For some men, Father’s Day isn't quite what they expected. Many are raising grandchildren 30 or 40 years after they raised their own kids. According to the U.S. Census, the number of children living in a grandparent household increased by 76 percent between 1970 and 1997. Reed Galin went to the Michigan woods and visited a retreat that focuses on these caregivers, and the kids.
(Locator: Dowling, Mich.)
Rev. Dave Meister and his wife Denise call this family two.
Nat/Support group meeting: “I said ‘Lord, I’d like to see my grandkids more often.’” (laughter)
As pastor of Buchanon First Methodist Church, Meister organized a weekend camp in the Michigan woods for grandparents raising kids…
Nat: Girl at camp: “I saw a spider!”
…because Meister knows how isolating the situation can be.
Nat: Boy at table: “Grandma!”
The Rev. Dave Meister: “You don’t fit in with the adults that are your age…”
Gary Carpenter/Participant, Grandparents Camp: “I see our next-door neighbor head down to Florida for the winter, and we’re here.”
The Rev. Dave Meister: “…and many of these grandparents, their grandkids have special needs because maybe their children did drugs or alcohol or were incarcerated.”
Children may not yet realize the heroism of their grandparents.
Kenny Hutton/Participant, Grandparents Camp: “It was either we stepped in or the kids went into foster care – and I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Physical challenges are obvious.
Nat: “A little easier, please.”
And there’s the gulf between generations.
Participant, Grandparents Camp: “When the little one gets out of high school, I’ll be 87. I’m still in rehab for open heart surgery.”
Bill and Kay McNiff/Participants, Grandparents Camp: “The pressure’s really on, the stress for our grandchildren to achieve is more now than what it was even for our children.”
So the camp is about mutual support and just fun for a change…
Nat: “Keep kicking!”
…a reminder that the second time around also has rewards.
Gary Carpenter/Participant, Grandparents Camp: “I act and feel younger, so I’ll take it.”
In Michigan, more than 15 percent of all children live with guardians – the great majority of them are their grandparents.
Most of the participants at this camp said their children were unfit parents because of situations related to drugs and alcohol. One of the most difficult things they deal with is – right or wrong – a sense of guilt that perhaps they somehow failed to give their children a positive sense of responsibility.
For more information about the camp, contact Dave Meister at firstname.lastname@example.org.