I have had issues with my 2 adult stepchildren since marrying their father 9 years ago. At the time, the kids were 17 and 20 respectively. I helped to raise the younger son, and he refuses to speak to me since we moved to Hawaii five years ago. He acts like I don't exist. The mother died 13 years ago. The daughter, who has since married and has 2 children, treats me with indifference. We give them gifts and Dad is the only one who gets thanked. Birthdays aren't much better...mine are basically ignored while Dad gets the treatment from the grandkids (phone calls, cards etc) There are things that have happened that I don't want to go into, but this treatment is very hurtful for me. I have tried my best to be nice and include them in everything. The son, who has never said thank you once, used to call and wish me Happy Birthday and Mother's Day, but since we moved, he basically told Dad he had to pick between him or me. I don't know how I am supposed to act.....I don't want to participate anymore as I feel they are controlling the situation and let me in when they want and push me out when they want. I feel I am setting myself up for getting hurt if I allow myself to get close to them or their kids. I don't have kids of my own and basically feel that it best I just let them go and not get sucked into the situations. Any advice?
I have had two stepmothers, both of whom came into my life after my parents' 22-year marriage ended; i.e., when I was nominally an adult.
The first was a woman who married my dad because she wanted my dad, not because she wanted us, which she made clear in many ways. (She had no kids.) Her cues were all little things -- she changed the lock on the front door of the house where we grew up (and sometimes came back to live in between college and jobs) and made Dad tell us to call first before we intended to drop in, when we all had up to then carried keys and been accustomed to stopping in and out of the house all the time. She clung to his side 100% of the time when the family was together, never allowing a private conversation between child and father. She was critical if we seemed to (as she put it) "only have eyes for their father" and commented on how nobly she refrained from saying anything about it. She strongly disliked my mother, who otherwise had a good relationship with my father (it was Mom who left Dad, not the other way around, and they have maintained a friendship). She wouldn't let Dad attend a party if Mom was supposed to be there, which made for some dicey times when we got married.
Dad's second wife has several kids, and is just the opposite in so many ways. She apparently knows from being a mom the rights children have all their lives to their parents. She would never bat an eye if we wanted to take Dad off and have lunch, or have a talk, or anything, without her, but since she is not hanging jealously on his arm all the time, we wouldn't think of wishing she wasn't there. She likes my mom. She has never once had anything but praise for us and acts supportive and impressed by everything we do. Even if it is pretend (I don't think it is) it works.
I don't know who began keeping score in your world, the kids or you ("this treatment is very hurtful for me" could probably be said by the kids also about something in the situation). I would try, if you can, to imagine the lack of conditionality you would have if the kids were your biological kids, and then try to compare it to moments in the relationship. Ask your husband about this, does he have any clues?
If you can't get anywhere with that approach, talk to a good family therapist. Maybe you're putting out some vibe that you don't even mean, (whose idea was it to move to Hawaii?) and it is coming back to bite you, in the form of their indifference. Then you have to decide how much it really matters to you that you have a good relationship with them. My first stepmom would have been GLAD to take my Dad and move a thousand miles from us, probably hoping it were more miles. But if it bothers you enough, you two might discuss moving closer to the grandkids so you can be in their lives. This means the kind of sacrifice (in a small way) that being a parent means -- you have to stand in the rain and watch soccer games, break into your day to go to school to pick someone up who is sick, go to the talent show and try not to wince at all the flat notes, and clap proudly all the time. Even if there was distance with the kids, there won't be distance with the grandkids if you let your love shine their way, and it will also brighten up the kids that you are such a wonderful grandmother.
In other words, parenting (whether full or step) is really pretty one-way work -- we do it for our kids, they do it for their kids, who do it for their kids. Only occasionally does a particularly appreciative child say something nice that is genuine, not prompted or just rote because Hallmark wants them to buy a card. Try not to let that eat at you. The kids don't feel obliged to thank you for marrying their dad, and really, unless he is a super pain in the rear that nobody else wanted to take care of, they should not. But things can get easier if you talk to a counselor and discuss your expectations, and what is real and what pleasures can come from a step relationship.
Thank you for your input and insight. We actually retired to Hawaii and it was my husbands idea to move here. His daughter had already moved away, leaving his son. I do think that the kids did not process the death of their mom and that actually could be a major contributor to the problem. I have always behaved in as gracious manner as I could. I included them in our activities, and actually thought his son and I had a good relationship....so much so that I was beginning to think of him not as my own, but with love and affection. They always managed, though, to do things not in front of their dad that weren't always nice. I was never one to be nasty to them....I always rode it out. I know we had some rough starts. When you mentioned them having to call before coming over, I actually did have his son do that because we lived in the city, and he came in late one night to get something while I was home alone, and I thought he was a burgler.....he wasn't living in our home at the time. But to give you a for instance...when his daughter got married, I overheard her tell the photographer not to take any pictures with me in them.....I helped her with this wedding and had my store do all her flowers for the wedding. I never said anything, but a year later, I did write her a letter and she got a little better after that. But since having her last child, even though I went back for the birth with my husband and helped out, it seems she has cooled. It is as though I am only there for convenience sake. Of course, there are the grand kids. But it is so obvious that they are there for my husband ...calling on his b-day and sending cards but not for me. There seems to be a line drawn down the middle.....that the distinction that I am not the biological grandparent will be made sometime in the future....so I guess I am afraid to get attached because of how the son has acted and the anticipation of what will be. Adult children are too old to try to change. They have made up their minds. I am trying not to affect my relationship with my husband. I encourage him to go back and see them without me. I guess I really want a relationship with them, but basically have been locked out.
