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Two strikes for Dear Abby!

2Tired4Drama's picture

For the second time in two weeks, I think "Dear Abby" flubbed advice to a Stepparent.

Coincidentally, I was/am in this situation except I've been around almost two decades. SD and I have never developed a relationship because she has always been clear she has no interest in one. Polite but very distant. So I disengaged and am also polite and distant.  We have no direct communication with each other other than once a year she texts me "Happy Birthday" and I text her the same.  

When I first saw her after she had her children, I had not been in her house for 30 minutes when she point-blank asked me what I wanted to be called?  I was stunned.  She hadn't even made small talk with me to find out what I had been up to the past few years (I had not seen her during that time), we have virtually no relationship, yet she was a little bit confrontational about "Well, what do you want to be called?"  I joked it off and said the kids weren't even talking yet so I'm sure they'd come up with something. 

When and if the time comes when the kids ask who I am, I intend to reply with my name. They can call me by my name. A term of endearment (whether it's grandma, boopy, gigi, or anything else) is that -- a reflection of endearment - I have never been close to SD and will never be close to her kids so there is no endearment. This is particularly true since she is fully enmeshed with BM, who is the ULTIMATE and only parent/grandparent who counts. 

I have read far too many horror stories on here about how SGparents are cut off or cut out of small kids lives for stupid reasons or are completely cut off after the death of bio parent.  I don't intend to be in that position. Telling the letter writer that she can be "as much of a grandma as she wants to be" is patently false but then Abby follows it up with the most important point which is, "to the extent the parents want you to be."

In this case, the extent is NOTHING. The parents don't have a relationship with her. Thus, she will never be a grandmother to those kids. THAT's what Abby should have led her response with!

Abby should have said:

1. You are only dad's "latest" wife to adult skids and will always have a distant relationship with them

2. You are correct that the adult kids do not (and never will) view you as a grandmother 

3. Treat gskids like you would the kids of an acquaintance who visits one or twice a year. Give a low-cost nominal generic gift that you don't put a lot of emotional energy in (don't make handmade quilts, etc.) enjoy the kids' company while they are in your presence, and don't offer anything else, including babysitting. 


DEAR ABBY: I have been married for almost three years to an incredible man. It’s the third marriage for both of us. I have an older daughter, and he has two older children — a son and a daughter. Last year, they both welcomed their own children. 

I’m not sure where I fit in when it comes to being a grandparent. Friends of mine said I am a grandma. I say, “By default, I am a grandma.” My friends also said instead of calling me “Grandma,” the grandkids could call me something else to differentiate between their biological grandmas and me. I recently signed a birthday card for one of the grandkids and wasn’t sure if I should sign just my name “Louise” or “Grandma Louise,” so I settled on “G-ma Louise.” 

Because of COVID, we hadn’t been able to visit much with the grandkids. However, when it comes to gifts, I’m usually the one picking them out and, in some cases, my husband and I split the cost. In my heart, I feel they are my grandkids, but I don’t think my husband’s kids view me that way. AM I a grandma? — STATUS UNKNOWN IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR STATUS UNKNOWN: You are as much a grandma as you would like to be, and to the extent the children’s parents will allow it. Many families agree on the names the grandparents are called, and I see no reason why yours should be an exception.

Newimprvmodel's picture

Before I disengaged from SD, she had asked me what i wanted to be called by her future child while she was pregnant.  I said  whatever she was comfortable with and she settled on grandma ann. Fine. I signed the gift cards grandpa and grandma ann. After DH was not invited or included in his first and only grandchild first birthday and party I did send one last gift last xmas.  Call it passive aggressive, knowing that his ex wife's husband was likely grandpa to the child I sent the gift grandpa john and grandpa ann.  I hope she picked up the message,.  Since then I AM DONE.  

It is now 3 yrs since the grandchild has been born and DH has not laid eyes on her.  He still calls his daughter several times a week, mostly she ignores him I think.

notarelative's picture

I never had an illusions that I would be a grandmother to SD's kids. Step son-in-law, when their first child was born, told me that his child had only two grandparents, his mother and DH. 

I was upset at first, but then decided if that's what you want, that's what you get. I may help DH pick out gifts, but they are not from me. DH pays and the value is based on his budget. I don't contribute to the cost. My name does not go on the card.. 

I'm not grandma. I am first name --  kind of a cross between grandpa's live in and one of the lower servants in a Victorian novel.


