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Grandparents won't treat son's blended family as one family

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Grandparents won't treat son's blended family as one family

San Francisco: I am remarried, and my husband and I have a wonderful blended family (my two kids, his two kids and our baby). Our youngest children would never even know the term "half-sibling" if not for my new in-laws. When they come to visit, they demonstrate obvious favoritism toward their three biological grandkids. My MIL arranges annual "ladies' days out" for her and her granddaughters, and has so far excluded my little girl, claiming she's "too little" (she's 7; the other girls are 8 and 10).

The last straw: We just had a family portrait done of all seven of us, and gifted it, framed, to the in-laws. They thanked us, but then asked my husband, in private, whether there were any negatives featuring just him and "his" three kids.

I know you're going to tell me my husband has to speak up about this himself, but there must be something I can do. The grandparents live nearby, so this becomes an issue fairly often.

Carolyn: Horrible.

Yes, it would be better if your husband spoke up, but if he won't do it then you have to — with his knowledge, which I hope will spur him to do it himself. The portrait is your opening. Tell the in-laws their message is loud and clear — and then say this is your loud-and-clear response: "These children are all members of your son's family. Period. We would appreciate your not introducing distinctions between them that we ourselves don't make. This is not negotiable."

It's stronger from their son directly, but it's stronger still if left unsaid — and not in a good way.

Anonymous: Re: San Francisco: Am not sure why San Francisco thinks everyone else should be thrilled about her blended family. Unfortunately, just because she made an instant family does not mean the grandparents should automatically feel the same feelings for the other children that they have for their grandchildren. These grow with time.

FYI . . . the divorce rate for second marriages is higher than for first marriages, so the grandparents may feel there is no reason to overly engage stepgrandkids because they may lose them to divorce.

Carolyn: Wow. Do you have any idea how judgmental your assessment is?

This mother is not asking the grandparents to have instant feelings. She is asking that the family be treated as a family. That's how they see themselves. And feelings won't "grow with time" either, without an actual investment of time.

Talking about it this way is almost too clinical — dissing a 7-year-old based on a statistic is as wrongheaded as it is heartless. Just because more remarriages fail doesn't mean this remarriage is more likely to fail. It will succeed or fail on its merits alone.

And if the marriage has no merit whatsoever, a kindly relative has the power to make a lifelong impression by choosing to show affection and acceptance — whether the feelings are there or not — to a young child who might not stay long.

Yes, of course, Grandma might get her heart broken if another divorce severs this new tie. But are you seriously arguing that the possibility of a grown woman's heartbreak justifies the certain breaking of a 7-year-old's heart?

And now I'm back to: Wow.

Grandparents won't treat son's blended family as one family 12/07/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 7, 2008 3:30am]
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