Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Real Talk with Rachel: Triplets in Grandmother Form; Zombie Friends

By Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

Can you please help me with an issue I suspect other grandmothers may be grappling with? My husband's son (not mine) and his wife have a beautiful new baby girl and we're thrilled to be part of her life. But, since I am my husband's second wife, I'm not related by blood to our new grandchild and she already has two grandmothers. Is there a way for me to develop a relationship with our granddaughter while not confusing her and not interfering with the rest of her family?

Three Grandmothers a Crowd

Dear Three Grandmothers a Crowd,

I think we underestimate children’s’ capacity to grasp complexity. I can’t imagine any reason why a loving, stable presence in a young girl’s life would confuse her, regardless of genetic connection. Moreover, kids have personalized names for grandparents, godparents and parents’ friends’ cousins who live nearby -– I’m sure when she begins speaking, you can find a suitable version of “Nana” that she can call you.

The bigger problem might be the other grandmothers and members of the
family. How you should proceed on this front depends on your relationship with the child’s father, who is your husband’s son. You don’t mention how long you’ve been married to your husband. Did you help raise his son? Or is the relationship a relatively new one?

Don’t fret if you don’t know the son too well; developing a bond with the granddaughter could be a great way to connect with him and his wife. Follow cues from your husband and see how he envisions being a grandparent. If he is interested, the two of you can offer to help the new, surely tired parents. Additionally, make sure that gifts and cards are signed from both of you.

When it comes to the other grandmothers, there could be some tension
between you and your husband’s previous wife. If this is the case, remain gracious and keep calm, even if you feel that she is dismissive of you and your role in the child’s life. Remember: drama makes life harder for the new parents and their child. You want to help enhance their lives through your growing relationships.

Don’t get competitive with the other grandmothers over time or money spent on the child, or the affection the child returns. Be a sounding board for the parents to express their delight and frustration, and an open ear for the child.

Also, try to avoid complimenting the young girl on how cute she is. As she starts to get older, she’ll hear enough about her appearance. Be the one to ask her about her favorite books or what activity she enjoys the most.

Biology has no supremacy over love and caring. Remain respectful of the parents’ boundaries and enjoy getting to know this new person.



Dear Rachel,

My best friend and I are two guys in our mid-twenties. About a year ago, he started dating someone and a few months ago, they moved in together. She’s a great girl, don’t get me wrong. She is nice and he is really into her.

The problem is that I don’t think he’s actually happy. When I go over to their place, I sit with the two of them on the couch as they watch lame sitcoms. He used to be adventurous and fun and now he’s like a zombie. Of course, when friends get into relationships you expect them to have less time to hang out. But I wonder if I should rescue him from sitting in front of the TV for the rest of his life.

Zombie Protector

Dear Zombie Protector,

I would put away the shotgun and the rescue fantasies. Your friend is a goner and, even if he makes his way out from the hypnosis of the
television, it won’t be because you wrenched him away.

Perhaps the strangest thing about growing older is realizing that others have different ideas of happiness than we do. He might daydream about the next time King of Queens will play in syndication as he slogs away at work.

If he found a lady love with similar inclinations, that’s fantastic for the two of them. She clearly wouldn’t jibe with a sitcom-hating fellow like you.

We idealize the single-versions of our friends because, let’s face it -- single, happy friends are just about the most versatile friends to have. They’re up for adventures and have no buzz-killing obligations, like significant others. But we often idealize that chapter if friends shift into relationships, forgetting their frustration or sense of loneliness while single.

That’s not to say that he is perfectly happy now, sitting in front of the TV. Maybe he and his lady are in a funk. You can ask him, respectfully, how everything is going. You just can’t stage an intervention, because you don’t necessarily know what’s best for him.

You can continue to invite him on your adventures, and you should. But
don’t get judgmental if he prefers the subtle charms of Kevin James to



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a reporter at a financial trade publication. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice @ fastmail (dot) net.

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