Dear Grandparenting: I might as well live on the other side of the world from my grandkids. 2015 was the last time I saw them. Their dimwit mother left my son six months later and married a younger man who pretends to make a living as a poet, as if that’s even possible.
I must make do by phoning my grandkids and writing them every so often. They have come to expect a little money in my mail. I’ll send them $20 or $40 to buy something they want.
The last phone call almost broke my heart. Their stepfather took the little money I sent. Adding insult to injury, he scolded the kids about being too immature to know the value of money. They’re still in elementary school, so what does he expect?
My poor little grandchildren sure have all the luck. Their father had to move to Texas to get work. Their mother is 37 and carries on like she’s still quite the carefree footloose dame. And now their stepfather has taken to robbing them. My options are limited. Life’s not fair. What’s next? Mary Ellen Prince, Reno, Nevada
Dear Mary Ellen: If it’s fair you want, don’t start with stepfamilies. Life is getting harder all around, with families rich and poor stretched to their breaking point. But stepfamilies — bedeviled by resentments and the ghosts of relationships past — often have it hardest of all.
Experts say it typically takes about five years for new stepfamilies to cohere and learn to trust. Blended families’ dynamics are rife with complicated schedules, squabbling stepsiblings, issues with expartners and new spouses who have never been parents learning about childcare on the fly.
We suspect the new stepparents need a meeting of the minds on matters like family values and discipline. Absent a consistent message from both stepparents, young grandchildren are at risk of becoming confused and insecure or worse. So keep those calls and letters coming. When little grandkids get the short end of the stick, the love and care of a grandparent makes a world of difference, even when you do feel a world away.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Laurie Meeker from Fishkill, New York, was running Saturday errands with granddaughter, Elizabeth, 7.
Since she spends so much time with her granddaughter, Elizabeth’s parents often ask Laurie about what they do together. “They want to know every little thing,” she told her granddaughter as they drove along.
As they approached Elizabeth’s favorite ice cream spot, she turned to Laurie. “If you’re thinking of buying me a treat Grandma, it can be our little secret.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.