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My kids have no relationship with relatives

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Anyone here a "single family" no relatives nearby, no real relationship with relatives? I feel like a bad parent because I can't provide grandparent relationships or aunt/uncle relationships...but it's just not happening.

My parents take care of my younger brother, who is 30 years old and fairly high-functioning autistic. My mother has flown out to help after the kids were born, but lately has become phobic about travel. If they drove, it would take 22 hours. I understand it's a hassle, but I wish they would make the effort once in a while, like every 5 years. They sometimes talk to the kids on the phone.

My mil has some mobility issues and refuses to fly. Driving would take about 8 hours, but she won't make the drive by herself, and sil's driving scares her, so she won't make the trip with her. She occasionally talks to the kids on the phone and sends gifts.

My sil is married, unemployed, and never had kids. We keep inviting her and her husband to visit, but they never do. Sil has come to visit a couple times when we paid for a plane ticket, but she never sends the kids letters or talks to them on the phone.

We occasionally go to visit all these relatives, but the plane tickets are so expensive for all 4 of us, and it's hugely disruptive to everyone's schedules, stressful, no fun. We have paid for multiple plane tickets for others to visit us, but lately no one will come, even if we pay for the tickets.

Anyway, I'm fed up. I feel hurt that the grandparents take so little interest in the kids, I feel hurt that no one will visit us. I feel bad that our kids have so little contact with their relatives. Is it ok to grow up this way? Should I be trying harder? The whole situation just makes me so sad. What would you do?
post #2 of 21
OH BOY can I relate - although my situation is not as extreme - my dh's family moved to be near us last year when DD was almost 6 (but grandpa died in the spring so it's just grandma now)

Most of my commiseration is b/c of my family - they are a 10-12 hour drive away and have NEVER been to visit me (even after dd was born, my mother did not come- EVER) My mother has only even SEEN my daughter about 3 -4 times in her whole life and of course it's only when we visit - I went home recently for my HS reunion and didn't even bother to take dd with me... and it may be years again before I go back.

I think you have done more than enough - and yes it is okay (although sad, and yes a loss) that she won't have those relationships - you need to build your replacement family - very close friends that fill those gaps - Are there people you feel close enough with that could do that? And when she is older I would be forthright with her about the reasons she does not have the relationships with family that you would have likes so she KNOWS you value them, even if you could not provide her with them - There needn't be blame (as much as you might wish to in your heart) but that these were the unfortunate circumstances - And that she should try hard in the family she makes to nurture relationships (as I'm sure you will do no matter how far apart you live)

Sorry - it is sad but it is not your fault and you should try to build positive relationships where you can
post #3 of 21
Just responding to the "Is it ok to grow up this way?" part of your question... I think the fact that of all the reasons no one is visiting, none of the reasons is that they're toxic or hateful or mean to your kids makes it a "Yes it's ok to grow up this way".

Is it ideal? No, of course you want family in their lives. Is it what you want? Clearly from your post it isn't, you'd love for your family to be much more connected.

And there are clearly many many benefits to being connected to other family, so please don't hear me as saying "It doesn't make a difference one way or another" because it does make a difference - to you and your kids.

But will your kids be totally ok despite the fact that they don't have the relationships you wish they did with their relatives? As long as they're ok otherwise, my guess is they'll be fine. Maybe they'll hear about friends' time with extended family and ask questions sometimes or feel a little jealous or hurt... but again, I can't see how they'll be damaged by it if when they do talk to those relatives (however rarely it is) they have positive interactions.

I have a lot of friends who grew up in similar situations, and again while there may be times they wished it was different but none feel damaged or badly off because of it (hey, I grew up an only child and of course there are things I envy people with siblings for, but I'd never say "It wasn't ok that I grew up that way" or feel that way about my child if she never has siblings).

Sounds like you've done a tremendous amount to build those connections... I wonder if it would be worth it to try to "build family" where you are? Not that it's the same - I know it's not - but "family of choice" can sometimes be a fantastic thing for kids where biological family isn't as available as you'd like. It's not the same thing, but it's a way of having your kids spend time and grow relationships with other adults as well as other kids and it's another wonderful thing... do you think that might make a difference?
post #4 of 21
Do you have older friends who can fill the grandparent shoes? I find that my kids just enjoy anyone who is "not me" sometimes. Just invite some along on your next family outing and see how it goes.
post #5 of 21
When I was 9 my parents moved with us, very much against the wishes of the rest of the family. My sister and I would write letters to my grandmother, but rarely get a response. Fortunately our next door neighbours, an older childless couple, became our adopted grandparents and were far more loving and caring than the ones who'd cut of contact. They made a huge difference in our lives, and I am very grateful to have been able to pick such great grandparents when we really needed them.

