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Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

What would you do in this situation?

Asked by Pied_Pfeffer (22469 points ) May 6th, 2011

There was an e-mail from my brother earlier this week announcing the birth of his first granddaughter and included adorable photos of the mother and child.

The problem I am having is that it is not his granddaughter, at least by birth. It is the the child of his second wife’s daughter.

Our brother has three young adult children by his first marriage, and two of them have a very strained relationship with their dad, despite his attempts over the years to maintain the close relationship he once had with them.

The e-mail and photos were sent to many friends, his children, and his ex-wife. My first reaction was (and to a degree, still is) one of mortification that he could be so insensitive to the fact that his own flesh and blood might take offense to the fact that he claims this child as his first grandchild. While I understand that he wants to share the elation that he and his wife of three years are feeling, it just doesn’t sit right with me.

Despite normally speaking my opinion, I’ve decided that it is not my place to tell him how I feel about this, unless he asks. After all, the deed, and potential damage, is done.

So my question to the Fluther collection is not only what would you do, but how can I overcome this disappointment in my brother’s e-mail when it might only be a knee-jerk reaction on my part?

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39 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

What would you expect him to do? How should he refer to the child?

Blended families these days are funny, messy things. Kids have multiple sets of relatives, and sort of relatives. My sister-in-law’s step-grandson refers to me as family. He’s fond of me, why should I bother to correct that?

It only gets awful if your brother divorces his current wife, and drops a child who thinks he’s her grandfather like a hot potato.

Neurotic_David's avatar

Erm, it isn’t your place to “do” anything. You’ve already passed judgement, and you have vented about your feelings here. Now move on, and maybe try and share inyour brother’s joy. As his sister, your job is to be loving and supportive, isn’t it? :)

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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Does he have a granddaughter that is a blood relative,born before this little girl? If not, I’m not sure that I see the problem.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@BarnacleBill The new granddaughter is part of his family. That is not the concern I have. I am just worried that his children might take offense by the wording of “our first grandchild”, especially when he already has a strained relationship with two of them. There are many different ways it could have been worded while still acknowledging her as a grandchild.

@naresh28 I realize that it isn’t my place to do anything. And that yes, I am judging him for what his daughters, if I were in their position, might potentially feel.

@ANef_is_Enuf There aren’t any other grandchildren at this point.

Thank you all who have responded so far. It is helping me to put some potentially irrational emotions in perspective.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have a mixed family, and everyone in the family accepts my son and his offspring as members of our family. No one would ever presume to think ill of my son as different from our son. We accept all equally.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Was the email announcing the birth of their (he and his current wife’s) first grandchild?

tranquilsea's avatar

Blended families are tough. I think the best policy is to be as relaxed about things like this from all sides.

My mother-in-law has a tolerate/hate relationship with her father’s second wife (one he married after her mother passed away). She was married to to him for 30 years before my husband and I had children. We had the children call her Grandma and she was delighted. My husband had only known her as a grandmother but was never aloud to call her so because his mother wouldn’t allow it.

Even 16 years later she makes snide comments about how my children should be called her Step Grandma and not Grandma.

That being said, I think I would be a bit put out hearing that if he was my dad but that would have more to do with the strained relationship and less to with what he calls this new child.

I hope your nieces and nephews can repair their relationship with your brother at some point.

jonsblond's avatar

I can relate to this situation. My husband has a terrible relationship with his father and hasn’t spoken with him in years. My father-in-law doesn’t acknowledge his grandchildren (our children). Never has, and our children are 18, 16 and 7. My husband’s nieces get all sorts of attention from their grandfather, so it makes it a bit awkward for the family when we hear the stories of Christmas and other holidays they get to spend with him. He also remarried when my husband and I first met, and his wife has adult children. His new wife’s grandchildren get the attention that our children should be receiving.

My father-in-law is an ass. My children know this and are better off without him. They are lucky to have my father (their other grandfather) who is ten times the grandfather my FIL will ever be.

zenvelo's avatar

Wow! I would do the same thing! He’s developed a strong bond with the stepdaughter, the other kids don’t care enough to maintain the relationship.

