Grandmother playing favorites, biological vs. step grandchild - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Background: My husband and I have been together for about 5 years. We have a 3 y/o (almost 4 y/o) daughter together. We also have DD2 living with us. DD2 is 9 y/o, almost 10.

 

A package from my MIL arrived  today. In it was a bunch of presents for the girls. She also included a photo frame she wanted us to put a picture of 3 y/o DD in. The photo frame says "Grandchildren   sharing moments, sharing love". It's one of those frames where it can record voices. MIL specifically asked that we record onto it the 3 y/o daughter speaking.

 

Even though she specifically asked for us to put the 3 y/o's picture and voice in the frame, I'm tempted to include 9 y/o DD in it. She's her grandchild, too, even if it isn't by blood. I definitely feel that MIL did this on purpose, b/c she only considers the 3 y/o her grandchild.

 

My initial, jokester reaction was to send the frame back with a picture of 3 y/o flipping her off (3 y/o DD has a beauty mark on her middle finger she likes to show off), and the 3 y/o saying something smart alecky, like "Share this!". I know it's not appropriate to do that, but I can't help but giggle at the thought.

 

MIL was very passive aggressive sending this frame, and I'm oh so tempted to be passive aggressive right back to show her how silly it all is. I'm pretty sure my DH wouldn't mind calling his mother out on her behavior.

 

I shouldn't do that, though, should I? I should just go ahead and put a nice picture of 3 y/o DD in the frame and record her saying something nice. Right?

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#2 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 01:40 PM
 
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I would send her a nice email saying you either want to put both kids in the pic/on the recording, or if she'd like to send a separate frame for DD2 you'll put her on that one, but that you really don't feel comfortable having only the 3yo make one because it will make DD2 feel left out, and you know MIL wouldn't want to hurt DD2's feelings like that.

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#3 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 02:55 PM
 
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Put in a picture of both, and have both record the message. If she complains, then your DH can put her right square in her place over the phone. This is really his battle - his DSD, his mom, his boundary line to draw. So you just play dumb and send back the frame with both girls featured. 

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#4 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 

Put in a picture of both, and have both record the message. If she complains, then your DH can put her right square in her place over the phone. This is really his battle - his DSD, his mom, his boundary line to draw. So you just play dumb and send back the frame with both girls featured. 



That's what I figured I'd do. Best to avoid drama over it.

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#5 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 04:05 PM
 
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I can sort of understand how your MIL might feel. If your dh is not fully in the dad role (which you did not mention this) and DD2 spends a fair amount of time with the real daddy, then she probably feels more like a step-grandparent than like a real grandparent.  

 

Here are a couple scenarios, not sure which your situation fits in. My brother insisted we pretend his stepchildren were the same as if they were his own children. But it went one way. The stepchildren were not expected to act as if they were our nieces and nephews or cousins of our children or such. In fact, when one of them got married, we were not even invited to the wedding. That was the oldest and she got married maybe 2 or 3 years after my brother and his wife got married. The stepchildren had a dad and they had grandparents from their dad and they most certainly did not need a 4th set of relatives. They made this very clear to us. The youngest of the 4 kids is much more polite than the rest. But she is so stressed over this that I recently found out that the reason she lives with her boyfriend with no plans to marry is that she does not want to deal with the drama of who the real dad is. She was actually only a grade schooler, early grade school in fact I think, when my brother and his wife married. Fact is, while she was the child of the last marriage prior to my brother's marriage to her mother, the others had lost a relationship with an entire side of their family when their mother left her first husband and then the 2nd husband, and I think there was someone else in between, but am unsure. 

 

But, a grandparent should be allowed to fuss over her grandchild and love on her, without being obligated to do 100% equal for a child who thinks of the older person as their stepdad's mother rather than as their equal grandparent. If the child gone every other Christmas, every other Thanksgiving, with her "real grandparents?" If so, then it is completely understandable and acceptable how your MIL handled this. (assuming there was not outward rude remarks or such toward the stepchildren)

 

The other type of situation, though, is where, for example, my cousin married someone who had a little boy. The boy's father was out of his life pretty much. The boy visits the grandparents as much as the biological/adopted grandchildren. The boy thinks of the grandparents and cousins and such, as as his real cousins, because they really are. Technically, he is a stepchild, as in, my cousin never adopted him. But the relationship is the same as if the child were not a stepchild. My children call him their cousin. I would consider him to be as much a relative as any one born or adopted in to the family. 

