Two strikes for Dear Abby!
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.