In other words, there's no reason not to supplement a lack of interested relatives with someone more immediate and motivated.
post #6 of 21
OP, I'm not sure how much harder you can try than what you have. Are there close friends who can fill the void? I think some states have programs where a child can "adopt" a grandparent if that's something you would feelcomfortable with. It's like the big brother/big sister program.

My situation is similar to yours but my family is toxic. My mother and I have a very tough relationship with lately me dealing with her with a long handed spoon. She's welcome to call and come see DD but chooses not to. She calls on occasion. We live in the samecity but different boroughs. Just a subway ride away. I've stopped offering to meet her in a neutral location so she can spend time with DD because she never takes me up on the offer.

My husbands family minus three people could care less about my DD. They've shown no interest in her and we're through trying. DD calls his aunt (we're very lucky to have her around) grandma. I don't bother to correct her.

DD has plenty of cousins we would love for her to get to know but it's not working out that way. She has plenty of good playdates though and an auntie in one of my closest friends.

The pain of not having her around extended blood family is painful because the situation it comes from is either very hurtful (my side of the family) or based on plain stupidity (DH's).

Anyway to get the GP's involved in your DC's lives even if from a far? Send cards, scheduled telephone calls, etc?
post #7 of 21
Just wanted to say that I can relate. My IL's are across the country, and also are extremely toxic. So we don't see them very often. SIL and her husband and DS's only cousin, we have not seen in over 2 yrs because she refuses to fly. They also show absolutely zero interest in us or DS. I have no relationship with my bio dad. My mom & stepdad live 4 hours away but we still only see them about twice a year, their choice, not ours. When we do see them, my mom does show interest in DS, but they never stay long enough (Or invite us for long enough) for them to be really close. I also have a sister and a brother, both over 4 hours away, who are both unmarried and childless so far, and who don't make much effort either. We have made alot of effort to try to encourage these relationships and it just seems like nobody cares but us. It's something that I feel really, really sad about.

We are also moving in a couple months, not even sure where yet. So right now having friends as family isn't working. But hopefully it will in our next home.

I feel so sad for my sweet DS though. He is so loving and smart and wonderful, and I would love his family members to get to know him and love him like we do. But they don't want to, and honestly they are mostly pretty toxic so I guess I don't want them to, except for MY family, who doesn't seem to care much.

I grew up with over 30 first cousins, wonderful grandparents, and loving every family get together, family reunion, etc. and it makes me sad that he won't have that sense of family.

But I keep telling myself, it is ok. His experiences will be different from mine, but he is loved, cared for, and nurtured by us, his immediate family, and as he grows he will have friends and other adults who love him and care for him too, and he will be just fine.
post #8 of 21
Can TOTALLY relate. Ds is 6-1/2yo. We've been estranged from my family for most of his life. They are beyond toxic, and when I had my son, I realized that although I was brainwashed to believe it was acceptable for them to be this way to ME (they actually treated dh like one of their own, but I was scum on their shoe), it was NOT okay for my son to see people that are supposed to love you treat you that way.

My ILs are another story. My dh isn't at the same distance into his journey as I was and so estranging ourselves from them has been really hard. Thankfully, fate intervened and we just relocated from a coast to the midwest--away from them enough to be a good thing. Both of my kids know and love my ILs and I'm totally fine with that. They are less toxic and more... I don't know... dismissive and disrespectful in a less overt way (although it took 6 years and cutting them off for 2 years to get to place where they were not publicly disrespectful and outright demeaning). So it's absolutely NOT what we want modeled for our kids, but they DO love our kids and they HAVE come to a point where they respect that WE are their parents... it's civil and livable, just not great. They do NOTHING for us and before our move--when we had tons of packing to do, our FRIENDS pitched in an hour or two here and there where they could to watch the kids while I packed the house... while MIL was at home, 11 miles away, watching TV. And that's just my MIL & FIL. Dh's older brother's family? Yeah... notsomuch. They ARE toxic. The younger brother and his wife, we really love--but they have a very active life outside of the family. So I'm really glad we're far enough to not see them on any regular basis and my kids can know them through the occasional visit and lots of video calls.