The bonding is stronger with the stepdaughter than with the “blood relation”. I think you might consider sending him congratulations and share his joy. The whole extended family should share in the joy and welcome an innocent child.

Seaofclouds's avatar

It may not be his biological grandchild, but I’m sure this child is going to be calling him grandpa (or whatever term they decide to use) and he will be filling the role of a grandfather in this child’s life. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. My step-dad jokes that he doesn’t have any children of his own, but he has grandchildren. He is a wonderful grandfather to my son and my niece and I can’t imagine what my relationship with him would be like if he was different with my son.

My husband’s family consider my son to be their only grandson (for a few more weeks). They have biological granddaughters, but no biological grandson’s. Since my husband and I got married, they’ve accepted both me and my son into their family. It’s a wonderful experience. Now my husband and I have a son on the way and he will be the second grandson as far as they are concerned. I am really happy that they were so welcoming to my son and I know they won’t treat my first son any differently than my second son.

So, long story short, I don’t see anything wrong with step or in-law type situations where people are welcoming and accepting the family members even though they aren’t blood. Maybe your brother’s children will realize that they are missing out by not being closer to him once they have children or think about having children and think about how nice it would be for their children to have their grandfather in their life. You said that he’s tried to maintain a relationship with his biological children, so it seems like for some reason, they are the ones that don’t want the relationship. I don’t think that should mean that he can’t have a relationship with his step-children and share in their joy just because it may bother his biological children. If it bothers them, perhaps they’ll realize they’ve made a mistake by not keeping up with the relationship that he’s tried to maintain.

Coloma's avatar

Maybe try to re-frame it, after all, there is plenty of love to go around. I think it’s sweet that he is so into it. But, that’s just me.

After all, he IS a grandparent now by virtue of his new wife.
I say try to expand your loving feelings and don’t let jealously and unresolved childhood baggage get in the way. Really, how can anyone ‘fault’ someone for having a big heart and being excited about a new baby in the family?

I know there is more to it for all of you in question, but, just sayin’...TRY to broaden your hearts.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@YARNLADY I wish my family could feel the same way that yours does. I don’t think that they can do so. Knowing how his daughters feel about how the relationship of their parents ended and its impact throughout the years, I am just thinking about it from their perspective.

@Neizvestnaya Yes, it was announcing the birth of their first grandchild. While I wouldn’t give it a second thought as his sister, I am worried how his two daughters might look upon it.

@tranquilsea Thank you for sharing your story and the kind sentiments for my nieces and nephew. It is pure speculation on my part on how they might react to the post, but if I were in their place, and not mine, I wonder if it bothered them.

@jonsblond Thank you for sharing your story. My brother did his best in attempting to repair the damage of his failing marriage and maintaining a loving relationship with his children. He has his faults, like the rest of us, but I give him credit for trying.

@zenvelo I beg to differ. He still loves his daughters deeply. He may have built a strong bond with his step-daughter, who is a lovely person and has welcomed him with open arms from what I have witnessed, but there is still a matter of tact when posting “our first grandchild.” It could have been worded differently and still related the message.

@Seaofclouds Yes, our brother will be the grandfather of this child and is happy to take on the role. He loves his wife and embraces her two adult daughters as an integral part of his life. I respect him for doing so and hope that this granddaughter will consider him her real grandfather. The biological one is long gone from this scenario.

@Coloma There are no feelings of jealousy and childhood baggage on my part. I am only concerned for how his two daughters might feel in how the announcement was worded. Maybe I am feeling an empathy that has gone into overload.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You’re overreacting, in my opinion. I’m dealing with much the same issue in my own life. I could easily have had the same problems in my own life, but my grown children don’t seem to have a jealous bone in their bodies. Now, when you talk about daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, that’s a whole other ballgame! : )

GingerMinx's avatar

It was his first grandchild, by birth or otherwise, I see no problem with him acknowledging that. It shows that when he married his second wife he wholeheartedly took on her daughter as one of his own as he should have.

jonsblond's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I’m sorry I didn’t really answer your question. Just sharing a story that relates. The difference between the two is your brother is at least attempting to reach out, my father-in-law isn’t. He doesn’t speak to my husband because Jon owes him money, and he doesn’t speak to my brother-in-law because he is gay. It’s sad. Both sons have tried to reach out, with no success. I’m just trying to give you an example of how the grandchildren may feel, but our situations are a bit different. I do wish you the best and I hope the children involved aren’t hurt.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@CaptainHarley We are dealing with a much different situation than the one that you share. It has nothing to do with jealousy. It has to do with the fact that these overly sensitive daughters might resent their father proudly announcing the birth of his first grandchild when it is not a blood relative.

