By: Mary Guerin
I am raising my 10-year-old granddaughter. The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected my life as a single grandparent. On March 10, I was flying up to Sacramento to attend Caregiver Day at the Capitol and three days later I was a homeschool teacher.
My granddaughter and I were armed with a loaded backpack after collecting all the items out of her desk at school and a computer that became both our helper and our bossy ever present dictator during the stay at home order. A school day that generally lasted from 8 am to 2 pm, dragged onto the evening hours. Trying to keep a kid, who is resentful of all the closures and loss of her friends, focused on her schoolwork has definitely been a challenge, but paled in comparison to the challenge we were about to face.
On March 19, just one week into the stay at home order, my granddaughter and I were on a walk when we received a phone call. The social worker on the other end of the line told me that– my daughter had recently given birth to a child with drugs in her system, and weighing just three pounds. The County Social Worker prevailed upon me to take custody of my new granddaughter once she was released from the ICU but I didn’t think that I could handle an infant that more than likely will need lots of extra care and intervention, especially during a pandemic when I would not be able to get help from others in my caregiver “village.” Because of the pandemic, I am being challenged to be a teacher and to provide all the social-emotional support my granddaughter needs with very limited support. The kinship support groups I’ve come to rely on through the Y have been moved online and while I appreciate the change to meeting over Zoom, the support is not the same as in person support and networking.
It is an incredibly emotional decision. However, given the situation (I’m 70 years old and the baby deserves a younger caretaker) I decided that I couldn’t take in my newest granddaughter.
My daughter and her boyfriend relinquished parental rights so the baby will more than likely be placed in an open adoption through the county. While my granddaughter and I retain visitation rights, the restrictions of the current COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult to visit our newest family member. We have only met through pictures. My daughter meanwhile has been assigned to long term psychiatric and substance abuse treatment. The whole situation with my daughter has caused additional stress and grief for both my granddaughter and me during an already stressful situation.
Initially, I saw lots of regressive behavior as my granddaughter adjusted to all the changes. And, we are going to have to continue navigating those challenges given that other supports we’ve come to rely on over the years – like the Y Camps during the summer – are also closed this year because of the pandemic.
We are adapting to these challenges and appreciate the help we have gotten. I am grateful I still have a support group, even as it’s moved online. In addition, the new EBT Online feature has allowed me to shop for groceries online without having to risk my health going out to the stores.
Through all of this, my granddaughter and I have grown closer despite the many challenges because I now talk to her like the budding teen roommate instead of treating her like a child during our daily walks. She’s now a big sister and we’re both COVID-19 social isolation veterans. We’re stronger and we’ll survive.