The Grandma Dilemna of Definition of Grandchildren: Children’s Relationships with Partners Who Have Children

familySeptember 4, 2013, in the Miami Herald, Carolyn Hax, answered a question about grandparenting common in our era, “Grandma Struggling with Values,” the dilemna of children’s relationships with partners who have children.  Are they our “grandchildren?”

Here is the question posed to Carolyn Hax:

Dear Carolyn: Over the years, I’ve read numerous complaints about grandparents who show favoritism to some grandkids based on gender, adoption or step situations. Each time, I’ve been outraged that adults could be so unfair to innocent children.

 But I’m finding the situation isn’t so easily resolved when you’re in the middle of it. My husband and I became grandparents a year ago. We were beyond thrilled! We don’t have a lot of money, but we cut some corners to buy cute gifts on the appropriate occasions.

 Now my stepson has started dating a woman with two young children. The 26-year-old, college-dropout stepson has made having a family his No. 1 goal in life (maybe to make up for his parents’ divorce?). He actually searched dating sites for women with children.

 He’s now moving in with this woman, who only a month ago agreed to be publicly identified as his girlfriend. (This is only his second relationship. The first one lasted just months.)

 Anyway, with the holidays coming up, I don’t know what to do. Do we spend an equal amount on these other two kids? I don’t want to be a jerk to these two little girls, but I also don’t want to keep diverting money from our granddaughter to a string of kids we might not see again. I just want to be a

 – Good Grandma

 

Carolyn Hax responded as follows:

 Being a good grandma is about the kids, not you. Your first paragraph says you already know this.

 That means any gifts you give to family members are investments in them as people, versus investments in your relationship with them. It’s “I want the best for you” vs. “I want the best out of you” – a fine distinction, but an important one.

 When you look at these two little girls that way, then you’ll see that their tenuous status in your family has no bearing on the way you divvy up the gifts. These are children innocent of their parents’ whatevers. What they need – possibly even more than your granddaughter does – is an environment where they’re valued just for being, without contingencies such as “gender, adoption or step situations.” So they get a third of your gift allotment, a third of your hugs, a third of your attention and all of your heart.

This is a controversial answer under the circumstances of the lack of longevity and permanence of the step-son’s relationship and the stepson’s slight and poor history of lasting relationships.  However, in this day and age, more and more couples are never marrying, so we grandmas cannot consider lack of marriage a sign of lack of longevity and permanence.  And children remember slights–do not doubt this!  This Grandma has heard of such “step-grandma” slights and hears from the children who are now adults remembering slights of twenty years ago and more.  What happens if there IS longevity and permanence and the grandchildren do not feel like they belong to the grandma as her grandchildren?

This Grandma agrees with Carolyn Hax.  Love does not know boundaries or marriage certificates.  Unconditional love to grandchildren, whatever form or shape they take, is the responsibility of grandparents.  Yes, when money is tight, it is difficult to think that one’s “blood” grandchild may suffer, but is it really suffering when the grandchild’s life is enriched by additional family to love?  Don’t all of we grandmas want to think that the word grandma means love and being forever in our grandchildren’s hearts!

This Grandma says bring your “signature” candy when you visit, so the newest grandchildren identify your signature as grandma.  Cuddling and reading to them when you visit cements them in your heart and you in their hearts.  How you treat the newest grandchildren will go far in how their mother (and your step-son) view you in their hearts as well.  Remember that a responsibility of a grandma is to be the glue that keeps the fabric of the family together.

Time is the greatest gift of all.  This year, consider a “coupon book” holiday gift for all the grandchildren and parents of the grandchildren, giving babysitting time or a special time with each grandchild individually.

Definition of family is different in the 21st century and grandmas must go with the times. However, because the step-son’s first relationship only lasted months, this Grandma recommends that “Good Grandma” should wait until close to the holidays to spend money on holiday gifts for everyone this year with

 

Joy,

 

Mema

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