Kids change a lot if they get a lot of help from their stepparent with their own children. It's the way to a child's heart.
Good luck, if this troubles you so much, I would suggest to your husband that you move back to be close to the kids and their kids. But it really does sound like you are drawing some lines, being conditional and judging their reaction to their dad, and getting hurt if their reaction to you is not the same. He's their dad, they have known him all their lives, and they can never alienate him, and he will never keep score and get hurt. If you can't cop that same attitude, you might have to stay away, but it is your loss.
I am a stepmother as well and can relate to what you are saying.
"I don't have kids of my own and basically feel that it best I just let them go and not get sucked into the situations.".....My honest opinion hon, DON'T get sucked up into this. You have done all you can and everyone here is an ADULT and should ACT accordingly. If you and hubby felt it was best for you to move to Hawaii.....so be it. Geez......aren't you all entitled to a life of retirement....for heaven's sake?
These children are grown and RAISED. It should be time for you and him to enjoy each other and your life together. The ball is COMPLETELY in their court if they choose to act like adults as they are 29 and 32 and make this RIGHT.
Ths son not talking to you AFTER your move is nothing short than "emotional blackmail." Don't FALL for this. Then, he is telling his father to choose between "you and him?" Has he lost his mind? Ok, he isn't comfortable with the situation, but who is he to make these kinds of demands on his father that he is supposed to love? When you LOVE someone you surely don't put them into awkward situations that are SO unnecessary. He needs to MATURE. That's ridiculous.
Then, we have the daughter. Well....she has apparently drawn a line in the sand in regards to you. I wouldn't gravel at her feet for acceptance.
You and your hubby DESERVE happiness, not misery. I am not saying close the proverbial "door" on these children, but you need to disengage from the situation. I wouldn't do anything to discourage him having a relationship with his kids, but I wouldn't let your WORLD revolve around them either.
Hi Londres.....I tend to agree with you. They are emotional vampires...the boy more so than the daughter. While Annie offered some insight as to being a step-child, if you walk the same path everyday, only to be beat up at the end of your walk, why would you choose to keep taking the same path daily? Does that make sense? I have decided that I will "act" appropriately with the grandkids since at this point they have never known or knew of the biological mom. But, I cannot get attached because, even though this is negative thinking, I probably already know the outcome. So, I do this for my husband. I run an after school program here, and if there is one thing I do know, it is that kids today grow up very quickly and are nothing like they "used" to be or how we would like them to be. I see it starting in the first and second grade. By third grade, they are already sassy and hormonal. It is scary. Thank you for your input.I began the disengagement five years ago with the son. I am cordial if I see him, which happened last summer. The same holds with the daughter. I will not set myself up to get hurt again. So, I guess in the end, it is not only my loss, but also theirs.
"if you walk the same path everyday, only to be beat up at the end of your walk, why would you choose to keep taking the same path daily?".......depends on what was at the end of the path. In this case it ISN'T worth it. It's like "throwing pearls to pigs" in other words your efforts are not appreciated and it isn't worth putting in all the effort.
Like I stated I am a stepmother and I have a biochild too. My husband and my son get along great, however, I have had my "lumps and bumps" with my husband's children which have smoothed out somewhat. My son comes to visit us and he DOESN'T live in the same town either as he isn't any baby anymore I don't see the need for us to have to live in the "same" town.
Like I stated, I wouldn't close the proverbial "door" on them completely, but NO need to "gravel" at ANYONE'S feet for approval and respect. If they have issues with "this and that" stemming from their past then they should look into therapy for themselves as walking around carrying unresolved "issues" and not addressing them ISN'T the way to go.
It takes TWO to want a mature, respectful relationship and it doesn't appear that's what these two want.
I believe we should teach are children to be INDEPENDENT from us, not dependent. There are planes, trains, busses and boats if you don't live close. The world is smaller than people think.
Don't waste your time......life's too short and I don't believe in devoting your life 100% to others and not doing what you want UNLESS you are a nun. My stepchildren and my son are IN my life/a part of my life, not MY life.
Yes, indeed, it is THEIR loss if they don't come around. To add: you and your husband DON'T deserve this from this so-called "adult" children.
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