The Kabaks' Story
Sally and Norman Kabak were living in New York State when they were contacted by a branch of the New Zealand government and asked to attend a family conference. A granddaughter back in New Zealand had been declared in need of care. The Kabaks traveled to New Zealand for that conference and agreed to take in their granddaughter. They relocated to New Zealand, expecting the situation to be resolved in six months. At the time this book was published, it had been almost five years. Their granddaughter, called Lucy in the book, is expected to be with them until she begins to live independently.
The book continues with a blend of Kabak's account of how the three began to build a life together and advice for others facing similar challenges. Fatigue is one of the major problems. When Lucy came to live with her grandparents, she was only two years old. Kabak admits that she and her husband were exhausted for the first few weeks and that she still has trouble knowing her limits. "I thought I was strong. I thought that by doing everything myself, I was proving to Norman that I could manage," she writes. "I now ask for help, but it is difficult."
Reading, Learning and Coping
Like most grandparents, the Kabaks wanted Lucy to do well in the Early Education Centre she attended and in school. Kabak spoke frankly to school officials about Lucy's family issues and took steps to be sure that no unauthorized person could pick up Lucy. Her other advice about promoting learning consists of common-sense advice such as having a specific time for homework and reading with children every day. She includes a list of favorite books and also information about dyslexia, autism and Asperger's, which were largely unheard-of when most grandparents went to school. She also has advice about topics ranging from dealing with head lice to understanding teen texting.
Grandparents who are bringing up their grandchildren because they were imperiled in some way are likely to be extra apprehensive about something happening to the grandchildren in their care. Kabak offers advice about water safety, first aid and emergency kits before launching into a delightful compilation of miscellaneous household hints.
The Bottom Line
The tea's been drunk. The visit is over. What will the grandparent raising grandchildren take away from a reading of Kabak's book? First, there's that invaluable knowledge that one is not alone. Second, there's the practical advice that Kabak dispenses, many times on topics that may not have even been around when grandparents were parenting the first time. Third, there's a wealth of sayings and poems--some touching, some humorous--that grandparents raising grandchildren may find inspirational. And, last, there's the sense that this thing is doable, that grandparents can cope with the challenges and find tremendous satisfaction in this encore parenting. That last one is largely due to Kabak's matter-of-fact tone, loving but not sentimental. There's this job to do. Here's how you get it done.