My ultimate concierge, Sheldon Good, is very fortunate to have seven fabulous biological grands.
Two of his grandsons are married so there are nine Grands. I am not their biological grandmother but I feel doubly blessed. I am proud to be “their” grandmother and I am proud to call them my grandchildren.
Their maternal grandmother passed away at an early age. When I married my ultimate concierge I wanted to be the best possible grandmother, and I have taken my role very seriously. I have been their grandmother for more than 20 years and over time I have developed some thoughts on the art of bonding with grandchildren in a blended family.
Two Problems, Two Answers
It is never about the grands…it is about their parents
The problems of coming into a new family seem insurmountable. You noticed I said “seem,” not “are.” The problems are obvious. After a divorce or death of a spouse there is the ex-wife, the deceased wife, his children, your children and the list goes on. Those of you who know can relate, and for those of you who don’t … it is good to learn.
Put your feelings second, the children’s feelings first. It is very difficult for children to see their mother or father in love with another person. So many unhappy and unknown emotions run through their minds. Children of all ages find these feelings difficult to understand and express. This is where a smart “new on the block” second wife/grandmother can become a comfort. Instead of thinking of yourself, tend to your husband’s and your children’s issues. When they turn you away, go back for more in a soft and kindly manner (sometimes you will have to bite your tongue) knowing (not hoping ) you will eventually gain their trust.
Show the children that you and your husband are a united front. The last thing you want to do is fight over his and your children. When you are a team, the children will respect your love and loyalty to one another. And, you will show them what makes a marriage a happy one. My ultimate concierge always sided with me at the beginning of our marriage. And, I sided with him. There were times I wanted to cry but I held firm and so did he. Our grandchildren and our children know we “are one.”
A Wonderful Week with The Grands
Of course it “takes two to tango,” and the grands and their mother, my darling daughter-in-law Jami, like other parents who never try to keep grandparents at a distance, made my role as the new grandmother easier.
Last week, Annie and Logan Good, Jami’s son and daughter-in-law, and Joe Good, Todd and Susan’s son, visited us at our home in Rancho Mirage. I applaud their parents for raising children who are over the top in every respect. These grands of ours did not grow up with silver spoons. They had some difficult “storms most children never have to weather.” As young adults they have come through with flying colors. They are not spoiled. They are grateful. They are respectful. They have sound values. They are loving, caring, kind and smart. I am a very lucky grandmother.
Logan Good is a full time banker who is at the same time studying for his MBA. Logan makes me melt. I walk into the kitchen and he is preparing breakfast! He always opens the car door for me. He adores his wife, Annie, who would make any grandmother’s heart sing. She lights up a room with her charm and helpful manner. Annie, a teacher, is one of 12 children in an incredible and fabulous family. Their pooch Stella is named after Stella Artois beer. Last fall, they traveled with us through parts of France, and I would take these grands around the world with us. I can never get enough of them.
The day after Annie and Logan flew out, in popped Joe Good. He drove up from Orange County, California, to spend a few days. He is one of four siblings. At 24, he is worldly. While in college, he took a year of study at Haifa University in Israel. He continued his education at the London School of Economics, studying one year in China and his second year in London. He now works in LA for UNESCO. He hopes one day to enter politics.
Joe calls to check in every Sunday. He even called from China and London. He talks to his grandfather for a short time and to me for a long time! Our conversations range from politics, the internet and the family to travel and “what do you think” questions. He is a very special grand: kind, sweet, focused. I really value him.
The Art of Bonding in a Blended Family
There is no rule of thumb because there are so many variables in a cast of many characters. When there is mutual respect and a yearning to get along there are basic ways to grow close.
I want to continue sharing with you my thoughts on the art of bonding with grandchildren in a blended family. Grandchildren in the blended family take the lead from their parents. The adult children have a lot of baggage and a lot of history. If they involve their innocent children in old issues it becomes almost impossible for the “new grandmother or grandfather on the block” to make headway. My ultimate concierge and I are not free of problems on my side of the family. And, I am sure some of you, darlings, have your issues. This may be very unfair and unkind, but it is life and as I have said in the past: Some things you just have to accept, and my advice is to just get on with your happy life style.
On the other hand, if the adult children and the grandmothers are sensitive to one another’s feelings and consider the grandchildren’s feeling and needs, these are the tips that worked for me.
- Valued Communication. Find each grandchild’s interests and needs and build on them. In other words, be an interested and concerned grandmother.
- Love. Act on your love. Translate it into actions. Notice their needs, their likes, their fears, their joys.
- Involvement. This is difficult when they live miles away, so you can let them know you care through Skype, texts, emails, personal notes through the mail and little thoughtful gifts that are just right for each individual child.
- Family History. Ask them about their family history and tell them about yours. Children love stories. We all love stories. If you tell them your story and you listen to their story, you will bond.
- Take day trips together. Just you and a grand or two at one time. Go to their favorite spot. Take them to a movie, a play, for ice cream, a pair of jeans, etc. Alone time is the best time to share togetherness. Age does not matter.
Unconditional love is by far the most important. Grands know when “you” really care. No one can take their feelings away from them. So be the very best “new grandmother” on the block that you can be. In the end, love will prevail.