You have probably heard the phrase “you can’t choose your family.” While most of us love our families dearly, there is usually one family member who might bother us more than others. It may be your older sibling who constantly annoys you and has competed with you in every aspect of life. It could be the uncle you only see at Thanksgiving with whom you get into fights over politics. But although you may be annoyed by them, hopefully you all still love and care for one another’s well-being.
The family unit is the most basic social structure in our society. It is where you learn about yourself, others and the world around you. We go through life searching for a better understanding of why things turn out a certain way, but more often than not, the explanation lies in those early connections and that way they have developed over time. This isn’t to say all things are predetermined, only that the relationships you have with your family members is influential, and can affect your life in ways both strange and profound.
There are many reality TV shows where viewers get a glimpse into the lives of real people who are often rich or famous. Shows such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Kate Plus 8 are just two examples of reality shows about families that have become extremely popular over the years. In a way, it is comforting for television viewers to know that they are not the only ones who have family problems and even celebrities have to deal with frustrating family members.
Even if we do not always get along with our family members or we only see them at family reunions, most of us would do anything for our family. Although it is true that we do not choose the family we are born into, we still feel a strong connection to the people we grew up with.
This is the story of one man who is among the youngest people to become a grandparent. The 23 year-old was in the hospital room while an underaged girl held her newborn child. The man had recently become a father and he was now a grandfather too! While this story may sound strange at first, you will discover that it is much more inspirational than you think. Every once in awhile, a story comes along that is so remarkable that everyone who hears it is uplifted and even emotional. This is one of those stories…
Life in Australia
First we need to know a little bit about the young grandfather. Tommy is from Queensland, Australia. As a boy and young(er) man, Tommy grew up in the outdoors doing physical activities. Tommy was a thrill seeker who loves doing adventurous activities like the one you see pictured here. Even though Tommy was used to doing daring things, he could never have prepared himself for the task that he was about to take upon himself.
In addition to loving the outdoors, Tommy also valued his education. He was a student at the University of the Sunshine Coast located in Queensland. Tommy studied economics and business and when he was not in the classroom, he was attending practice for the track and field team. Tommy clearly had a lot on his plate and he was able to juggle his academics and his extra-curricular activities. Even with all of this, he could not have imagined balancing a family on top of it.
Dedication to sport
Not only was Tommy a dedicated member on his college’s track and field team, he also competed on his own outside of school. He focused on competing in races and marathons and trained hard to succeed as an athlete. Since Tommy became a grandfather, though, his life has drastically changed, and it is now filled with childcare and different responsibilities. This means that his athletic competitions had to take a back seat.
What his friends say
Tommy’s friends have nothing but kind words about Tommy. Here is a picture of Tommy and his friend Grimmy, celebrating on Halloween. His friends say that Tommy can always be found with an ear-to-ear smile, and that he has a positive and contagious outlook on life. His easy-going demeanor came in handy for his role as a grandfather, though he did not plan on having a grandchild at such a young age.
Going to America
Before he suddenly became a grandfather, Tommy loved traveling, going as far as America for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. He also went to other parts of the world and traveled within Australia. When he took his girlfriend Olivia to an Australian resort, though, Tommy had to find a babysitter to care for his grandchild. It’s tough to be responsible for another human being, and Tommy is still getting the hang of his new role as a grandfather.
In addition to balancing his academics and his athletics, Tommy also had a girlfriend named Olivia Tauro, who was also a serious runner and athlete. The couple were very close and had known each other for much longer than they had been dating. Tommy posted on Facebook, “Only a 1 year anniversary today since ‘officially’ dating this girl but we’ve been best mates for the best part of 8 years.” What makes this story even more confusing is that Olivia is not the grandmother of Tommy’s grandson.
Tommy was known for being a very devoted friend as well as for being extremely close with his family members. However, there was one family member whom Tommy had not seen since the early 2000s: although he had not kept in contact with his cousin, named Kiarna Chapman, he did wonder about how she was doing. Kiarna was 17 years old when she reached out to Tommy, to whom she had not spoken in several years.
Unlike Tommy’s adventurous and successful life, his cousin was having an extremely difficult life. No one in Tommy’s family really knew much about her and the last time she had updated her Facebook page was in 2011. Kiarna lived in Australia just like Tommy, but she lived in Southport and not in Queensland. The two cousins had not spoken to one another in ten years until one day, when Kiarna reached out…
Tommy and his family did not know the depth of how challenging Kiarna’s life was. Unlike most kids her age, Kiarna was nearly illiterate, she did not have a phone or shoes and she had been sleeping on the streets. Once he heard about her story Tommy stated, “She’s spent more time on the streets than anywhere else, and knows the police better than she knows her own family.” Kiarna had even bragged on Facebook about getting expelled from school.
Wandering the streets
Unfortunately, Kiarna’s parents were not involved in her life and the only person she did have, her boyfriend, had been arrested and sent to prison. Kiarna had been forced to wander the streets with nothing more than a backpack and some clothes. She was allegedly using illegal substances and her life was filled with challenges. Tommy said, “Not many people know her story. It’s very intense. Nobody deserves the life she’s had.” In 2015, Kiarna reached out to Tommy over Facebook.
Tommy said of Kiarna that, “She could write the book on traumatic experiences.” When Kiarna reached out to Tommy, he felt sad and guilty that he was unaware of what his cousin had been going through at such a young age. Even though Kiarna and Tommy hadn’t spoken in a long time, Tommy felt he had to help her out of her situation, and so he did something no one could have expected.
How could he help her?
