Reporting for Doodie: A Grandma’s Tour of Duty

by Donne Davis on March 18, 2010

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J.L. (Judy) Smith became the sole caregiver for her three-year old grandson, Marcus, when his mom and dad were both deployed in the U.S. Military. Smith’s tour of “doodie” was six months, one week, three days, and seven hours long. Reporting for Doodie is her humorous, honest, poignant, and irreverent account of that period.

Considering that Smith had recently divorced, started a new job, and suffered a bout with radial nerve palsy that paralyzed her right arm, it’s a wonder she managed to find any humor at all in her situation. But she delivers with five tips for single grandparents entering the dating scene and her “true confessions of an imperfect Gramma.”

Smith gets serious when she gives her own take on the military’s advice for preparing a child to be separated from his parents. Until Smith was thrust into the position of being a single grandparent raising her grandson, she’d never given any real thought to how this responsibility can affect and change the lives of these caregivers. Like most grandparents, she was not prepared for the financial, emotional and physical burdens suddenly placed upon her.

In her book, Reporting for Doodie, she discusses some of the issues facing grandparents who are raising grandchildren, such as legal, financial, childcare, isolation, generational, and coping with loss. She also reveals some of the injustices forced upon military families who don’t have a grandparent to stand in for them while they are serving their country.

What makes this book such a joy to read is the love and respect Smith has for her daughter and son-in-law, Marcus’ parents. She shares letters they have written to their son and tells of her son-in-law’s heroic service.

The book is filled with adorable photos of Marcus’ adventures with his grandmother and their neighbors and friends during his stay with her. Smith holds nothing back in describing some of her adventures into dating, coping with only one arm, daycare, and of course, all those “doodie diapers!”

My heart broke when she described the reunion with her daughter. Grandmas will relate as Marcus runs to his mother with open arms and begins to forget Gramma. After a week, mother and son departed for their home half way across the United States. On the drive home from the airport Smith had to pull off the road because she was crying so hard.

Smith is a remarkable woman who accepted her responsibility with grace and humor and in the process realized what a blessing it was to be able to stand in for her grandson’s parents. In the end, she wrote that she’d “do it again without complaint and with a new found honor, pride, excitement, commitment…and of course, unwavering love.”

To learn more, check out her website at http://www.reportingfordoodie.com.

{ 1 comment }

Susan Adcox March 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

This sounds like a marvelous book, and Smith deserves kudos for stepping up to the challenge of filling in for deployed parents. Her situation is not usual, but deployment often presents grandparents with challenges.

When a grandchild’s parent is deployed, grandparents sometimes lose contact with that grandchild. When a child is a non-custodial parent, grandparents have access to their grandchildren through their child. That access can cease abruptly if the child is a soldier who is deployed.

Some states have passed legislation allowing soldiers who are deployed to assign their visitation rights to another relative, but this isn’t always the case. Grandparents may be able to use legal means to secure visitation rights, but it seems wrong for parents of soldiers to have to hire legal help to win their grandparents’ rights.

We need better, more consistent laws to assure grandparents of contact with their grandchildren in case of the deployment of a parent or parents.

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