I have two cousins (brothers) who grew up 1500 miles away from our family growing up--where we were very dysfunctional, but together every. single. weekend. Every holiday, every birthday. We were all together. Four families--7 adults, 8 kids, lots of dysfunction. Those two cousins had no flaming clue about what our family was like, and they say that they don't really miss what they didn't know they were missing. The youngest sibling of my mother had her children when I was an adult and they also missed all of that (we'd all grown up, people relocated) and those two cousins say the same thing: they didn't really know they were missing anything.

Realistically, both of my grandfathers died before I was born. And life without them simply was the way life was. I knew no different.

I suspect it will be the same for my son.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks, everyone, for the stories and kind words. It is nice to know I'm not the only one in this situation. I look around at my friends and see all these involved grandparents and I think I get a little jealous. I think I have a hard time with the "friends as family" idea because I don't want to impose on other people or ask for help or be socially inappropriate or emotionally needy or whatever. We do have reliable friends nearby, and I could probably be better about cultivating those relationships or taking them to a deeper level. I have an old old friend from high school who lives far away, but I might ask her if she wants to be an honorary aunt to my kids. I might try asking the priest at our church if she knows any older couples/families who are interested in some kind of "adopt a grandparent" idea. So I guess there are a few things I could try.

I myself didn't see relatives much growing up, but I did have a grandmother who sent me letters and small surprise gifts here and there, and an aunt who did the same, and I have such fond memories of both of them...I just wish my own kids had any connection like that. I guess we'll keep trying, but it's just such a frustrating sad battle. I think it's especially hard heading into the holiday season and feeling the lack of family so acutely.
post #10 of 21
Originally Posted by NicaG View Post
... I don't want to impose on other people or ask for help or be socially inappropriate or emotionally needy or whatever.
It doesn't have to be an imposition - our neighbours got as much from having honorary grandkids next door as we did from them. They were retired, lived on a small island, had no family on this side of the country, and when Grandpa Jim died, Grandma Eleanore was devastated. I know we made a big difference to her, and she showed us what having a loving grandmother could be like.
post #11 of 21
Our situation isn't quite so bad, but I can relate. Our kids only have one grandparent- my mom. My father is in prison and I haven't spoken to him in over 10 years, and dh's parents are both deceased. My kids do see my mom a lot, at least once a week. Dh's aunt lives an hour away and we see her at holidays and occasionally throughout the year. Dh's sister lives in the next state over, we usually see them once or twice a year. My brother lives a couple hours away and we usually see him at holidays and then a few other times a year. So, the only one we see on a regular basis is my mom.

It does stink in a lot of ways. I admit I'm jealous of people I know with large, close families. But my kids are okay and yours will be okay, too.
post #12 of 21
Remember it's their loss for bonding to your children. I felt this way about my husband's parents, it's also hard because they are in their 70's- they think and move differently. They get set in their ways and rather have you come to them versus them to you. I even sent them tickets too. I finally got use to it and doesn't bother me as much any more.

My brother on the other hand I am really disappointed but he is overseas and is a workaholic. My SIL is wrapped up in herself but I have accepted that it is the way it is. We still exchange gifts, really ridiculous I tried getting out of it to call our relationship what it is but oddly it still means something to my borther. With skype and webcam there really is no reason not to be connected. Too bad, they only have one child and not planning another. He is very sheltered. My brother and his wife are expat's in Singapore, they're very cosmopolitan. I would love to have my nephew here with my kids playing in the park and running through grass. Maybe one day.
post #13 of 21
Well I live in the same area where I grew up so the vast majority of my family lives here. My dad has 5 brothers and they all have 2-5 kids each so that's a big family. My kids barely know any of them because they refuse to visit or call us and whenever I call them or go see them, they either act like they don't know me or just aren't around.

My mom's side of the family, my kids all know. Even the aunt who lives 2000 miles away. MIL's family is mostly here as well and my kids do know them. Even fil who lives12ish hours away makes the drive once a year to see us.

I've given up on my dad's side of the family. If they have no interest in seeing us, that's their deal. But it's taken me a long long time to get here. And it still hurts whenever I hear gossip about my dad that he won't tell us (like, oh, when he got married).
post #14 of 21
Anyway, I'm fed up. I feel hurt that the grandparents take so little interest in the kids, I feel hurt that no one will visit us. I feel bad that our kids have so little contact with their relatives. Is it ok to grow up this way? Should I be trying harder? The whole situation just makes me so sad. What would you do?
You know, I've seen this on MDC--sometimes to a worse extreme, like wanting to keep incredibly toxic, potentially dangerous people in your life just so your kid can have grandparents--and it always baffles me.

