By Brian WhiteApril 16, 2015
My life changed dramatically in May 2011, after gaining full custody of my grandson.
Actually, the life-changing experience started in January 2008, when my son told me that his girlfriend was pregnant.
My son was only 16 and his girlfriend was 15. They knew nothing about raising a child, let alone being a parent.
I worried; where would they live, how would they provide for my grandchild, and what about school?
Six months later, I was blessed with my first grandson. I cried the first time I held him and looked into his eyes, as I thought "What does the world have in store for him?" Would he be rich and famous; maybe a football player, an astronaut, or a surgeon? Or would he be representing the U.S. military in some far away campaign?
It is tragic that his parents fell into hard times; living with friends, sleeping on the couch or the floor, and eventually turning to drugs and alcohol.
Our grandson had nothing to call his own, no toys, no books -- not even a stuffed animal to be his best friend.
It was then, in January three years ago, that my son called and asked my wife and me for help. He wanted to start over, a second chance of sorts.
When I felt my son was taking advantage of us, a long one-sided conversation ensued, which made him mad enough to leave. We let him go. But we refused to allow our grandson to be put back into that environment.
After two months of no contact and no attempts from him to contact his son, my wife and I retained an attorney and filed for legal guardianship of our grandson.
On our wedding anniversary in May, we were awarded custody by a local judge. It was one of the best days of my life.
In the most recent Census Bureau statistics, 2.4 million of the nation's Families are maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them -- an increase of 400,000 (19 percent) since 1990. That equates to one in 10 children living in a household with at least one of their grandparents.
There was definitely an adjustment period. My wife and I were always the type to take a trip out of state on a whim. Now that our grandson is in school, we can't do that.
Things were awkward for the first several months, but now that we are in a routine, things are much easier. We still have our challenges, though.
We began noticing our grandson was being very noncompliant with rules at home. Then we began getting phone calls from daycare regarding his behavior. We just chalked it up to him being a normal 4-year-old boy who was trying to test the boundaries.
However, when he started kindergarten it got worse. After meeting with his teacher, school counselor and principal, along with doing research on our own and several doctors visits, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
He is now prescribed a medication to help him better concentrate and thus be a better student in school.
I am proud to say, with the help of the educators and physicians; he has blossomed into a very intelligent little boy.
We are constantly receiving compliments on how smart he is, and how respectful he is when speaking to adults.
Taking in a toddler isn't always easy, especially when you are in your mid-40's. However; the smile on his face every morning when he wakes, the hugs, kisses, and I love you's, definitely makes it all worthwhile.
If I had to go back and do it all over again; I wouldn't change a thing.
(Editor's note: White is the Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Public Affairs Office assistant.)