Although Tommy had a busy life and was balancing so many different projects, he deeply wanted to help his cousin out of her difficult situation. Tommy stated, “Life dealt Kiarna a poor hand, and she’s had to play it best she could.” Tommy’s kindness led him to do something extraordinary, he opened up his home to his cousin whom he did not have a close relationship with and he did something even more surprising.
Adopting his cousin
To assist his cousin during a truly difficult time in her life, Tommy adopted her as his daughter. As Kiarna was only 17 years old, she was a considered a minor by the law. Tommy took on the role as her legal guardian and decided to act as a father figure for her. His intentions were to ensure Kiarna got off the streets, so she could set herself up with a brighter future. However, Tommy was not prepared for the news his cousin was about to tell him…
Getting a kitten
After a short time of living with Tommy, Kiarna had new, clean clothes, she was going to classes in school and improving on her reading and writing skills. Kiarna was quickly adjusting to her new life and she was extremely grateful for the sacrifices that Tommy had made to help her. Tommy gave her the love and support she needed, and in order to keep her away from illegal substances, he also bought her a kitten, which she named Simba.
In addition to the other details about her life, Kiarna revealed to Tommy that she was expecting a baby. The father of her child was her boyfriend, who at the time had been in jail. When she told him the news, Tommy was stunned, as he didn’t notice that she was pregnant. He had adjusted to living with Kiarna but he would now have to adjust to life with an infant. He wrote on Facebook, “Happy to say she has a new home, as I’ll be taking care of her from now on.”
Baby on the way
Only seven days after Kiarna was officially adopted by Tommy, she gave birth to her child. Referring to her infant son, Kiarna said,“All I wanted was to give this little man a better life than I had – a second chance was all I wanted. Since carrying this gorgeous boy, all of my friends kept telling me that he would be taken away from me.” But then, Tommy did something even more extraordinary that once more took Kiarna by surprise.
Grandfather at 23
After Kiarna gave birth, Tommy posted a picture of his adopted daughter and her child and captioned it, “Well… I just filmed a birth and cut the umbilical cord!” Although Kiarna was not Tommy’s biological child, she was his adopted child, which meant that Tommy was now a grandfather – at just 23 years old! But this was not the end of the story, as Tommy’s life as a grandfather was just beginning…
Tommy’s life changed drastically after he took on the responsibility of caring for a teenager and an infant. He had to take charge and even move houses in order to have enough room for Kiarna and her child. He also set to signing all of the appropriate forms, buying things for the baby and accompanying Kiarna on doctor’s appointments. Tommy could not be a normal young person anymore and he could not hang out with his friends whenever he pleased or compete in races and marathons.
Working two jobs
In order to be able to support his cousin and her daughter, Tommy picked up two jobs, one in which he sold produce, just so he could clothe and feed the baby. Although it was hard, Tommy knew he was working hard for a purpose and Kiarna’s life was improving. He said, “Glad to finally say she’s now living in a safe, stable, awesome house … with a brand new bed, and brand new life.”
A lucky break
Kiarna had come a long way from being expelled from her school. In a post on Facebook she stated that she felt like, “The luckiest girl in the world.” She thanked Tommy for everything he had given her and said, Thank you, Tommy, for everything, and for helping me with my spelling.” In addition to improving her education, Kiarna passed her drivers license test and she got braces. But how does Tommy feel about becoming a grandfather at 23?
Becoming a grandfather
Tommy admitted that although Kiarna does 90% of the work when it comes to the baby, he has taken on the classic role of a father. He stated, “If it’s one or two years of my life I have to put on hold to make sure two lives are going to be saved, it’s nothing at all.” But there is one person we have forgotten about in all of this. What does Tommy’s girlfriend have to say about the situation?
A supportive girlfriend
Olivia and Tommy were friends long before they began a romantic relationship and she was very understanding when it came to his situation with Kiarna. Olivia knows that Tommy is a selfless person and a loving boyfriend who would do anything he could to help the people he loves. She supports Tommy’s decision to care for his cousin and her child and she helps to help take care of the child named Kaydan. In an interview, Tommy said he felt he was doing the right thing but he felt guilty about the media attention he was receiving.
But why would Tommy feel guilty about doing such a kind act? Tommy stated, “We’ve had all these messages which has made us realize there are so many other people in this situation, I don’t want people to think it’s a unique thing.” Tommy and Kiarna have received an outpouring of support on social media since Tommy’s post about Kaydan went viral. Tommy went through times where he was struggling financially to support Kiarna and Kaydan but with the help of strangers…
Fundraising for the family
Since Tommy was working so hard to support his new adopted daughter and her son, his older brother Liam thought that he could use the help of kind strangers. Liam set up a fundraising page online in order to give Kiarna and Kaydan a better life. Many people responded with supportive messages and donations in order to help the young single mother to provide for her child. They could not believe the support they were receiving.
Social media shares
In his latest post on Instagram, Tommy said,“There’s still a long way to go, but things are on track and she has the opportunity she deserves. When bad things happen, it’s your family that supports you. It means no one gets left behind or forgotten. I’ve had my family pull my head out of the gutter before… It was time to pay it forward. Family comes first.” The uplifting message was shared almost four-thousand times.
In a birthday message to Kaydan on his social media page, Tommy wrote, “They say the best gifts in life come badly wrapped. When he was born, it all started to make sense. I lost some friends and family along the way…They never saw the bigger picture. All I wanted was to keep this boy safe and happy. I’d pick him every day of the week, 365 days of the year. I may not be your real dad, but I’m your family and I’ll always be here for you. I haven’t seen my real dad for over 13 years. I learned that a father is what a father does… And family is what family does.”