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Surrogate grand parenting.

(7 Posts)
MumandGran46 Wed 21-Oct-15 13:59:22

For ten years my husband and I have acted as surrogate grandparents to two girls now aged 12 and 13 who lost their mum when they were 1 and 2. They are the granddaughters of my cousin now also deceased. They live with their father at the other end of the country but we have always ensured that we saw then regularly usually by going up to see them and staying locally but often bringing them to our house in London and taking them on holiday with us and our extended family. Twice a year I have taken them on girlie shopping trips to buy a large proportion if their clothes thinking that's one of the things they would miss particularly with no mum.
The issue is that over the past 12-18 months I hear less and less from them between visits. In fact nothing at all even when I send them texts. They never send a thank you note (text or email) to say thank you for gifts, or trips even though we make an effort to include lots of activities they like such as theatre, climbing wall visits, swimming, ceramics Halloween parties etcetc.
They have also become very quiet and withdrawn when they do visit disappearing into their bedrooms as soon as we get through the door and not helping at all around the house. A silent meal followed by a quick return to their room leaving the table uncleared and no thank you is the norm
I feel that they should be being encouraged to say thank you, join in with conversation, help just a little when they stay and keep in touch between visits.
Not being the parent or the real grandparent I feel my options for discussing this with the girls father are limited.
Am I wrong to feel demotivated in continuing this relationship which does take a great deal of our time and resources and means of course we have to sacrifice other things.
Is this behaviour normal for children if their age? Should I try to press on or just accept that what happened for the last ten years is a phase that is over?
I should add that I have two daughters of my own. One was a grounded teenager the other troubled. Both now are grown into happily married young women of whom I am proud.

MotiSen Wed 21-Oct-15 23:00:43

Not to be sexist, but without a mum around, the girls might not have learned some of the finer points of courtesy? Were they courteous as youngsters? It's not a lost cause, because you vastly improved the quality of their lives by what you've already done. But, if they start to impact your quality of life - negatively? ... I think maybe - could you have a chat with them - say maybe - you girls are getting older, and maybe developing lots of interests outside ... we are always here for you - but, we recognize the need to give you some space. Sort of put the ball in their court and only "reward" positive behavior from them? Might help them. All the question marks ... kind of indicates you might be dealing with incipient teenage behavior.

Best wishes!

Haffdonga Wed 21-Oct-15 23:21:32

How lovely you sound. smile

I think what you're facing is a combination of 'teenagerness' and less than perfect parenting on their dad's part. I know that my own dcs, who are lucky enough to have incredibly kind and generous grandparents, loved spending time with their grandparents up to about 12 years old. After that it became a bit of a drag for them.

Despite my being a strict thank you letter over-seer throughout their childhoods, I still have to nag my now almost adult teens every single bloody time they get a present to drop a line to the giver. I can imagine if that's not a priority for their dad, then there's zero chance of it happening.

I agree that you should openly ask the girls what they want. You could say that you realise now they're older that it may not be so much fun for them to spend time with you. You could also ask directly if they like getting their presents because you're not sure if you're choosing well and would like a thank you.

What I wouldn't do is drop them and reduce contact. They may not know it or ever realise it but you must be such an important foundation of love and stability in their lives. Offer an open invitation to come and stay whenever they want and keep the communication door open.

MumandGran46 Wed 21-Oct-15 23:25:15

Thank you so much for this.
It's very helpful to have a sounding board to discuss this troubling issue and help clarify my ideas.
I am sure you are right that the niceties of behaviour are not being emphasised by the Dad who being fair to him has a huge lot on his plate. I do also wonder whether a lot of the girls recent behaviour is the onset of teenager -hood.
I think it's a very helpful suggestion to step back a bit but let the girls know we are there if and when they need us. That's very constructive and non acrimonious. And as you say puts the ball in their court a bit.
Thank you again. Just the sort of objective advice I was hoping for.

MumandGran46 Wed 21-Oct-15 23:29:55

Sorry, being new to mums net didn't realise there were two contributions. Both have been enormously supportive and empowering. Both give me the basis of a strategy for going forward and take away a lot if the worrying and agonising over this.
Thank you again.

BackforGood Wed 21-Oct-15 23:29:56

I have to say I think it sounds like fairly normal 'becoming a teen' behaviour to me.
It is normal to disappear into rooms
It does get harder and harder to get them to write than you notes.

I think you need to accept this is another 'phase' and keep doing what you can to keep in touch, but just wait for them to emerge from the other side in 5 years or so.

MumandGran46 Wed 21-Oct-15 23:32:20

Thank you also. There seems to be a consensus emerging and I will do as you all recommend. Keep the lines of communication open being the main thing.
Thank you.

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