More than two years ago, four grandparents in Minnesota made a decision that would forever change their lives and those of their twin grandsons, Danny and Sean. They stepped in as primary caregivers for the then 11-year-olds.
Susan Flagler, 62, the boys' maternal grandmother, and her husband, Jack, 76, forged a unique arrangement with the boys' maternal grandfather, Dennis McGrath, 66, and his wife, Betsy Buckley, 56. The boys would spend two weeks with one set of grandparents and then two weeks with the other.
Danny and Sean's mother, because of her lifestyle choices, was unable to continue being the primary caregiver. The boys' father, because of his schedule as a cross-country truck driver, likewise couldn't offer full-time care (although he sees the boys on weekends, as he has since he and their mother separated). So Susan, Jack, Dennis, and Betsy were thrust into a world of basketball practices, spelling lists, permission slips, doctor's appointments, and sibling rivalries. The set of four grandparents, who live 15 minutes apart in Minneapolis and St. Paul, turned guest bedrooms into boys' bedrooms, brushed up on their knowledge of popular music and video games, and read everything they could get their hands on about child-rearing in the new millennium.
"I didn't know a rap star from a country music singer," says Susan. "I had no knowledge of these newer forms of entertainment, about whether they had violent or sexual content. I would go to my friends and ask them to tell me what was acceptable. They would blink at me and then put me in contact with their children."