@GingerMinx Trust me…I agree with your post. I just don’t understand why he would include his ex-wife and children on the e-mail when he knew that there were still sensitive feelings when it comes to their relationships.

Cruiser's avatar

I grew up with an uncle who was my favorite uncle and was my bothers God Parent who I eventually found out was simply my dads best friend. I still loved and respected that man for what he did to enrich my life. Put “technicalities” aside and allow for a little “license” of title for your brother to be involved in this child’s life. IMO, it is what the child will think and feel about a “grandparent” is what is most important.

The only grand dad my boys get to see on a regular basis is my step father in-law. That man treats my kids with more love and care than my own dad who sees them once a year at best. My kids adore their Grandpa facsimile!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Cruiser Thank you for your post. There are a few people in my life that I have called “Aunt” and “Uncle” that aren’t related in any way, shape or form. They were just close friends of my parents and good people. In many ways, they were a better aunt and uncle than a few that were blood relatives or those by marriage.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer

What is he to do then, just ignore the birth of his first grandchild ( irregardless of her lack of biological relationship )?

augustlan's avatar

I’m a step-grandparent, too. My husband’s oldest son (who was already in his twenties when I married his dad), has had two children since our marriage. I call them my grandkids, and when the first was born, I called him my first grandchild. Of course, my own children aren’t estranged from me, and are too young to be having kids yet anyway. I’m pretty sure it would never have entered my head to word it differently, even if my kids were grown. I’m also pretty sure I’d have shared the news with anyone who might want to know. (My kids became aunts, so they were thrilled.)

It’s too bad things are tense between he and his children in the first place, because if they had a better relationship I’m sure this wouldn’t be any problem at all. But he can’t be expected to foresee every little thing that might further upset them. I hope things improve for all of them.

iamthemob's avatar

My situation is close to @Cruiser.‘s My Great Aunt and Uncle were essentially an extra set of grandparents growing up. I was always closer to my Great Aunt – who I didn’t realize until much later I wasn’t biologically related to.

I was partially raised by my father’s mother. I always felt she was a kindred spirit in our family – we shared so much in common. When I was a teenager, I found out that my father was adopted. This person who I had felt so close to all my life was someone I shared no biological relationship to.

Finding that out, did I ever for a second think of them as anything but my Great Aunt or Grandmother? No.

@Pied_Pfeffer – when you say this: Trust me…I agree with your post. I just don’t understand why he would include his ex-wife and children on the e-mail when he knew that there were still sensitive feelings when it comes to their relationships.; you must remember that if he didn’t include them in the e-mail, it might be considered a slight. Family is family is family, regardless and however much we might wish it weren’t so at times, and it’s always best to err on the side of inclusion.

BarnacleBill's avatar

The “our” indicates that he accepts hs stepdaughter as part of his family. From what you said, the fact that the relationship is strained with his own children is not from his not trying, but from their refusing to accept the gestures and overtones that he’s made. The ownership of how the kids feel about the announcement rests solely on their own doorstep, and when one of them has a grandchild, the e-mail that goes out should be that “ex-wife and I announce the birth of our first grandchild.”

What I would do is send a baby present, and say “what a cute baby!”

It’s weird to have step-siblings integrated into the family as an adult, but really, everyone should just be kind to each other, and not turn a baby into the Hatfields & McCoys. Your brother has indicated that it’s not a her kids/my kids situation as far as he’s concerned, but an inclusionary idea of family.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@CaptainHarley Of course not. He could have left the ex-wife and children off of the e-mail and just told them about it in person. Or he could have worded it differently. I am happy for both of them and the parents of their new child, as well as the daughter. My only concern is with how his biological children might feel about his announcing that this is his first grandchild when they already feel resentment about the divorce and their father.