I only ever knew one of my grandparents, and, she's pretty much a jerk. There are certainly far worse people in the world, but she has been nasty to me and I just don't particularly care for her. I have always spent as little time around her as possible, and I won't miss her when she dies. But I never particularly cared about my lack of grandparents at any point in my life. It never occurred to me that I was missing anything. I mean, it's "the more the merrier" as far as loved ones go, but I never felt like there was a hole in my heart where grandparents should have been, you know?

So don't worry if your kids don't have aunts, uncles, and grandparents. It's not going to screw them up.
post #15 of 21
I would definitely go the "honorary" family route. Do you have older neighbors nearby that would like some kid time? Maybe start cultivating a relationship with them (invite them for dinner, have the kids bring them some pie that you made together or take the kids and go rake their lawn or shovel their snow). Maybe these relationships will evolve into something approximating grandparents.

Maybe a family nearby with similar age children that you can swap babysitting with, have casual dinners? They could be like a "sister/brother and cousins to your kids" relationship.

A lot of people these days have only far away relatives or just plain bad relatives. You don't have to actually be related to have family-type relationships.

I think kids get value out of all positive relationships - the more, the better. Doesn't have to be directly related. Best of luck!
post #16 of 21
Originally Posted by NicaG View Post
Is it ok to grow up this way? Should I be trying harder? The whole situation just makes me so sad. What would you do?
I grew up with very little contact with extended family, and I can say that as a kid, I didn't feel like I was missing out and I don't think I have difficulties dealing with extended family as an adult--DH has a lot more family than I do, so it was an adjustment to realize that visiting his parents meant visiting multiple grandparents and lots of aunts and uncles and cousins.

My dad's family was dysfunctional and we had little contact, mom's family was nice just far away and no one had much money so travel was infrequent and we didn't do gifts or letters through the mail much.
post #17 of 21
We're a military family so this is pretty much common for us, my inlaws do see my kids on the weekends occassionally (they live 4 hrs away) but my inlaws are NOT people I want my kids to be around 24/7 they are homophobic, crazy conservatives like tea partier types (thats just the basic idea of how they are to give you a mental pic) so I limit my kids exposure even though they love our kids and would do anything for them, I dont want my kids thinking their views are normal or ok. My mom died in may and my youngest who is 20 months only saw her once and my other kids only about 4 times in their lives but my mom was poor and on disabitlity and my dad lives in ohio and he's not a very good grandparent but he wasnt a very good parent either so its not surprising, he chooses his wife over everyone and always has. I am only close to my sister whom I do see sometimes but we do not live close to any of my family and I really have no desire to when we leave the military. I do think its ok to live that way and hundreds of years ago people did have to move away from their families for jobs or new opportunities etc, just like they may have to now. I am sure there are great families who are close and see eachother constantly etc as well. It's not for everyone though.
post #18 of 21
We are in a similar situation. The lack of effort is more from my side of the fam and after 3 years of making all the effort when it comes to visiting and after paying for my dad's plane ticket to come out earlier this year so he could finally meet dd2 (who was 6 mo a the time) we said enough. We are on strike =P. I have 2 sister who could easily come out by themselves and chill with us for a couple of weeks, travel the area. My bro its a bit harder with his work schedule and 2 kids and wife but they have absolutley no financial probs and could also make an effort. We no longer live in the US but when we did no one came to see us, not eevn after I had dd1. They just waited for us to come there (9 hours drive often in snow for us). We email and we alwys send gifts on bdays and xmas. But it sucks, it makes me feel super crappy and like no once cares That I have kids. For me its extra bitter because everyone was always all over my bros kids.

SO you are not alone. I think you have made the effort and more. THe ball is in their court. We create family out of friends for our kids. =)
post #19 of 21

Dh grew up away from all his extended family members.  Both his parents come from toxic families and his parents moved across the country to get away.  He seems to be fine (mostly, lol.)


As for the family 8hrs away, could you guys drive out to see them?  Dh's brother lives that far away and we go see them a couple times a year and they come down here a couple times a here.  Everyone else in the family (mine and dh's) is within a 15 minute drive from us.

post #20 of 21

I think it's totally OK to grew up this way.  My kids are 12 and 14 and have had little contact with extended family during their lives (long stories, kinda off topic) but they are happy and well adjusted.


I agree on connecting with people of different ages where you live and I wonder why you think it would be imposing. What are you wanting from those relationships that would be an imposition? We've had wonderful neighbors who enjoyed being around our kids. It's nice for everybody.

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