There are a handful of challenging moments throughout our early days in Pittsburgh that are etched into my memory, but none moreso than my son saying,
"Mom, I know why Granny doesn't like us. Because we're not [last name]s and I will never be."
I will never forget where we were and how I could literally feel my heart break in that moment.
He was 8.
I grew up in a very loving and community oriented family. My parents were active in our education and activities and my dad was the president of the local baseball/softball league that my brothers and I played in for years. When I was married the first time, my in-laws embraced me just as my family did my ex-husband and his two children. Even after I divorced, my former in laws were still good to me. They are to this day, 17 years later.
Given my previous experiences, that love and acceptance was my expectation when George and I started our relationship. I quickly learned that not everyone was as willing to embrace myself or my son unfortunately.
I'm not certain what the crux of the issue ultimately was, but my now mother in law is simply not my biggest fan.
In the beginning, she and I had a decent enough relationship and would talk daily. George and I recognized early on that she would try to stir the pot with each of us. Thankfully, he and I have always had honest and open communication, so it just didn't work. Dealing with such high stress of our court and custody situation with Reagan at that time was so stressful without having another negative force trying to knock us down as well.
In April of 2009, I went on a trip to AZ and California. That distance, amidst the custody stuff going on, allowed me to recognize that I needed to eliminate some of the negativity that was consuming my life. When I returned from that trip, I discussed my revelation with George and shared that a part of the negativity that I needed to step back from was his mom. He didn't entirely understand at the time, but was supportive.
Later that same summer, we miscarried a baby which was absolutely devastating to us. Somehow his mother made that experience about her and my subsequent reactions to the miscarriage embarrassed her. She slung some words at me that mostly rolled off my back because that was her pattern, not mine. There were two things she yelled at me that I didn't just ignore. I responded to her factually and that was it. I was done. I had tried years of talking, crying, writing, even her way and nothing worked. I realized that no matter how happy I made her son, she would never accept me or my son.
I cannot imagine how incredulous it must have felt to my husband to hear things from his parents like, "You and Reagan are welcome, but Stephanie and Andrew are not" and "Andrew is not my grandson" (in Andrew's presence). Who actually says things like that?!
Thankfully I found a man who would, without question, lay down his life for me. Even though we were not yet married when that was said, his response was simply, "They are my family. Either we're all welcome or none of us are." I love that he just won't let anyone divide us. We worked very hard early on with Andrew and Reagan to eliminate "us versus them" in our house to create a family.
During that time in 2009, I truly learned about setting boundaries in life and did just that.
I still always include my in laws when we're discussing our holiday plans and will support my husband in whatever choices are made. I think that there have just been too many missed birthdays, forgotten babies, ugly words, and favorites played---he is simply very protective of his wife and his children. My heart swells with pride when I think about who this man I married is. We work very hard on our marriage and too hard raising our children to allow others to sabotage what we're trying to achieve.
On the flip side, my family embraced George and Reagan even living across the country. They are never forgotten on birthdays, holidays. Reagan is treated just the same as the rest of my children are where my family is concerned. It's just who they are. It's the way it should be. My husband is so grateful for that and embarrassed that it's not that way here. It's just not his fault...or his issue. He doesn't treat my son as anything else but his child. Even his language has always reflected his child when speaking... "our son," "my son." Always.
I hate for him that our children barely know their grandparents who live 10 minutes away. Though I am honored and so appreciative that he strongly values what our children are exposed to.
Nothing will change the things that have been said and done, but I certainly don't hold onto them angrily. I have learned to accept her as she is and unfortunately that means the role she has in my life isn't how I wished it could be. I miss having a relationship with a mother-in-law --I was so lucky the first time around.
At the end of the day, one of my greatest wishes is that it were different. She and I spoke briefly last summer after a death in the family about some things. Among them, I told her that I felt like I had, in fact, tried with her for years and it was always met with hatefulness.
I told her I wished it were different.
She said the same.
What is your experience with extended family in your blended family?
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Week 1: Schedules Week 2: Birthdays