A grand calling; Many grandparents are filling the role of parents

By Madeline Pena | Published Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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Grandparents who are serving as parents once again are becoming a common sight.

“I think now it’s just another version of a family,” Decatur High School English teacher Carla Reisman said. “It’s less unique.”

Reisman and sophomore Carissa Henderson share the commonality of guidance from their grandparents.

According to, a recent survey showed that 54 percent of children in America who don’t live with either of their parents live with their grandparents.


Reisman’s parents married as seniors in high school. The couple later realized their marriage wouldn’t work.

“Before my mother realized she was pregnant, my parents ended their marriage and my mother handed over custody to my grandparents,” she said.

Her maternal grandparents raised her from the moment she was born.

“They brought me home from the hospital, and I was with them until I moved out and went to college,” she said.

Throughout Reisman’s life, her mother would visit and take her to various places.

“I didn’t meet my dad until I was 21,” she said.

She realized her father had two children of his own.

“Since I’ve gotten to know him and that part of his family, I’ve developed closer relationships with him and his family.”

Reisman now has a family of her own.

“I feel like I have the same expectations my grandparents had on me with my children,” she said.


Henderson spent much time with her grandparents at a young age.

“I really didn’t start being raised by grandparents until I was 9,” she said.

At this age, her mother died of ovarian cancer.

“I didn’t understand the complexity of it, but they helped by making my life as normal as possible.”

Originally Henderson, her father and her fraternal grandparents lived in Downey, Calif. Her grandfather and her father had to shut down their family business.

“I lived with my grandma in Decatur my seventh grade year,” she said. “My dad and my grandpa moved in the summer before eighth grade.”

Her three siblings, Alaina Henderson, Jordan Henderson and Ashley Lugnas, give Henderson additional guidance.

“Most of the time I seek help from my siblings first, then I’ll go to my dad and then my grandparents,” she said.

However, her support system separates her family from others.

“I think it’s different because you have more people who are in authority over you,” she said.

Both Reisman and Henderson face generation gaps with their grandparents.

“I think their expectations were different from the expectations my friends’ parents had,” Reisman said.

The generation gaps also contribute to respect levels.

“The care for your grandparents is important, because as they get older, they need your help even more so,” Henderson said.

With a naturally conservative upbringing by an older generation, Reisman possesses qualities she wouldn’t if living with her parents.

“The work ethic they instilled is something that makes me who I am,” she said. “I also have a sense of responsibility toward my family and care and concern from others. I think I definitely picked these traits up from them,” she said.

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