many scowls and heard “No!” more times than I can count. Negotiations were on-going and intense, reminding me of my days in labor management.

You should know that we were not alone. The other grandma was there as well as an aunt. We were able to share the care of the girls. Even so, at almost two and almost 5, there is an abundance of energy. Always. If they are awake, they are moving, talking, prodding, and needing something. Outings are planned around the naps. Naps are key to everyone’s good attitude.

This time with our granddaughters made me think about the grandparents who are in the position of parenting their grandchildren. The day in and day out responsibility for active little ones can be daunting. At a time when they are retiring or thinking of retiring, many grandparents find they must keep working because there are more mouths to feed, clothes to buy for growing children, school supplies to purchase, and educations to consider. The ability to put your feet up at the end of the day is gone. There is homework to oversee, baths to be run, lunches to pack. In addition to this round-the-clock care for grandchildren, add the legal and emotional quagmire of caring for your children’s children.

The River Center and The Grapevine both are family and community resource centers. Together we have facilitated a group for grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren since 2015. The grandparents in this group have supported each other, learned about resources available to support their families, and been a significant voice for other families facing similar challenges.

In 2017 testimony from several of these local grandparents resulted in new legislation. HB 629 established grandparents as preference for guardianship in cases of parent’s substance misuse and is the first of its kind in the nation. SB 148 created a commission to study the impact of the opioid crisis on grandparents. They have met with Senator Hassan to tell their stories and answer her questions in preparation for her work on the national level. Over the past year they have supported the creation of a similar group for grandparents in Keene.

In New Hampshire, there are well over 10,000 grandparents parenting their grandchildren. They love their families and will do whatever it takes to care for their grandchildren.

The men and women who take on the challenge of raising their grandchildren have my deepest respect. They are doing whatever it takes to provide love, stability and a nurturing environment for the next generation. They are brave and determined. Thank you for being willing and able. You are heroes.

Check out Families, Forests, and Farms – weekly fun field trips all over our region. For details go to or give us a call at 924-6800.

Margaret Nelson is executive director of The River Center Family and Community Resource Center in Peterborough. Contact her  at

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