@augustlan Thank you for your post. I agree that if the relationships had turned out differently, I wouldn’t be so sensitive to the subject. It is a concern in my mind and not one that has been publically voiced by his daughters.

@iamthemob Thank you for your post, as well. Had my brother not included his ex-wife and children on the e-mail, it would have been another matter. They all knew that his wife’s daughter was expecting and due to give birth.

A big thanks to all of you for helping me work through this. I now realize that while I disagree with the wording of the announcement, I still support the sentiment.

GingerMinx's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer , I don’t know what kind of relationship he has with his ex, it doesn’t sound like a good one from what you say so I am not sure why he sent her an email, maybe simple letting her know? I can see why he sent it to his children, they have a right to know. I would have thought he would have told his immediate family in person before the mail out, unless they are too far away.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer: I think it’s pretty easy to clarify to the others if they make mention that this is merely an announcement of the couple’s 1st grandchild. Try not to make a big deal out of it, there are a whole lot more worms in the can of blended families. I grew up with 6 sets of grandparents, I have been the liked kid and also the unliked one, I know.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Neizvestnaya

I find that very sad. No child should ever be “unliked.” Adults who are so calloused and unfeeling as to dislike a child should be horsewhipped!

nikipedia's avatar

Unless I’m misunderstanding something, I think if the daughters feel slighted by him calling his grandchild “my grandchild,” they are frankly being brats.

Divorce sucks. My parents had a horrible one and it destroyed my childhood. The girls are entitled to feel hurt and angry about the divorce. If they do feel slighted by his acknowledging his grandchild—which was the right thing to do—the problem is theirs, not your brother’s.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@GingerMinx He currently sees his ex and two daughters every couple of days. The younger one was recently in a serious car accident, was bed-ridden for two months, and for the most part, still is. Both daughters are back at home with their mom, who lives about two miles from their dad. From what I have observed, the relationship with all three is still strained, although it seems to have gotten civil on the ex’s part over the 15 years since the divorce.

@Neizvestnaya I’m so sorry that you have had to go through an experience like that. Thank you for your sage advice. Nothing will be said to family members, as it is pure speculation on my part. I could be the only one who is worried about the daughters’ reaction to the wording.

@nikipedia I don’t know if the daughters feel slighted or not. It is just a concern that they might on my part. I agree with your sentiments, and thank you for stating it in the way that you did.

Thank you all for your stories and allowing me the opportunity to work through feelings that might be pointless. It was helpful to hear everything that was said.

BarnacleBill's avatar

It’s been 15 years since the divorce??? It sounds like “Let’s scorn Dad” has become the dynamics of the relationship. If you want to worry about something, worry about how that sort of attitude towards their father will affect their ability to have a stable loving relationship with any man. It’s more likely that this child will be the only grandchild your brother has if these girls young women don’t get an attitude check.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@CaptainHarley & @Pied_Pfeffer: the reality is family members aren’t always the ones you can trust or rely on to set the best examples or give the most love. I learned this late (late 20’s) and have since accepted it rather than fight to change others to be the best they can be.

My life is simpler and more rewarding now but it was a rough spell to go through. I know sooo many others with similar experiences and we all tend to try and turn the other cheek, research how we can be “better”, how we can “earn” the behavior we want from others, how we can somehow change the others to care for us, treat us fairly or love us.

Therapists and pharmaceutical giants would make a lot less money if so many of us weren’t programmed to believe we’re supposed to get the best from our families and to beat the damned dead horse into fame by trying and trying and trying.

Yay for friends! Yay for allowing ourselves to be called selfish now and then in order to achieve safety, security and consistency and protection for the positive people we choose to keep around us.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@BarnacleBill I agree with you. The nieces were brain-washed for years by their mother’s attitude towards their father. I have witnessed it, as well as my two other sisters. It was years ago though, and the ex-SIL seems to have come to terms with the circumstances. She was there when one of my sisters was dying and recently asked Mom out to dinner when she was passing through her town. And yes, I worry that both girls will struggle with the ability to achieve a healthy relationship with a partner, but that is a whole different discussion.

