Dear Grandparenting: Here’s my little tale of woe. Both hands were full already with my six grandchildren coming and going. Then two of my grown children got divorced and have since married a second time. Just as quick as that, those six turned into nine. The step-grandchildren had arrived!
My middle daughter married a perfectly nice gentleman with two perfectly awful children. First impressions are very important. When I met my new stepgranddaughter, Marissa, with her nose rings and buzz cut, she badmouthed my daughter unmercifully. Her boyfriend had just landed his “dream job” at a strip club. He sounds like a real winner. Her younger brother, John, was cranky and smelled horrible.
Things didn’t go any better when I met the kids of my youngest daughter’s new husband, either, but I’ll skip the gory details. The point is, I am way too old and way too nice to put up with anyone who insults my family and acts like I should just go away. How do I make this work? Just call me Mightily Annoyed, Atlanta, Georgia
Dear Annoyed: You are walking a road well-traveled. Demographic trends indicate that about 50 percent of grandparents will have stepgrandchildren at some point. And as with you, some will be challenging and hard to reach.
The merger of families often begins with a collision of values, parenting styles, disciplinary methods and privileges. One might reasonably expect stepgrandchildren to lash out as part of the testing process, but using heavy-handed measures to control them generally ends badly.
Avoid coming on strong. New stepgrandchildren need space. Acceptance has a lot to do with the child’s age, since it takes teens and preteens longer to establish trust. If you overcompensate, you run the risk of making biological grandchildren jealous. Make the effort to know each stepgrandchild individually, remembering their interests and hobbies. Tell them what to call you, whether it’s Grandpa Joe or Mr. Brown.
Don’t complain too loudly. Your son is probably well aware of the situation and will appreciate your tolerance. Stepgrandchildren who resent the remarriage will probably take it out on grandparents as a matter of principle. So give it time. A smart grandparent will eventually find some common ground.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Ty Miller, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was “going crazy” trying to watch TV as grandson Devin, 3, galloped around the room. “Stop running in circles,” he said loudly.
Devin came to quick halt before he started up again. “So Grandpa, want to see me run in squares?”
Ty was so impressed by the quick comeback that he “even said yes.”
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.