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Grandparents favouring one child - more of a WWYD? - LONG!

(27 Posts)
turtlepig Thu 30-Jul-15 12:33:47

More of a WWYD really. We have two dd’s Dd1 is 4 and Dd2 is 2. We have a very close relationship with my dad and step mum – we see them twice a week and dd2 stays over there one night a week also. My issue is both my dad and my stepmum seem to favour dd2. It is true that dd1 is a bit more “high needs” she is shy and reserved (even with those she knows well) and probably like most 4 year olds can be moody and demanding of attention (particularly with me) as wel. My step mum helps out with childcare one day a week (after which DD2 sleeps over) there has never really been an issue with DD1 going too as she is in pre school nursery that day and obviously couldn’t stay over as has nursery the next day (although the offer was never made to look after dd1 prior to her attending nursery). However now its the summer holidays – step mum does not want to have both kids (fair enough two is a handful) BUT only wants to have dd2 – she hasn’t explicitly come out and said this but the vibes have been very clear. To be fair dd1 is a homebody and would probably choose to stay home with me or her dad however she has most definitely noticed and commented on the fact that she has never been for a sleepover at Granny and Granddads’.

Ddad and Stepmum also frequently make comments when referencing any “bad” behaviour/whingeing from DD2 – claiming she is “copying dd1”. They have both said she rarely cries when in the company of just them and that when she cries when dd1 and I are around it is “usually because of something dd1 has done.” In the past Step mum in particular has compared the girls (while they are in earshot!!!) about how “good dd2 is eating” etc. – I have pulled them up on this and will continue to do so. Stepmum pulls dd1 up regularly on behaviour I would probably let go – nothing major just things like muttering “it’s not fair” under her breath or whatever. When encouraging the girls to share etc. I feel I have noticed a preference towards taking the side off dd2 and allowing her to continue playing with whatever toy they’re fighting over – to be fair this could be imagined on my part, there have definitely been instances where the toy has been taken from dd2 and given to dd1 and it is often dd1 trying to get whatever it is dd1 has so.......? I am confident that they love both girls, they buy little presents for both of them equally, they are affectionate with both (when dd1 allows!) but I can’t help but feel this favouritism towards dd2 and I am worried it will end up having a negative effect on dd1?

I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place – seeing them two days a week is very regular I appreciate that but my ddad has a life limiting illness, it is very unlikely he will live another 5 years. The girls bring him a great deal of happiness and obviously I have a sense of needing to make the most of the time I have left with him!

DamnBamboo Thu 30-Jul-15 12:41:27

Call them on it.
Tell them what you've told us here and tell them that you don't expect it to continue. If they can't treat them both the same, and nicely, you will limit contact.

Itsmine Thu 30-Jul-15 12:42:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ollieplimsoles Thu 30-Jul-15 12:42:46

Hmm, tricky, have you ever thought of saying

'Oh you had DD2 to stay over this week, is it DD1's turn this time?' or similar.

It could be that they have a stronger bond with DD2 because she stays over there on her own. Did DD1 ever stay over on her own when she was younger?

averythinline Thu 30-Jul-15 12:47:13

I understand its difficult with DF but you are responsible for both your children and this could impact them both a lot in the future....

You need to speak up about how it appears and then do something about it...... you cant make them have dd1 for sleepovers, but you may need to curtail dd2's as its not fair ....

Aeroflotgirl Thu 30-Jul-15 12:50:41

I would keep pulling them up on it, I would tell them that if they are positive to dd1 she will be more positive towards them. They need to put in the effort, they cannot expect her to automatically warm to them, if she hardly knows them, or if they are constantly negative.

turtlepig Thu 30-Jul-15 12:51:11

ollieplimsole - no the offer was never made for dd1 to stay when she was younger. She has always been a bit of a Velcro baby and always happiest with me so this may have had some bearing on that. I did try saying more or less exactly that this week - but then somehow things got changed and they ended up with dd2 again! I think dd1 was reluctant to go when they came to pick just her up. They actually had them both the week before but offer was only made for dd2 to sleepover (stepmum thought dd1 may not settle and needed a good nights sleep). In the end they brought them both back early as they were apparently winding each other up. (Although again it was implicated this was the fault of dd1). I suppose its easy to assume that as she is older she should behave "better".