 

See the difference?

 

I hope I have explained myself well. Since I am not sure which the situation is, it is hard to make a call on things. If your dh can adopt your child, then you will show that your child from before the marriage is just as much your dh's child as your child from this marriage. It will also solidify any relationship so that your MIL does not have to feel if you two divorce, she will never see that child again.

 

I am curious though, you said your 2nd child lives with you and that is the one you are upset about. Where is the 1st child? 

 

Good luck with the situation!

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#6 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 04:10 PM
 
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Alright....I remember now....

 

Here is what I would do. All 3 of the children are your children. The one child is the only one who is the grandchild of this grandma. Send her back her stupid picture she wants, but don't mail it. GIVE it to her, in hand, when you are staying at that hotel she said she would pay for and the gas. See what I am saying? That trip, which I think your dh was not nice at all to not let you make, that I think you should make.....Tell your dh that you will happily give that picture to your MIL, in person though..after he drives you to see your children. uughhhh....what a frustrating situation! I hope your Christmas gets better. 

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#7 of 17 Old 12-20-2010, 05:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DD1 & DS live with my ex husband 800 miles away (as you recall).

 

DD2 lives with my husband and I, along with DD3.

 

ExDH talks with DD2 daily, though he  hasn't seen her since October, when we moved.

 

ExDH's mother has no contact with the children. She skipped town years ago and doesn't contact her own children.

ExDH's father, ex stepfather (the man who raised him) & current stepfather have no contact with the children.

ExDH's fiance's parents are active in the lives of DD1 & DS.

My mother is mentally ill and has no contact with the children.

We talk with my dad several times a week.

My paternal grandmother is still alive, and we talk occasionally. But she lives 900 miles away and has had several strokes this past year.

DH's adopted grandmother just passed away in October. We saw her about twice a year before her passing.

DH's maternal grandmother has contact with us regularly (every few weeks or so), and she doesn't play favorites as MIL does. I think she has been getting conflicting messages from her own daughter (MIL) as to what her role is supposed to be, but she has stepped up and put MIL in her place for her actions. She doesn't like the favoritism. She doesn't much like MIL.

We have no contact with DH's bio father's side of the family. 

DH's mother contacts us regularly, several times a week. Before we moved she was calling, texting & dropping by almost every day.

 

Basically, the main grandparents for the kids are my dad & DH's mom. Then comes my DH's maternal grandmother & my paternal grandmother.

 

 

Anyways, we're not going to drive back. Even if we did get the money for gas, the van needs repairs. It's not up for a drive of that distance.

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#8 of 17 Old 12-21-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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We continually have this issue with my inlaws.  My DH and I got married when my oldest ds was 7.  My oldest never had a father figure in his life but does see his paternal grandparents once a year or so.  DH became Dad within a year (by ds' choice), however my MIL and FIL (divorced, one who lives an hour away and never see and one who lives about an 8 hour drive away that we travel to visit 3 or 4 times a year) do not treat him like a grandchild at all.  Drives me nuts.  Not that they interact much with our two youngest, who are "blood" grandchildren, but they can be really hurtful with their actions.  We've gotten to the point where we return all gifts unless they include gifts for our oldest (they used to try to send X-mas gifts for the two little ones and not for the oldest).

 

If MIL did something like that, I would include all of my children in it.  If she tried to say something about it, I would expect my DH to set her straight.

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#9 of 17 Old 12-27-2010, 12:20 AM
 
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Not everyone considers stepkids/steprelations to be their family, at least not in the same way as a blood relation.   Just like some people can adopt and love an adopted child like their biological child, and some people simply don't have that within them.  And I don't think it's fair to say "the way I believe is right and the way someone else believes is wrong." 

