Grandparents Day has just come and gone, with the holiday celebrated each September on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

Most people we know don’t pay much attention to the observance, which obviously takes a back seat to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Grandmothers and grandfathers can feel marginalized over parents, and, while they have seniority in life, the pride they feel in their progeny can be tempered with a sense of being ignored, excluded or even disdained.

With few exceptions, grandparents deserve respect and admiration and should be included in the nucleus of a family, with the legal system backing them up. We would not be here without them, after all.

Since the United States is like 50 separate countries existing independently under an leaky umbrella of federal government oversight, there is a patchwork of statues when it comes to visitation, custody and other issues regarding the parents of parents.

In Maryland, for example, troubled parents are entitled to regular visitation, even if it’s supervised by a representative from social services or another authority figure. Grandparents, on the other hand, are considered a third party, and must negotiate visits and outings if they cannot plan them voluntarily.

It’s complicated, especially now that many grandparents are raising their grandchildren for one reason or another, including substance abuse issues. There can be legal ramifications and family friction, especially when a parent or parents decide to remove a child from a home after first agreeing it would be in the youngster’s best interests to reside with his grandparents.

We are familiar with several cases, one in which the unwed parents are no longer together. The father is totally out of the picture and the mother is incarcerated. The grandparents are raising the child as their own, providing housing, food, clothing and other needs, including another necessity in life — love. But they have run into resistance and the serial offender has threatened to change the arrangement, which is not court-ordered.

Grandparents can be left on the outside looking in, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic or distance restricting face-to-face interaction. Being a grandparent in the 21st century comes with a blend of new opportunities and challenges.

According to author Jay Kesler, “Young people need something stable to hang on to — a culture connection, a sense of their own past, a hope for their own future. Most of all, they need what grandparents can give them.”

Family trees can’t stand without them.

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