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DB and SIL haven't acknowledged DD exists...

(43 Posts)
MargueriteA Tue 27-Aug-13 15:58:56

Trying not to waffly on for ages, we've had a tricky relationship with DB and SIL for a while now. They have 3 young DC and since eldest DN was born they have been become very insular and distanced from the family (just me, DB and parents). I don't know entirely what has caused it, though the driving factor seems to be SIL - she's very protective of her kids, to the point that they have never mixed with other children, rarely leave the house, primary school for the eldest is even in question. When we did have more regular contact with them it was very restricted and suggested day trips, walks to the park etc were always vetoed. Not sure if that's relevant but trying not to drip feed.

Despite us originally living quite near I've not have very much contact with them, and especially not now they've moved quite a long way away. They still see our parents occasionally, mostly at our parents instigating contact, but I haven't seen them or spoken to them in well over a year. We were never that close but still exchanged the odd emails, texts, cards and gifts. I have emailed and texted a few times recently with no response, have still sent birthday and Christmas cards and texted on the day, again with no response.

DD was born 18 months ago. We didn't get a phone call or card for Christmas or her 1st birthday (I want to stress it's not the gifts I'm remotely interested in, it's the contact). At first I thought they were probably still busy with the move and their young DC and didn't think much of it.

My parents went for a rare visit this week. Eldest DN, nearly school age, was looking at my dad's phone and saw photos of DD. He asked who she was. Dad said it was 'A'. DN looked blank so dad said further, "Auntie Marguerite's little girl". DN still had no idea who he was talking about (about DD, not me). During this conversation DB and SIL didn't ask anything about me or DD, not even a basic 'how are they doing?'

I've tried to be lighthearted about this in the past but realising this has really hurt me. My parents want to try and maintain contact and so I've been keeping up a bit of a pretence and not talking about DB very much, other than asking after the family when they've seen him or spoken to him, as I don't want to hurt them. I imagine realising your only two children now have absolutely nothing to do with each other is hardly a cheerful thought. I know sometimes on MN there's a feeling that it's selfish or demanding to expect other people to be interested in your DC but... this has hurt. A lot. To not even acknowledge that your niece exists? I thought that was fairly standard. I don't want a fuss, but it seems so strange to me that the DN's don't even know they have a cousin.

I'm not sure what to do now. I'm not even sure how I feel about this deep down. I guess I'm not losing a lot from my life by not having any further contact with DB and family, but it seems very sad and final sad

Does anyone have any wise words or advice?

MargueriteA Tue 27-Aug-13 15:59:21

Sorry, that was longer than I meant it to be blush

Thaumatrope Tue 27-Aug-13 16:04:35

Oh that sounds very very hurtful. I can completely imagine a small child not 'getting' the concept of having a cousin even if they had been told previously, but the natural thing to do would be to ask how you are.

How are your parents seeing it? It must be very sad for them as well. Can you ask them what they think has gone wrong?

borraxohastaelalmanacer Tue 27-Aug-13 16:12:43

I really feel for you, it sounds like a really crappy situation. The way I are it, you have three options:

1) Do nothing and accept the status quo
2) Ask your parents to perhaps broach the subject with your brother
3) Ask your brother yourself why he seems so distant. This doesn't have to be confrontational, more like 'I feel like we aren't as close as I would like us to be, have I done something to upset you, I miss you etc'

Good luck

borraxohastaelalmanacer Tue 27-Aug-13 16:13:10

*The way I see it

MortifiedAdams Tue 27-Aug-13 16:13:53

What an utterly bizarre.and upsetting situation!

I agree with pp, your parents could (if they havent) they ask your DB what is going in? My gut instinct is that SIL is the driving force and he is complying.

My own MIL had nevet met another child ever until the day she was taken to Infants school. Sge had never been told about school or pre warned, had literally no idea other kids even existed. Her mother walled out on the family never to be seen again when she was around eight.

It has sort of messed her up. She lacks confidence, has anxiety and is sort of a loner. It was all her.mothers doing. Her father went along with it for a quiet life.

MikeLitoris Tue 27-Aug-13 16:20:13

Have you asked your brother what is going on?

MargueriteA Tue 27-Aug-13 16:23:30

Mortified, that's exactly what I worry about for the DN's sad I've never come across anything else like this before, but SIL won't let her DC out of her sight, and we are all worried about how eldest DN will react when he, in theory, starts school in September.

My parents are trying their best to be positive because it is such a fight for them to still see their grandchildren. I do understand that they are scared of rocking the boat and pushing DB and SIL further away, though none of us know what might possibly have happened to have pushed them away in the first place. Personally I suspect it is simply because SIL is very protective of an focused on her own new family, but this has sort of snowballed into cutting out both her and DB's families. So essentially she is so focused on her own children she doesn't want to acknowledge that another child exists within the family.

I think me trying to contact DB would be better than asking my parents to do it. I don't want to jeapordize the wobbly relationship they already have with them.