I agree I need to call them on it - I just don't know how to even raise it without causing offence and I really don't want to upset anyone - or seem ungrateful. They do invest a lot of time in both dd's (particularly dd2 - unfortunately!)

Aeroflotgirl Thu 30-Jul-15 12:52:05

Exactly avery,if tgey cannot have dd1, than its not fair if they have just dd2, they need to make time for dd1 and build the bond themselves.

ollieplimsoles Thu 30-Jul-15 12:53:24

Ahh I see, well I agree with pp who say you need to pull them up on it.

But if DD1 was offered and doesn't want to go what else can you do though?

I think the only thing possible is to ask them not to needlessly tell DD1 off

3579little Thu 30-Jul-15 12:56:33

Just out of interest are these the only grandchildren?

You should say that DD1 as never been invited for a sleepover and you don't think it is entirely fair. See what they say. If they don't offer to have her then I wouldn't let either of them go.

I'm sensitive to this as I think our family favour one of our kids (preferred gender issues). But I don't allow this DC to be treated to more things than the others. Your DD1 will remember.

Noodledoodledoo Thu 30-Jul-15 12:58:03

My sister can still remember conversations with my paternal grandparents from when she was 4 (nearly 40) about how she was seen as the 'lesser' grandchild. It carried on from Grandmother mostly for the rest of her life.

I am still being made to pay every now and then as it gets thrown into lots of arguments!

Please nip it in the bud.

BertPuttocks Thu 30-Jul-15 12:58:13

I would give it another go with just dd1 having a sleepover. If she's reluctant to leave when it's time to go, then both girls stay home.

If the grandparents question the decision, say "I'm really sorry but it's not fair on the DDs if one gets lots of time alone with you and the other doesn't."

If you witness them being unfair to dd1, speak up each time. "Yes dd1 used to do that but she's grown up a lot since then" or "Sorry dd2 but I think it was dd1's turn to have that."

turtlepig Thu 30-Jul-15 13:01:12

3579little - yep only grandchildren - and likely to be that way for the forrseeable future.

Really its lot of little things but put all together I do worry for DD1 and the impact this will have on her. Stepmum has taken literally hundreds of photos of dd2 with my dad but only very few of dd1 (and most of them feature dd2 also) HOWEVER dd1 does not like having her photo taken.. I am just worried that for every point I bring up there will be a counter argument and it could get very negative. DD1 is the trickier child (at the moment!)

Apricota Thu 30-Jul-15 13:04:01

I was not the favoured grandchild, my younger sister was. It was so very apparent. Still is. My son is less favoured than my daughter by one set of grandparents. Fuckers. So. I can completely understand his views. And do call them in it.

Please do call them on it for your DD1 sake.

turtlepig Thu 30-Jul-15 13:04:48

Noodledoodledoo - that's what I fear the most, that this will be a lasting memory for dd1, particularly due to the large amounts of time we spend there and that eventually it will lead to resentment between my girls. sad

At the same time I am so aware of how lucky we are to have my ddad with us and that really every moment is precious. He doesn't have a great quality of life and I don't want to restrict the time he spends with those that make him the happiest.

Aeroflotgirl Thu 30-Jul-15 13:06:21

No need to formally raise it, next time tgey tell dd1 off and it's unfair, you see dd2 get away with it, or if they tell you about how bad dd1 behaviour is, that is when you raise it. Tell them that they speak to dd1 very negatively and they need to be positive if they want dd1 to have a good relationship with them. Tgat they need to offer both girls sleepover, Mabey separately, even if dd1 does not want to go. If they start being more positive towards her, Mabey she will later on.

