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Baby On Board: Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren

By Holly Meninio

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Nearly one million children across the country are being raised solely by their grandparents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It’s a living situation that can pose a challenge for both the grandparents and the grandchildren.

Bruce and Pat Cummings of Springfield are enjoying their retirement but not in the way they thought they’d be.

“Life throws you a curve ball and every once in awhile you got to pick it up and go with it,” Bruce Cummings said.

The Cummings are raising their 8-year-old granddaughter Sophia.

“We had a family situation where her parents were unable to take care of her anymore,” Bruce said.

When Sophia was two, she came to live with her paternal grandparents and the Cummings became parents again.

“It’s difficult to try and wear both hats because I want to be fun and wild and crazy with my other granddaughters and then I still have to discipline,” Pat Cummings said.

There’s no question Bruce and Pat love their granddaughter. But there are many challenges that grandparents face when tasked with raising children later in life.

“Just getting up the energy to keep up with her. Sophia’s pretty active,” Bruce said.

The Cummings find they have a little less freedom.

“We can’t just pick up and go. We have to plan a little bit more ahead,” Bruce said.

The world is also a little different from when they raised their kids.

“I think because the world isn’t as safe a place as it used to be, she doesn’t get as much freedom as my grown children had,” Pat said.

They’re also trying to figure out where they fit in.

“They’re still struggling to find baby-sitters and a lot of them just don’t go out and do the things they thought they would when they stopped working,” said marriage and family therapist Mary Schrey, who runs a support group for grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Pat, along with many other grandmothers in her same situation, attend weekly meetings.

“It’s hard to talk about the fact that as much as you love your grandchildren you wish you didn’t have to do this every day,” Schrey said.

Schrey says nationally about one in ten grandparents are actively involved in raising their grandchildren.

While Sophia keeps Bruce and Pat constantly running, she’s also teaching them new things about life.

“Probably never would’ve known how many different kinds of bugs we have in our yard or how to train a cat. Sophia is just very interested in lots of different things,” Bruce said.

Instead of travel, it’s school projects. And instead of sleeping in, it’s walks to school. For Bruce and Pat, it’s still retirement, just in a different way.

A support group for grandparents raising their grandchildren meets every Tuesday morning at the Center for Community Counseling.

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