DuelingFanjo Tue 27-Aug-13 16:27:53

what was your relationship with DB like prior to this and what is the geographical distance.

It might be that they like just living where they live with their own friends and local stuff and don't see the importance of keeping in touch?

I think it's rude they don't respond when you send gifts but for some people maintaining contact with siblings or cousins isn't that important.

exoticfruits Tue 27-Aug-13 16:30:13

Did you have a reasonable relationship with your brother before he met his wife?
Are you sure that SIL has cut her own family out? If so do you know any of them well enough to contact about it?
I think that I would contact your brother and ask him about the situation.

DevastatedD0G Tue 27-Aug-13 16:33:46

Dh is in a similar situation. His brother had a baby in April and he's not yet seen her or even a picture of her he text etc to ask how things were going and text repeatedly over a period of about a month no replies whatsoever so he's given up trying now. It's all very odd. But his family are odd, they didn't acknowledge dd2 at all, and haven't seen out dc since our wedding last year.

MargueriteA Tue 27-Aug-13 16:48:55

We had an ok relationship - we were never that close, but before DD came along I used to see them quite regularly, especially to see the DNs. We'd text or email occasionally. Geographically they are now the other side of the country, a good 5 hour drive away.

We don't know SIL's family well at all, only met really for the wedding, and I have no contact details. We're going on the fact that DB says they haven't seen them. Very occasionally he says something to my parents which suggests he is slightly unhappy with SIL's behaviour/attitude (not sure what word to use there) and that was one of those comments.

I haven't expressly asked DB what is going on because we haven't had any contact. I could do - but how? Do I just send a letter along with the DN's birthday cards for next month saying "hi, haven't heard from you, what's happened?"

(One colleague I talked to about this suggested sending a text saying "oh, by the way, here's my address and phone number as you seem to have lost them" grin)

I suppose the other option is just accept this is how this is, which leads to the debate of how involved do I stay - do I still send cards and texts etc., or just follow DB's lead?

exoticfruits Tue 27-Aug-13 16:59:48

It would be interesting to know if she has cut everyone out or just her ILs.
I would carry on with cards but not texts- but then I don't text much anyway.
How about just phoning and speaking to him? Sound friendly and just say that you are a bit concerned that there hasn't been much contact and that DD will grow up not knowing her family- you know that geographically it isn't easy but how about Skype? You could ask him if it is something that you have done, or not done.

JustinBsMum Tue 27-Aug-13 17:07:13

SIL can keep her DCs to herself when they are little but it won't be so easy when they are older, let alone teenagers. She sounds very odd and there isn't much you can do to force a change but you don't have to fake a relationship for your DM and DF's sake as that is just a pain for you. Just tell DPs you are hurt and will make contact if they feel DB is interested, otherwise try not to dwell on it.

tobiasfunke Tue 27-Aug-13 17:18:37

I know of a family who were in the exactly the same position as you. The mother basically cut her family out, then slowly her DH's family. Her kids were never left with anyone else but her. It was all about control. Her DH put up with it because it was more difficult dealing with her if he didn't. Unsurprisingly it turned out she had mental health problems but wouldn't acknowledge anything was wrong nor would do anything about it.
They divorced (messily) in the end and the kids ended up with him - his family were there for him when he was ready.

If it were me I wouldn't be able not to get cross with your DB at how rubbish he is being. A dose of reality outside his unhealthy bubble might help. It doesn't sound like you have got much to lose.

Jammee Tue 27-Aug-13 17:22:16

I would definitely contact your brother.

My Dad's sister fell out with her mum and step dad and left home when she was about 17. My Nan never saw her or heard from her again. Neither has my dad. His sister is in contact with their Dad (divorced my Nan, hence Nan had no contact) and found out that my nan (her MUM) had died, and did not go to her funeral or even acknowledge her death.

My Dad doesn't want to see her as he said it's been too long (and I don't blame him) but as a result he's had NC with his sister for almost 40 years.

If you want to avoid getting into that situation, you need to be the one to do something about it, because the one that gave up on the relationship first rarely makes the first move and the longer this goes on, the harder it is to get things back on track.

DuelingFanjo Tue 27-Aug-13 17:24:49

hmmm, I don't know. It sounds then like you are making a lot of assumptions about how they live their lives.

Have they really never allowed their children to mix with other children? They don't take them out even to the park/Play centres etc? They don't have neighbours with children or their own group of friends with children?

What was your relationship with SIL like?

It may be that they are all doing just fine but don't feel the need to be in constant contact with you given that you are 5 hours away.

