My grandmother just passed away yesterday, which has me reflecting on a lot of things right now. I was extremely close with her when I was growing up in Pittsburgh, but hadn’t been able to keep in touch as much when I moved down to North Carolina a number of years ago. I fortunately got to know her for many, many years and have numerous memories of her. But it got me thinking about grandparents as it relates to step kids, which continues to be a work in progress for us. When I chose to accept these kids into my life, it didn’t just change my life it changed for my whole family.
Most every parent is extremely excited from the moment they find out they are going to be a grandparent. They eagerly await the little one’s arrival and from day one they have this intense love and desire to spoil them rotten. With step kids, it is way different. All of a sudden, grandkids are plopped in your lap and typically not when they are little babies. Then come the questions… what do they call you? How do you refer to them? What is are the expectations? Do you buy them gifts? I don’t have the answers – we are still figuring all of this out.
“That relationship is different”
When I joined my stepmom’s family, her mother was very welcoming of me as one of her grandkids. I knew her long before she became my sort of step-grandparent and I have always admired her as a human being. She is strong, independent, funny, and extremely generous – everything you could want in a grandparent. I am welcome to call her grandma as all her other grandchildren do, but something still doesn’t feel the same. I don’t have the memories of her from when I was little the way all my step-cousins do. I really haven’t spent much time with her one-on-one the way I did with my own biological grandparents when I was little. I love her all the same, but that relationship is different.
So, when it came to my own step kids, there was a question of how do they interact with my dad and my stepmom. We unfortunately live eight hours away so it was immediately difficult to build any sort of relationship. While my bond with kids and my boyfriend grew quickly, they really didn’t have any opportunity to get to know them at all. My stepdaughter wanted to instantly call them grandma and grandpa, but that didn’t feel right so she has since been calling them by their first names. But, if we were to have our own children one day, they would without a doubt call my parents grandma and grandpa – so why would these kids that I consider to be like my own be any different?
“I was angry at times”
It’s complicated and as I said still a work in progress. I had a brief talk with my stepmom about this, of which honestly we could stand to have more. If I could go back in time, I think we would have discussed expectations early on. For me I was so wrapped up in the excitement of a new boyfriend and the kids that the thought of my parents being anything but accepting never even crossed my mind. Of course, they were accepting, but it was met more with confusion and figuring everything out than the excitement of hanging out with the kids.
I had so much love for these kids early on that it was wrong of me to assume that my parents would instantly bond with them the way I had. Frankly, I was angry at times feeling like they would act completely different if these were my own biological kids and that just seemed unfair because to me they were my kids. But the truth is, it is different. Knowing from my own experience with my own stepmom’s mother, it’s just not the same.
I believe that my parents will have the bond with my step kids all the same as my future biological kids one day – but just like everything when it comes to step parenting, it takes time! The only advice I can give is to try to make this more of a priority, something I myself definitely need to work on this year. With my parents living so far away, we have to make a point of going up to visit and vice versa for them.
The other thing that helps kids bond with grandparents is one-on-one time. Currently, my parents have only spent time with the kids when my boyfriend or I are around. But the greatest memories I have with my grandparents are the ones when my parents weren’t anywhere in sight. It is the time when grandparents can spoil you and let you have dessert before dinner and get messy. I used to go spend a week with my grandparents in the summer. It was time I got to bake with them and play croquet in their backyard. I would never expect this right off the bat with my own parents, but something I hope we can grow towards. I think giving them a chance to actually be grandparents, rather than just my parents, will help build that bond.
As much as I wanted to, it is wrong to assume a relationship between your parents and your stepkids will form overnight. It takes time and it takes effort. This is what makes step parenting hard; nothing is ever just given, it has to be built from the ground up. I am excited to see how my parents’ relationship with the kids will change over time. I just hope that someday they can create everlasting memories with my stepchildren as I had the opportunity to do so with my own grandparents.
How have your stepchildren adjusted to their new grandparents? What do they call them? Any further advice on creating that bond? Comment below!