Raising Baby Aubrey

I took this picture of Aubrey on Saturday, May 26, 2004. She was just six weeks old. I had just strapped her into her baby carrier. My wife, Sandy, and I were both sobbing. We did not know when we'd see Aubrey again.

Sandy gathered up a portion of Aubrey's favorite things. How do you gather up everything a child needs in a few minutes? Diapers, a pink blanket, formula, onesies-it was a blur. But we had to keep moving, the police were right outside our door.

Sandy and I prayed over Aubrey and then I snapped the picture.

As I handed Aubrey over to the police officer, my anger grew. The officer then handed Aubrey to her mother, my stepdaughter. Then she was gone. She had the law on their side. Looking back I see how situations like this can quickly grow out of control.

The officer said some stuff, at least his mouth was moving, but I couldn't hear. Then he was gone too. Sandy and I stood in the driveway. It was over. All we felt was a huge hole in our hearts. It was positively awful.

But after only a few hours, Aubrey was back in our home. Safe. Secure. Sleeping. Apparently, my stepdaughter had thought better of trying to take care of Aubrey and brought her back. She mentioned something about "no money for diapers or formula." Sandy and I were grateful for the good judgment. The following Monday, we filed for emergency custody.

A few weeks later, when my stepdaughter wanted to take Aubrey for a few hours of "show and tell," I refused, like I did the last time. My stepdaughter called the police, like she did last time, and the police did what they were legally bound to do – like they did last time. Put the child with whoever had legal custody. But this time, it was Sandy and me.

Though my stepdaughter struggled with a bi-polar disorder, she was not addressing it. She also had other destructive issues in her life and was not a responsible parent. Aubrey needed a safe home environment and responsible people in her life.

That was over three years ago. Aubrey is growing up fast. She loves gymnastics, Ron's Hamburgers, and French toast sticks. Our relationship with Sandy's daughter is much better. It's awful what a situation like this can do to a family. We're grateful for the healing that has taken place.

So we're grandparents raising a grandchild, not exactly what we planned. And not exactly out of the social norm. I meet a lot of couples and single parents raising grandkids. It's just how it worked out. And heck, I even hear of couples my age having babies, though most are in California for some reason.

So Sandy and I have "reset" our empty nest clock by about eight years. We have an eleven year old and fifteen year old. And of course my step-daughter, who is twenty-three years old.

Running a business is super demanding on me. I have phone calls to return, clients to meet, proposals to write, staff and projects to manage. And I have Aubrey to pick up.

Aubrey loves going to the office, or as she says it-"hoffice." She knows that Peyton has the chocolate, Jaimi has the wind-up toys on her desk, and Lathen has … nothing. She just likes Lathen. And she knows that the water bubbler has no pesky child safety device like the one at home.

She says she has two mommies. I guess in the big picture, it could be a lot worse. But I still wonder how having two mommies will shape her picture of the world and herself. She calls me "Daddy" and Sandy "Mommy." She calls my son and daughter her bubba and sissy. She has a family that loves and cares about her and I have generally given up telling people that Aubrey is my granddaughter.

Sandy's daughter has accepted treatment and taken more responsibility for her bi-polar disorder. She is attending college on the east coast and getting fantastic grades. In fact, she has just been accepted into nursing school. We look forward to her visits, even though they remain somewhat stressed.

I don't know what the future will bring. Maybe Aubrey will one day live with her "other mom." Maybe she will stay with us forever. I have been told that everyone gets a wound in childhood. Hopefully Aubrey's will fade.

So for now it's potty training, trips to gymnastics, crafts, and the "I do it myself" show. Sandy and I will eventually get our empty nest time. They will still make Harleys and RVs. Probably even cooler ones by then. And just for good measure, I have already begun laying down the law with my son – "You will be raising your own kids!"

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