Nydj Thu 30-Jul-15 13:16:33

I disagree and think you need to talk to them when your daughters are not there and calmly explain that you have noticed things and want to just talk them through before they get a chance to become 'issues'. Then just say what you have noticed and that you appreciate that as dd2 is younger, people may be more easier on her behaviour but that really, there needs to be fairness with both girls and that they absolutely must not compare one unfavourably with the other. Perhaps if they hadn't noticed that they do it, you could agree a code word to use when they do it?

girlywhirly Thu 30-Jul-15 14:00:35

I would talk to them about it. Limit the overnights that DD2 spends there. Say that DD1 has mentioned never having stayed at theirs overnight.

About the photos, rather than opting for everyone looking at the camera and smiling, try to get shots of DD1 and your dad where they are looking away from the camera, perhaps at each other or at something or someone else. You can get more informal shots on days out, during picnics, at the park, sometimes even without DD1 being aware if she is very shy. I would try to do this myself even if you have mentioned it to stepmum.

3579little Thu 30-Jul-15 14:05:43

Has you stepmum raised kids herself? Do you think your dad and her are re-living or playing at being parents with a baby?

Honestly it is horrid. Your DD1 is just 4, still a baby herself. The negative blaming for less desirable traits is awful and you need to stop it now. I expect your DD1 is fully aware she is less favoured when she is there. If it is as bad as you describe I would limit contact until they showed less favoritism. I'm sorry you dad is sock but it doesn't excuse damaging your girls relationship with each other for life.

3579little Thu 30-Jul-15 14:06:18

Sorry about the typo - sick

turtlepig Thu 30-Jul-15 14:28:36

I think writing it all down and reading the replies has been a bit of a reality check for me and I do need to confront the issues.. I've no idea how to start that conversation though and I imagine stepmum and dad will be very defensive and possibly try and blame dd's behaviour for the problems.
To the poster above who mentioned them "playing house" with a baby - it is very like that. Although they have children of their own they both loved the baby stage. I don't think they got as much look in with dd1 as she was joined at the hip to me but dd2 is alot more independent plus the advantage I'm occupied with dd1 so they have had more opportunity to play parents.

girlywhirly Thu 30-Jul-15 15:07:41

Could you say something like, 'do you know stepmum, there are hardly any photos of dd1 but loads of DD2 that you've taken'. She's bound to respond that she has more opportunity as DD2 is with her/them more. At this point you can say 'that's true, it's very obvious that you see much more of DD2, and DD1 has noticed this. I would like to make sure that both girls get equal attention in future as DD1 is feeling left out.' Then you can deflect the 'oh DD1 never wants to sleep here' with 'have you asked her if she would like to, she might be ready to now' and the camera shyness issue with trying a different way of photographing as I suggested in my earlier post.

But I think you need to make the point that even though the two girls have different personalities and are different ages, you must ensure that there is no favouritism. If this means changing the current childcare and overnight stays for DD2 so be it.

LilacWine7 Thu 30-Jul-15 15:24:20

It's a sad situation... but you can't force them to love both grandchildren equally.
You can, however, ask them to modify their behaviour. They shouldn't be saying negative things about DD1, comparing the girls or giving DD2 extra attention when DD1 is present. But IMO it's unrealistic to expect them to treat both exactly the same. Why should they be expected to have DD1 for sleepovers if she misbehaves or is reluctant to go anyway? Why should they force her to be in photos if she doesn't like having her photo taken? Since your DDad is so unwell, it might be too much having both girls at once, they may feel unable to cope.
They clearly have a much stronger, closer bond with DD2 and this is no-one's fault, it's just how things have turned out. I doubt they set out to favour her over DD1, but they've spent a lot more time with DD2 due to DD1 being in nursery, so it's natural they feel closer to her and understand her better.

If you confront them too aggressively or insist they have both girls for sleepovers, they may back off completely and your DD2 could miss out on what sounds like a very close loving relationship.

