Old People And The Blended Family
Real Relationship Advice
When we look at the marital/divorce rate in this country we have to be assume that at least 40% of all families will be mixed. However, a mixed family/blended family is also called that if the family is of multiple races or ethnicities. Since we receive so many questions regarding these families we thought it would just be easier to do a week discussing the unique issues dealing with these families.
Today we will address mixed families/blended families in regard to race and ethnicity. We can speak to this issue since we are considered mixed. Of course, in today’s world, it seems antiquated to define a family with any terms regarding race or ethnicity or even whether there are two Moms or Dads. A family is defined by the members, in our humble opinion, and a traditional constellation of White Dad and Mom and 2.5 biological children (boy and girl, of course) is something straight out of Leave it to Beaver. That being said, the mixed family still addresses many issues concerning tradition, culture and general discrimination/racism.
Here is one for the questions we received recently concerning this:
I haven’t spoken with my father’s parents in 19 years. My mother is Cuban, and they’ve never accepted her, or my brother or I, as a result. After Sandy, my father refused to reach out to them (they live in Asbury Pk, NJ), despite repeated pleas that he be “the bigger person.” I chose to reach out, quietly, to be sure they were ok, and was shocked to hear that my mother had quietly been making efforts to try to re-engage them in her children’s lives – without my brother or I knowing, and with no response from them. Most hurtful, my grandmother said that she knew I was expecting last year, but since I hadn’t called her (no reason I would have), she had no choice but to assume I had terminated the pregnancy or lost the child. She proceeded to tell me that we were disappointments as grandchildren for not keeping in better touch, although we barely knew her – even as young children. After a 30 minute call detailing all of her ailments and grievances, she never once even asked my son’s name. And somehow, I got off the phone feeling guilty. What are your thought on children (or grandchildren) of narcissists?
I always find it amazing when an adult or elder puts the onus of a relationship on the child. It makes me grind my teeth to powder when a parent or grandparent assumes that their position demands a certain respect that they hardly have shown the child or grandchildren. These people are not necessarily narcissist but they are mistaken as to the responsibility of a parent or grandparent.
There are individuals who believe that children are beholden to their families and their parents. There are people out there who treat their children as chattel and this does not change with coming of age. These same people do not have a concept of their responsibility to their progeny and that no child ever asks to be here. It is an act of extreme narcissism when we choose to have a child and because of that we are responsible for them, forever. This does not mean that we are here as our children’s piñatas but we must understand that our kids cannot be expected to be more than we have taught them.
In your case, your grandmother sounds as if she believes she is owed something as the family elder. As you have said, she did not accept you so this should not be a surprise. There is nothing you can do or be to make her feel differently. What I suggest for you is be the best person you can be. Without any expectation of recompense it is always healthier for a person to be the best they can be for your own sake. If you send Christmas cards, send her one. If you are in the habit of saying pleasantries, do it for them as well. The purpose is not to change grandma’s mind but to be the best you can be for you. At the end of the day the only opinion of your own behavior that matters is your own.
And, since we are on the subject, Grandparent is a title. Only a few people out there take the ‘grand’ part seriously enough to be amazing people to their grandchildren.