Kinship Brings Change

Kinship parents Tiffany and Pennie talk about the challenges of caring for a relative's child

Tiffany: I’m Tiffany; this is my wife, Pennie. We had gone to a family reunion in Michigan and came back. My brother called and said, hey, Tiff, Tommy needs a place to stay. He can’t go home. Can he stay with you all? And I’m repeating what my brother is saying to me on the phone about what he can’t go home. And I look at Pennie and she—

Pennie: We’ll take him!

Tiffany: And that’s how it happened. And I said, well, I’m gonna need to talk to his mom. And just like that was really little preparation or planning or much forethought, it just kind of happened.

Pennie: I usually tell the story by saying we inherited a 14-year-old and raised him and sent him off to college.

Tiffany: All caregivers who are raising somebody else’s child are going to experience other people chiming in and wanting to have an opinion. Parents, in general, have people wanting to chime in and have an opinion. I think the types of opinions might be a little bit different with kinship families. He did not have a relationship with his father, who is actually my relative and, in fact, really claimed a completely different man as his father figure. And that’s who he embraced as Dad. And my family was not happy that we did not force him to have a relationship with his dad. We were okay with him calling this other man dad and really building that relationship. That was a real struggle to work through. So I just think the challenges are different in terms of who’s going to offer an opinion about something.

Pennie: How does that saying go, raise your daughters, love your boys? We were raising him to be successful, to be his best self. And I think that sometimes some of the family thought, like, is a boy, let him, let him, let him. It’s like, no, that’s not how you achieve your goals.

Tiffany: When you have a kid living in your home full time, and you decided he’s going to be here, and you’re going to be the parents. I remember having to have a few conversations with some aunties about like you don’t, you don’t get a say in this. You don’t get to decide. You don’t get to dictate. I’m young in the lineage of the family. And so, you know, like my aunties thought that they could tell—boss me around, tell me what to do, tell me how to raise this kid. It’s like, yeah, you don’t get a say in this one. And I wasn’t prepared for that. I’m going to have to stand up to some folks differently than I’ve ever had to do before. And really, I mean, he is a strong black man, and it was really cool being a part of that and contributing to that foundation.

Pennie: He’s 28 now. When did he call? A couple of days ago, and still calling to check-in. I’m thinking we were pretty good parents at this point.




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