We all want what is best for our grandchildren. We want so much to protect them from pain and sadness. We want them to stay as innocent as possible. When their parents decide to divorce, a new and confusing world is created for these children.
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person can experience, and each person in the family is affected.
When my son was divorcing, he and his little daughter moved in with me, her Memmay; her grandfather, Poppi; and her Uncle Tim. We all pulled together to make this difficult time as easy as possible for both of them, especially for our little princess.
Being our first grandchild, and our first girl after a family of all boys, and having both the time and space available, we welcomed both her and her dad into our home. Also, having been a preschool teacher with a degree in Child Development and Education, as well as a mom and grandma, I felt I could give her a good home with lots of love, fun and friends during this difficult time.
We made her a “mermaid room,” complete with fishnets and twinkling starfish and sea shells hanging from the ceiling, as well as a little Mermaid bed and furniture set and every other Princess Ariel trinket sold at the Disney Store.
As a former teacher, I made sure she had books, art supplies, dress-up clothes, dolls, puzzles, music and DVDs. I read to her every day. We opened our house to the children in our neighborhood and she had plenty of friends. We got to know their young parents. We went to birthday parties and neighborhood kids’ events despite our advancing age and jangled nerves. Her Poppi taught her to swim .She named him her “boy dolphin” and stole his heart forever. Her Uncle Tim taught her to ride a two-wheeler, and made a video of her riding through the nearby golf course, strong and steady, wind blowing through her hair, complete with background music by AC/DC. She seemed to be happy and adjusting well.
However, one day, during the Christmas season, as we both watched television, an advertisement for the Fisher Price Happy Family Doll House was shown. The “happy family” consisted of a daddy, a mommy, two children and a baby. “I would like a doll house like that,” she said, “but I can’t have one because they all come with a mommy.”
I felt like a knife pierced my heart, and then realized that she was feeling very sad and different from other kids, and was very aware that she wasn’t living with her mommy full time any more. .Although, living with us was temporary, while custody arrangements were being worked out, she really didn’t understand what was happening.
I told her that her mommy loved her, and we were here to help her for awhile, and that we were a happy family like the doll house family, because we all love and care for each other. Almost on cue, that lovable, purple dinosaur Barney came on, and his program just happened to be all about families. Barney told the kids, that families come in all shapes and sizes and “mine is just right for me.” There are all kinds of families: step families, blended families, single parent families, grandparent families, foster families. People who love you and care for you are your family. He introduced a group of happy, singing kids and their non-traditional families. She seemed to understand, and then I got a great idea for her Christmas present.
Weeks before, I had noticed an old, wonderful, wooden doll house in an antique mall. It was dusty and dirty and needed renovating. I had debated buying it at the time, and now I hoped it was still available. Her Poppi and I went back and it was still there. We bought it at a bargain price.
The weeks before Christmas we spent cleaning it, painting, wallpapering, carpeting it, and even installing miniature lights. We bought miniature trees and Christmas decorations and made it a big beautiful Christmas house. We did all this locked in the garage, or while our princess was at preschool or asleep.
At a nearby flea market we found excellent doll house furnishings, mini birthday cakes and food, pets, and best of all, people for the house, who represented our diverse world of race, age, and gender…real people, the kind of people one encounters every day. We bought adults and kid figures of different races and ages, and one special little girl with long, brown hair who looked just like our princess. (I bought an extra just in case the original got lost.)
We set the doll house up Christmas Eve, complete with miniature Christmas lights. Since it had three roomy levels, we put three different families on each level…two mommies and their kids; a single daddy and his little girl with long brown hair; and a grandma and three little boys. There were other adults, kids, babies, dogs and cats so our girl could make up her own cast of characters.
The doll house was and has been a huge success. Our princess loved it for years. Many dramas occurred daily, both good and bad, and the little girl with the long brown hair was always in charge.
Both her parents share custody now, and our girl is doing very well. She is 10, almost 11, and the doll house is put away. But, occasionally I take it out and set it up when younger kids visit, and if my princess happens to come by, I often catch her playing with it.
You Tube…Barney and Friends: My Family’s Just Right for Me.