Could you suggest they find other ways of bonding with DD1 and making her feel special, instead of expecting them to have her for sleepovers or babysit her? Are there certain activities DD1 likes doing, that they could do with her? Could they take her for a day-out without DD2 present, so she has some special time alone with them? Eg a trip to the zoo or a meal out. If DD1 doesn't like being away from home, I imagine it's very stressful trying to comfort her and calm her if she gets homesick and moody. Could they maybe see her by herself sometimes, just for a couple of hours rather than overnight, doing something she enjoys?

When I was a child, I had a very close relationship with one grandma, who favoured me over my older sister. I was quite fiery and difficult as a child, and this grandma was also fiery and passionate by nature... we understood each other! We had a wonderful bond, she'd often have me to stay by myself, and I was allowed to be expressive, make a mess, go wild, be noisy etc. My sister was far more sensible, reserved and quiet. She was a bit scared of this grandma. However, my sis was much closer to our other grandma than me, would visit other grandma without me and they shared lots of interests. Other grandma found me difficult and preferred to have my sister alone. I don't recall either of us feeling jealous or resentful.
So what I'm saying is sometimes grandparents bond more with one grandchild than the other, either because of similar personalities or they find one easier. It would have been a real shame if my sister and me had been prevented from close relationships with our grandmas just because our parents felt they didn't love us equally, or made unreasonable demands about having both of us for sleepovers.

Are there any other relatives in your family who have a close bond with DD1 and could spend more time with her so she doesn't feel left out?

It's not compulsory for grandparents to love their grandchildren at all...or have them for sleepovers. Many don't. So I think when there is a special bond, it's something to be treasured and encouraged for the child's sake.

Provided your DD1 isn't being excluded or treated meanly, I think it's worth letting the grandparents keep their special bond with DD2 and try to help them find new ways of getting to know DD1 as well, without putting pressure on them to have both girls together or for sleepovers.

rumbleinthrjungle Thu 30-Jul-15 17:46:29

Argh, not nice for you to see at all. There are twins in my family and it has been very bizarre to see a couple of (previously apparently normal!) adults in different branches of the wider family who have actually made a decision about which twin they will have a relationship with and the other twin to them is sort of a background noise, as if it would be impossible to have a relationship with both children - one of those adults actually verbalised their thought process out loud in front of the children! My jaw nearly hit the floor. Sadly too, in both cases, these adults separately chose the chatty, charming twin over the quieter one who takes time to warm up to people.

If you're worried about a more confrontational approach and want to try a softer option first, a strategy that gets used a lot to try and build up adults' connection and interest in a child and get them to find it more rewarding, is to pick one thing you see - anything at all no matter how tiny or split second - that dd1 responds to with either GP and go to town a bit on how lovely that was, how good they are with her and it's so lovely to see that because dd1's confidence so needs building and not everyone gets her like that. Make it sincere but you want them to feel they are really good with her, and to feel really good for a moment about how good they are with her, and to want to show off more golden moments like that to get more of that reinforcement/response from you. If they want that reinforcement from you because they enjoy it, they'll also increasingly start to look for the reinforcement by itself of dd1's smiles, giggles, sharing something with them. If they start to feel they are especially good with her, they're just so good at building her confidence (proud talk to other people in front of GP about oh she's loves GP, look at that smile GP gets out of her) they are going to start investing in it and on the way start enjoying her and building their own special relationship with her separate to the one they've established with dd2. If there are any special activities that dd1 really loves maybe they are things she can do with GP so they see her really having fun and maybe it can be steered to be something 'special' to keep to do with GP so dd1 builds up her bond with them? It has to be quite delicately done to be sincere depending on the person, but it can be powerful stuff in helping an adult and child to start enjoying each other.

green18 Thu 30-Jul-15 18:12:26

I think you have to tackle it. But not when chn are around. I think dd2 will soon start to play on this favouritism and that will make things worse. Tell them what dd1 has said and how you feel.

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