Joyce Stookey’s stepsister was a drug addict. But the woman’s baby escaped her addiction when he was born five years ago. What he couldn’t escape was his mother’s neglect and her drug-using friends.
So three years ago little Jamison began life anew with his Aunt Joyce, 49, and his Uncle Miles, 40.
Joyce and her stepsister were never close, but Jamison is family, and Joyce couldn’t bear to have her nephew raised by a stranger.
“We had an empty nest until this little guy came into our lives,” Joyce said.
They had to surrender some prerogatives of parents whose children are grown, like the whimsical independence of going to a restaurant for a late-night piece of pie, or the spontaneity of attending a movie.
But Joyce and her husband don’t consider raising Jamison a burden.
“Jamison’s a joy,” she said. “He makes us laugh about something at least once a day.”
Joyce’s parents divorced when she was a tot. Her grandparents raised her until she was 12, when her mother remarried and reclaimed her.
“That’s why I couldn’t stand the thought of Jamison going to a foster home,” Joyce said. “He’s family.”
Jamison may be Joyce’s family, but Miles has also been supportive about raising him, and his parents treat him as their own grandchild.
Child-rearing methods have changed since Joyce’s daughter was born 30 years ago. Today, parenting means being more aware of children, she says, paying more attention to what they do. New parenting skills, combined with maturity, have made her a better parent.
Now, she understands the value of time and operates at a slower pace - if not to smell the roses, then to admire with Jamison two plastic pink flamingos in a neighbor’s yard.
Jamison calls his surrogate parents Aunt and Uncle, and they tell him about his mom and dad, that they can’t care for him right now. Sometimes he asks where his mom is, and they say she’s probably in Las Vegas and can’t come home. Satisfied with the answer, he jumps on his next train of thought, like 5-year-olds do.
“It’s important to me that he have a relationship with his mother and dad,” Joyce said. “We will not keep that from him.”
But Jamison’s instinctive love for his absent parents “tears at your heart,” she said.
Human nature being what it is, “when you take on something like this, you get damned for it by someone,” Joyce said. “I don’t want Jamison to say we took him away from his mother, because we didn’t,” she said.
She knows the boy will one day feel rejected by his parents, and she wants to help him work through it. Joyce and her mother were alienated for years but now have a much improved relationship.
Joyce has other concerns about raising her nephew: “It’s scary to think about how old I’m going to be when he’s out of school.
“I wonder if his mother will come back into the picture.”
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