I'll admit, I'm one of the people who does not have the ability to love other people's children like my own.  I have stepchildren, and stepgrandchildren.  Who I am nice to and buy gifts for and treat with the respect and kindness due any human being.  But they are a universe away from being loved like my own 2 biological children.  And I would never expect my parents to treat them or love them the way they treat and love my children.  The fact that I married a man who already had 5 children, did not suddenly impart into them an overwhelming sense of love for his 5 kids.  That's just not the way it works. 

 

I do think it is important however, to make sure everyone is in agreement with the situation.  Here, everyone understands that things are the way they are, and are happy with them.  In fact, I'm not called the "stepmother", I'm not anyone's "stepmother" really....because that implies a relationship between me and the children, when in reality, I am "their dads wife".  Or, in some instances "their little brother and sister's mother".   This works for everyone involved.  It might not work for you, it may not work for anyone else.  It doesn't have to.  You just need to find what works for you. :) 

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#10 of 17 Old 12-27-2010, 09:06 AM
 
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jess, were your five stepkids all older when you met your DH, and never parented by you? Because that makes a big difference IMO, in terms of what kinds of relationship expectations people should have. 

 

Any little kid my son (or daughter) moved in with and parented full-time for five years, I'm pretty sure I'd regard the same as a blood grandchild. Older kids, not living full-time in my grown child's family, would probably be a very different thing. 

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#11 of 17 Old 12-28-2010, 04:36 AM
 
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I can imagine you (and your daughter) might feel hurt. However, I don't think you can force a relationship on someone. It would be wonderful and gracious if your MIL loved your daughter (or at least pretended to love your DD!) as much as her biological grandchild. But she doesn't or can't. While that may be hurtful, you can't change it. It's not her fault that her other biological grandparents aren't involved. She can't be expected to take their place.

It's gracious of her to send gifts to everyone and I think that's about all you can ask or expect. I suspect there is a lot more going on and lots of other issues you may have with your MIL. I wouldn't make this one of them. Send her a framed pic of her biological grandchild, don't let your other DD know about it, and call it a day.
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#12 of 17 Old 12-28-2010, 07:37 AM
 
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"While that may be hurtful, you can't change it."

 

You can't change it, but you can refuse to let it in your front door.  If the way a grandparent behaves hurts the feelings of one of the kids in the house, then cutting off contact is always an option. For me, personally, that would be the LAST option after communication had failed to resolve the behavior. 

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#13 of 17 Old 12-28-2010, 09:00 AM
 
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In these sorts of situations, I always wonder if it isn't better to emphasize with the child the reality of the situation and relationship versus the fantasy of what we wish the relationship to be.

 

I have seen some situations where step-dad is called dad, takes fully on the dad role (or at least in Mom's wishful thinking he does), then the marriage splits, and the step-child is either no longer permitted to have a relationship with her step-father, or the step-dad is no longer interested.  So now the step-child has been rejected by her "father" when all along, in reality, he wasn't her dad (doesn't have the legal rights of one, or doesn't have an ongoing interest when no longer married to the child's mother).

 

If you and your DP were to split -- would you be facilitating your older DD's relationship with MIL?  Would MIL be reaching out and interested?  Do your DD and MIL have an independent relationship (outside of you and your DP) to foster?  If the answers to these questions are "No", then I think it should be made clear that Step-Grandmama, is only "Step" and that you don't try to create a fantasy of her as replacement Grandma for your older DD.  On the other hand, I don't think your younger DD should be deprived of a loving Grandmama by cutting her off.  My feelings on this might be a bit different if MIL was failing to recognize your elder DD -- but clearly she is thoughtful in including her with gifts, etc.

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#14 of 17 Old 12-28-2010, 09:38 AM
 
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I think what I would do in this situation is send the pic she wants with the recording she wants, and do it without pointing it out to the older DD--do it and send it while she is at school or something.  Send a regular school photo of  your older child if you want to.  Or go ahead and send a picture of the 2 girls together in the frame.

 

My grandma was a step-grandma to many kids.  The way I remember her handling it is she had pictures of all the children.  She'd tell you if you asked exactly who was related and how.  But she didn't *treat* a child who lived with her biological grandkids/great-g-kids differently--if she actually saw them, had a relationship with them, etc. same as the biological, they got treated like a grandkid.  Those who didn't, well, if you don't actually see them and they don't really know who you are, why *would* you be obligated to treat them the same?  Let's say in a rare instance where maybe that child is visiting and so is the grandparent--if Grandma is taking the kids out to the zoo or something, it would be rude to leave someone out.  But in the case of sending gifts and that, no.

