In-Law Drama

manda_2006March 7, 2009

Hello all...I need help. DH and I are a blended family, his, mine, and ours. We have SD10, my bio-son 9, my bio-daughter 8, and our DD3. We have full custody of SD10 and I have adopted her and we have no BM drama, thankfully. However, we have in-law drama, my husband's parents. Before our marriage, my hubby lived with his parents then moved into his own home. When he moved, he was working a job that was 4 days on, 4 days off, 12 hour shifts, one month of days, one month of nights. When DH worked, SD would stay those days (and nights) at Grandma's. We got counseling for the adjustment period and that has been 4 years. Things have gone somewhat smoothly, with the exception of my in-laws.

The preferential treatment of SD is extraordinary. My two bio-kids visit their dad every other weekend. They also consider my in-laws their grandparents and ask to see them regularly. But my in-laws only come around on the weekends they are gone to ask if they can have SD for the day. They exclude our younger daughter, don't ask her to come. Two weeks ago when SD went, I had plans to go to the park with the two children, but SD was out with DH where they met up with the in-laws. They asked for her, and he let her go, no phone call to me and no invitation for my other daughter. Upon SD's return home, she began a campaign to run away to their house. The relationship they have is on the unhealthy side. They have 6 grandchildren, but have a room especially for SD, painted pink and no one can sleep there except her. She and they refer to this as "her room", even though she has a room here at home. They keep clothing there just for her, and "her" toys. She goes to a different school than the other children, and they constantly go to her school's website to check out events there and decide if they are going to attend, without checking with us first and without going to the other school's website. The three older children all have email addresses, but Grandma only corresponds with SD. SD is very emotionally immature--when I got her at 4/5, she was unable to bathe herself, she had never done it, she couldn't tie her shoes, and she couldn't eat with a fork. We have come a long way with her. It seems like when she is around Grandma, she has to re-adjust to things at home and almost has to be "re-programmed". She is not social and has no friends, and when she is around grandma, this is even worse. All she does is sit in Grandma's lap and gets petted, even while the other children are running around, playing, and having fun.

DD3 will be able to understand soon that she is not included, as the other children are now aware of. It makes me very sad, as my family would never do that. I understand that there is a fine line between fairness and legalism, but this just feels wrong. Please help as I am tired of being mad every other weekend. Thanks.

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Have you tried talking to them? Have you tried talking to DH?

While in some ways I can understand their attachment to here since she lived with them... the fact is that you and DH are the parents and you get to say yes and no and only you and DH can allow the exclusion of others and her continual 'special treatment'

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 6:11PM
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Yeah, my FIL and his wife#4 suck, too. They even campaigned against SD coming to live here! WTH???? And they only sent Christmas gifts to SD & SS. They sent them to DH's exwife's home...even though both kids live here!!!!! They didn't acknowledge my son or our daughter (who is biologically their GD). Luckily, my son is old enough not to care too much about all that, and our youngest doesn't really know them well, since they live over 1000 miles away and have made every attempt to alienate their family. Whatever. Their loss. Good thing our kids have plenty of other grandparents with whom they are very close!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 6:40PM
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In my opinion, it's the parent's responsibility to set the boundaries for their parent's relationship with their children. There were 10 grandchildren born into our family in about 7-8 years time, about one every 6-8 months. My dad has always treated all the grandkids the same.. including now all the step grandkids. My mom, on the other hand, chose her favorite.. my oldest. When I first noticed the preferential treatment, I laid down the law to her and refused to take my kids around her if she was going to treat one better or more special than the others. There was a period of a few months where I stayed away completely until she got the message. My mom does not consider the step grandchildren as 'family', but I won't tolerate her treating my SD like an outsider.

Your husband made a mistake in allowing his parents to assume the pseudo-parental relationship with this one child and it isn't even just because she is biologically related, it's because this unnatural relationship has formed. It almost sounds as if the grandparents have assumed the BM role, since BM is apparently not in the picture. It is your husband's responsibility to set his parents straight on the boundaries for his children... all of his children.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 1:49AM
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"It almost sounds as if the grandparents have assumed the BM role, since BM is apparently not in the picture. "

I agree with this.

I also agree with Ima that this is your DH's responsibility. What does he say about all of this? Does he think it's a problem and would he be willing to set down some boundaries for his parents?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:35AM
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My in-laws (who I adore) have 5 bio-grandkids; 4 who live with their bio mom and dad, and one who comes from a 'broken' family - my SD, who we have custody of. She is the oldest, so this gave her a bit of preferential treatment to start with. What really sealed the deal was her parent's divorce though - my MIL would use that as an excuse for everything. "SD needs special grandparent time because she's had to deal with so much," or "don't punish SD for her behavior, you know her mom is a nut, etc."
It got old really quick, and DH finally sat down and said ENOUGH. It's been YEARS since the divorce and SD is as well adjusted as your other 4 g-kids, whom you seem to leave in the dirt. It's all or nothing, so if you can't treat SD the same as her 2 brothers and her 2 cousins, then the g-kids just won't be available to you.
Amazingly, it got better. I don't know that they even realized how they were behaving as they truly aren't hurtful people. I think they just wanted to make up for the fact SD was the only one with a different family. Once they really saw that to SD I am mom, and our family of 5 was truly a family to her, I think they didn't feel they had to compensate for anything.
Then they realized they had created a bit of a world-revolves-around-me preteen monster, but that is another story for another day.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:03PM
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I agree that my DH should be handling this, but although he recognizes the special treatment, he says, "I can't change my parents" and he is as guilty as they are regarding favoritism.
I also agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY that he never should have taken a job that prevented him from being the parent. Especially knowing how unhealthy their relationship was. But you can't change time and I know that I will have to do the dirty deed of setting things straight.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:40PM
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No, he can't change them, but he can change the patterns. He can change the amount of time SD spends with them. He can stop allowing time for only her and not all the g-kids. He can change a lot of the factors that have made this favoritism possible. But, if he doesn't recognize it as an issue I doubt he will. Sadly, it's going to be up to you to lay down the law and say enough to HIM for him to do it with his parents. They may all think they are doing the best thing for her, but it will have an opposite effect when she gets older, trust me.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 5:57PM
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Honestly, I think if you cut out all the "favoritism" SD will resent you. I think a healthy amount is ok though. All of the other kids in this equation have both parents. As much as everyone in your situation would like to believe everyone is the same, its just not possible.

Ceph recommended an excellent book on girls who have lost their mothers. It's called Motherless Daughters. It's excellent and it explains some of the dynamics you're describing and how it is beneficial for your SD. She's not going to be the same as the other kids here and is going to require different parenting, especially as she has cycled through different parental figures.

I know its probably not what you want to hear, but I really believe if you try to sever this tie to her grandparents it's going to backfire. I lost my mother too and I was never close to my SM, in part to her trying to replace my other parental figures that came along after my mom. I saw it as a sign of insecurity and control and I was right around your SD's age.

Anyway, good luck and pick up that book!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 6:19PM
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Nivea, I will get the book, thanks for the recommendation.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 7:16PM
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