CajunMom's picture

I had my doubts about sharing DHs grandkids when they came. I was right. The announcement was done at DHs retirement party. 35+ guests, the majority my friends and family brought to the marriage. The announcment was just for DH; I was ignored. Enough to be noticed and the wife of DHs boss looked at me, mouth dropped while others just sent looks of compassion and then called me the next day. It was humiliating. My kids, my family, my friends finally saw the truth of what I dealt with. I handled the rest of the weekend with class and then I was done with DHs kids. 

Fast forward 5 years later. I've not seen any of DHs kids; there are now 4 grandkids that I've not seen and several I don't even know their names (my choice). The hypocritcal part is that two of DHs kids have SKs. He wasn't even asked. He was immediately given grandparent status. He knows I think he's a hypocrite but I let it go because really, those kids are innocent in this mess. Still...if I ever re-engage with DHs kids, I am simply Ms. CajunMom to any and all grandkids. As my daughter said, that ship has sailed. 

Birchclimber's picture

I was also asked what I wanted to be called when the first of the grand skids came along.  I remember the day!  Perhaps naively, DH and I looked at each other and thought that Grandma would be appropriate since we are couple and he is going to be referred to as Grandpa.  At the time, it just seemed natural to assume the coordinating family title to that of your spouse.  The skids didn't object in any way.  As a matter of fact, I remember OSD smiled and nodded encouragingly.  When they posted the birth announcement in the local paper, I was listed as a proud grandparent. That was 26 years ago and I have been called grandma by OSD and YSD's kids up until about 5 years ago.

In speaking with YSD's kids, it became clear to me that when they refer to me with their mother (when I'm not there), they call me by my first name.  Ie.  Are we visiting with Grandpa and Birchclimber today, Mom?  When these grandskids speak directly to me, I am Grandma.  YSD, who is a master at alienating her kids from first their father, and now DH and myself, has managed to teach her children the true meaning of hypocrisy.  In other words, YSD has most likely told her kids,  "You can use the title of grandma to her face, but when we talk about her among ourselves, she's just Birchclimber.  She's not really your Grandma!"

I don't know about the rest of you, but my aunt, who I grew up calling Aunti Sue, remained Aunti Sue until she died.  She never got demoted from her Aunt position.  I also have an Uncle Herb.  He actually isn't really an uncle, but rather a close friend of the family.  He is still Uncle Herb today!  We also had a neighbor who used to watch over us sometimes.  We called her Granny Brown.  She died as Granny Brown.  I don't think we even knew her first name until a few years after she died. 

To be perfectly honest though, if I were to do it all over again, I would have opted for a version of my first name.  Perhaps the short form version that my friends use.  Birchy instead of Birchclimber.   Then I would have nothing to be demoted from.

But either way, I don't really give a rats ass what anyone of them call me anymore.  I found the demotion hurtful at first but   what I have come to terms with is that, what they call you will not make one iota of a difference in the way that you are treated by any of them in the long run.  It's just a title, it's just a name. 


CajunMom's picture

It was a huge hurt for me....even expecting it, I didn't realize how impactful the rejection would be. I am better now and feel like you.

Another thing I focus on.....the money I'd have spend on them. They missed out on a great additional step grandparent for their kids because I am a giver. DH doesn't remember to send gifts...totally forgot all birthdays this year...but not my problem. They somehow forgot the memo that says most moms/grandmoms do all the shopping and gift giving. LOL

2Tired4Drama's picture

You both are living examples of why most of us simply cannot be deeply involved in grandskids lives.  

I've already gone through the drama of skids.  I will NOT do another difficult and heartbreaking rendition with gskids. 

Rags's picture

They do not get a choice.  I tolerate nothing less.

Related kids call me with an honofific... and Sir.

SS-30 came home from a SpermLand visitation when he was about 8 with '(SpermGrandHag) says you are not my dad and I cant call you dad.'  I told him that he had first called me dad when he was younger than 2yo and I had always been 'Dad(dy)' and if that was no longer what he called me, he could call me Mr. Lastname.'

He decided again that I was dad and always had been. So, I remain... dad.

Neices and Nephews call me Uncle FirstName.

Keep  it simple.


BobbyDazzler's picture

As Memaw, like my bio gkids do. But I'm not involved in their lives at all. I'm ok with that.