The ex-wife has a PhD. in psychology, one daughter has her masters in the field, and the younger daughter is a semester away from graduating in psychology. Their education doesn’t seem to have helped any of them in moving forward in their personal lives, although the ex-SIL seems to have come to terms with the situation.

@Neizvestnaya Thank you for staying with this thread as I work through it, both mentally and emotionally. The nieces are at a point in their lives where they should accept the situation for what it is, and maybe they do. I have not discussed the divorce and remarriage with them. All I know is that their words and actions drill down to a need for his financial support.

So, I guess that it comes down to the real question in mind. Should he have taken into consideration how his children might react to his post, albeit distorted, or should he have worded it differently?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer “Should he have taken into consideration how his children might react to his post, albeit distorted, or should he have worded it differently?” I don’t think it should have been reworded at all. Should he have considered how it would make them feel? Maybe, but honestly if he has been trying and trying and they have been resisting, why should he downplay the other relationships in his life just to make them happy? He’s happy. He should be able to celebrate it without worrying that they will use it against him down the road or that they aren’t grown up enough to realize that this child is indeed his grandchild, even if not by blood. Not all relationships are blood relationships. My sister-in-law is not blood (obviously) but she is my son’s aunt. It’s just the way some relationships work. Your brother is married to a woman that now has a grandchild, so he is in the position of being a grandparent just as my sister-in-law is in the position of being an aunt. I would hope his daughters could understand and realize that.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Seaofclouds He should be able to celebrate it without worrying that his daughters might use his wording against him. The point is that he loves his daughters and still attempts to support them in all ways, despite the resistance to let go of whatever ill feelings that they have and no matter how off-base that they might be.

I’m not sure if the example of your son’s aunt is applicable here. If you and your husband split up and he remarried a woman that had a daughter who had a child, and he sent out an e-mail announcing the birth of his first grandchild, how do you think your son would react, especially if his relationship with his father was strained?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer My point about my sister-in-law was that relationships form from marriage all the time and not just step situations. My sister-in-law being happy and announcing that I had a son and she had her first nephew isn’t a dig to her two brothers that had not had children yet. It’s not something new for relationships to be formed through marriage. If my husband and I were to divorce and he had a first grandchild through a remarriage before my son, I honestly don’t think my son would care that he announced it. My son knows that relationships are formed in many different ways and that we all have different people we consider “family”.

I get that you are concerned about how his daughters are going to take it, but they are adults. It’s not like they are little children that shouldn’t be able to understand the situation. I just don’t see why your brother can’t be happy and share his good news without being worried about offending his daughters when they are the ones that have made a decision about what relationship they are going to have with him. Are you close enough with them that you could ask them how they feel?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Seaofclouds Thank you again for your responses and sticking with this as I work through my own feelings. The girls and I are not close; they have distanced themselves from our side of the family. Their brother, on the other hand, holds no resentment and attends all of the family gatherings.

You are right. The girls have made their feelings perfectly clear by their actions, and while adults, aren’t mature enough to talk about how they feel with their father, as far as I know. It is highly unlikely that he would broach the topic with them.

I just need to get over the possibility that the girls might have any ill feelings for the announcement. Even if they do, it is their problem to work through with their father, and not mine.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer You are a wonderful aunt for caring so much about this. I’m sorry they’ve distanced themselves from your whole side of the family. Maybe their brother can talk to them in time. Hopefully they’ll mature and see what they are missing out on one of these days. My brother did something similar to my mom after my parents divorce (because of things my dad said to him). I know how much it hurt her and how much she worried about fixing their relationship. It took him getting engaged and having a daughter to finally come around. Now things are a lot better between them.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Seaofclouds Thank you…your response provides hope that the girls will one day realize that not only their father, but the rest of us love them as well.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Neizvestnaya

I still say that anyone who harms a child, physically, emotionally or otherwise, needs to be tied to a stake in the public square and hornse-whipped! Grrrrr!

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