Thaumatrope Tue 27-Aug-13 17:26:20

It's not really the same, but I know of a family where the SIL has frozen out all of her husband's family.
In her case, it seems like she did try to feel welcomed, but was ever so slightly pushed away because she's socially different (in this case it's not a class thing, but the family is very leftie liberal and she's very, very money-oriented: they find her views distasteful but are quite kind about it).
She seems to have given up, and it's evident why, but what is surprising is that her husband has just stopped answering anything, it's like he doesn't care either.
Everyone is deeply sad about it, especially as there are grandchildren/cousins involved.
I suppose I would like it if my husband supported me if I felt there was a slight against me, and it is probably easier to say absolutely nothing and just ignore than to have a big drama.

Is there anything like that? In this case there has been no fight, just niggles and a massive difference in outlook.

MumnGran Tue 27-Aug-13 17:30:35

I don't see that you can really let your relationship with your DB slide away into nothingness, without at least asking what the issue is.

That said ...ideally its a conversation you should have face to face. There is obviously a long distance, so phone may be the only option, but letter is not a great way to go .....you need to hear his immediate reactions to the questions you have. They don't need to be accusatory - "I don't understand what has happened between us" is a simple starting point.

TwoTearsInABucket Tue 27-Aug-13 17:33:25

Ring your brother and ask what's going on. Just come right out with it.
Not the same situation by my sister and I stopped talking for a while and it got awkward for my mum coz I kept asking about my sister and my mum was angry with her so had no sympathy.
Anyhow, in the end I just rang her and had it out with her. Said up front "are you ever going to speak to me again? Are my kids ever going to see yours?" Etc.
I would be very upset in your situation that there has been no acknowledgement of your DD. I would definitely front him on it.

frogwatcher42 Tue 27-Aug-13 17:52:47

I don't know how you know so much about how your DSIL is raising her children (keeping them away from other children etc) when you admit you have very little to do with them. She probably does loads by herself with her children that you and your inlaws don't know about, or with her friends - again that you wouldn't know about.

She doesnt have to be interested in your dd - I have no interest in my dhs niece and nephews, and nor does dh! None whatsoever although we fake it if we have to .

DontmindifIdo Tue 27-Aug-13 18:01:51

I wouldn't assume there's anything particuarly bad going on with your DB as others have suggested, mainly because some men (I said some before you all get shouty at me!) do leave all family social arrangments to their DWs, eg. DH has seen DN (his brother's DD) 3 times this year, each time either I've arranged something or we were invited to PILs at the same time as them (plus I've seen DN a few other times because I've arranged to see SIL during the week when DH is at work). If other people hadn't arranged this for him, I'm not sure how long DH would go between seeing his brother's child, and we're only a 20 minute drive away.

Do you have an e-mail address for your DB? If not but have his phone number, can you text and ask for it. It might be easier to keep in contact that way, send photos of your DD, and ask him directly if you can meet up. It could be that your DB can't be arsed organising anything and whereas if he was married to a woman who behaved in the normal way in these circumstances, she would arrange meet ups with his family for him, he's not got that. If someone else arranges - as in, you e-mail and say, "I'd love to visit to introduce DD to her cousins, would that be ok?" and then you do all the work (you travel, you offer set weekends which he says if he can do, not just open ended asking when works because that involves far more effort to think about than "can you do second weekend in September?"), he might well be fine with it.

If SIL is a bit odd about other family, there's little you can do to change her, but you might easily be able to side step her with a little effort and just deal directly with your DB. However, if you create a big issue around her weirdness, that's unlikely to happen. It sucks, but this way at least the cousins will got to know each other.

MargueriteA Tue 27-Aug-13 20:48:47

Frog, we know a lot about it because before they moved my parents still had regular contact, and the socialising/going out issue was something which had occasionally been talked about openly by DB and SIL when they were feeling it was an issue and wanted to do something about it, though that changes regularly. But this isn't about their decision for raising their kids, I mentioned purely because my gut says that it is tied somehow to SIL - possibly - being the one driving a lack of contact or interest.

They have a joint email address so an email to DB at the moment is out of the question. Several birthdays are coming up so I will send the cards and presents as usual, and see if there is any response. If not I mind send a good chatty email with photos and ask for some photos of the DNs back. If I don't get a response to that then I might call them. Possibly even try the same at Christmas first? What do people think of that? So give them a bit longer to settle back in to normal birthday, Christmas contact, but ask what is happening if they don't respond to that? So give them the benefit of the doubt that it is just the move etc which has caused them to drop contact?

Why don't you ring your brother?

frogwatcher42 Tue 27-Aug-13 20:57:15

I still don't get why you have to 'give them the benefit of the doubt'.

Why can't they just be allowed to drop contact with you. Maybe they simply don't want it. Maybe they have no interest in your dd. Harsh but could be true.

My dh has nothing to do with his sibling which probably hurts his parents but he just doesn't like them.

Your idea of sending cards on birthdays and christmas gives them the opportunity to make contact. If they don't surely it is time to respect their wishes and leave them in peace.

You may find it is nothing sinister - you are just a little way down their list of priorities and they don't have time for you at the moment. They will eventually maybe.

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