 

My parents were step-grandparents too--in their case, the step-grandkids lived with my dad's son--actually my mom was also the step-mom.  They would have never thought of sending gifts to the house for only their 2 bio-grandkids that lived there.  They also had bio-grandkids who ended up living with the moms--at the time that I can remember, they had no relationship with the one. (neither did his dad)  They would give stuff to the other at my brother's house.

 

I don't agree with crap like one of my friends' ex-dp family did...3 children involved, close in age, one child was their biological relative, the other two basically thought of the dp as 'dad', they lived as one big family, etc.  The one holiday that comes to mind, they bought the biological relative child a TV/DVD combo and several other 'large' gifts.  One of the other children got a sweater, the other got a little lamp for a bedroom.  They were old enough to see and know the difference.  To me, that's wrong, you don't just lavish expensive stuff on one kid and not the others when you have the same day-to-day relationship with all of them.  If it was a case of children you rarely see spending the holiday with mom and coming along to the holiday...then I can see smaller gifts, or if they are old enough to understand the relationship and all that, even no gifts.


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#15 of 17 Old 12-28-2010, 10:23 AM
 
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Could she, maybe, just not know what role you two are wanting her to play in the child's life?  Maybe she needs an invitation to be a significant person in dd's life.  My mother was definately NOT like that, but she treats everyone like that.  Even when dss's mother had a child from her 2nd husband my mom would send that child gifts from "Grandma D".  She is just that way.  But I know that Dh's ex's MIL called and asked permission to send dss gifts and worried that dh would be offended.  Of course we weren't, but she didn't know that.  She needed that invitation into his life.  She needed to know that she wasn't going to be stepping on toes by getting that involved.  Maybe your MIL needs that same invitation.


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#16 of 17 Old 12-30-2010, 03:46 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post

In these sorts of situations, I always wonder if it isn't better to emphasize with the child the reality of the situation and relationship versus the fantasy of what we wish the relationship to be.

 

I have seen some situations where step-dad is called dad, takes fully on the dad role (or at least in Mom's wishful thinking he does), then the marriage splits, and the step-child is either no longer permitted to have a relationship with her step-father, or the step-dad is no longer interested.  So now the step-child has been rejected by her "father" when all along, in reality, he wasn't her dad (doesn't have the legal rights of one, or doesn't have an ongoing interest when no longer married to the child's mother).

 

If you and your DP were to split -- would you be facilitating your older DD's relationship with MIL?  Would MIL be reaching out and interested?  Do your DD and MIL have an independent relationship (outside of you and your DP) to foster?  If the answers to these questions are "No", then I think it should be made clear that Step-Grandmama, is only "Step" and that you don't try to create a fantasy of her as replacement Grandma for your older DD.  On the other hand, I don't think your younger DD should be deprived of a loving Grandmama by cutting her off.  My feelings on this might be a bit different if MIL was failing to recognize your elder DD -- but clearly she is thoughtful in including her with gifts, etc.


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Originally Posted by peaceful_mama View Post

I think what I would do in this situation is send the pic she wants with the recording she wants, and do it without pointing it out to the older DD--do it and send it while she is at school or something.  Send a regular school photo of  your older child if you want to.  Or go ahead and send a picture of the 2 girls together in the frame.

 


And this is a good way to handle it.

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#17 of 17 Old 12-30-2010, 03:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 

"While that may be hurtful, you can't change it."

 

You can't change it, but you can refuse to let it in your front door.  If the way a grandparent behaves hurts the feelings of one of the kids in the house, then cutting off contact is always an option. For me, personally, that would be the LAST option after communication had failed to resolve the behavior. 


I would agree with you if the OP's older DD was being completely ignored by the MIL. That's not the case. While it would be nice if MIL could love (or feign loving) both DDs equally, that's not the case and, no, the OP *can't* change that. As long as her older DD is receiving some attention and recognition, I don't think it's out of line that the MIL would want a picture of her biological granddaughter on her own.

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