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My son has been living with his girlfriend for 4 years. He has an 11-year-old daughter and his girlfriend also has an 11-year-old daughter. They live in another state and do not come to see me.

My granddaughter and I have an extremely close bond and I try to stay in touch with her to hold on to that beautiful relationship. Two weeks ago my son and his girlfriend got married. My new granddaughter is a beautiful loving child, but should I be expected to love her the same as my son's daughter?

I called my granddaughter the other day, and when she answered the phone I said "How is my favorite granddaughter?" My son called me the next day to tell me I should not have said that and that I was on speaker phone and upset my new granddaughter. He also told me I could not send a gift to my granddaughter for being on the honor role this year unless I sent a present for both of them.

Please help me understand all of this because I think real love takes time to grow and I also know my granddaughter would be hurt if I all-of a sudden stopped telling her she was my special girl.

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    Are you sure they're asking you to love them both equally? Sounds like they're just asking you not to show overt favouritism in front of the less-favoured one. Telling her she's your special girl isn't the same as telling them both that she's your favourite. – A E Sep 12 '15 at 14:46
  • Did your step-granddaughter also make honor roll? – Dan Henderson Oct 5 '15 at 13:29
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You are not expected to love your new graddaughter the same as your first one. But you are expected to love her for what she is:

a beautiful loving child (your own words).

That means she is an individual that has a right to be seen as such. She is not an incumberance or a distraction that comes between your first grandchild and you, but an addition. How would you react if your son and his new wife had a new baby? Would you percieve this child as different? Would that love have to grow, too? Are nine months in the womb different that four years of cohabitation?

And while in your heart you might always have a special spot for you son's first daughter, you should support the difficult process of blending two families by not playing favourite. In fact, you should work hard to treat both girls reasonably equal. This doesn't mean treat them as twins, but take care to show the same love and care to both girls. Yes, by all means acknowledge that one girl made the honour roll. But make sure you do the same for whatever accievement the second celebrates. And yes, perhaps this means "fake it 'till you make it" for a while.

You write:

I think real love takes time to grow.

True. But you had four years to get to know (and love) this child before the marriage "legitimized" her status as your grandchild - I suggest it's high time that you get to know her better.

This doesn't mean putting the love for your first on the back burner - love isn't a limited resource, after all - but the term "favourite" should probably be cleared from your vocabulary for now. If in ten years from now the relationships have settled, you can declare your first granddaughter as your "favourite" again. But with a bit of luck, you won't want to by then. If you play your cards right and don't (even unintentionally) step on tender toes now, you might end up with two grandchildren that love and cherish you.

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    +1 "not a limited resource". This isn't a zero-sum game! – A E Sep 12 '15 at 21:03
  • +1 "clearing the term favourite" The speaker-phone part was bad and @Judy didn't know about it, maybe she wouldn't have used it if she knew she had other listeners. In any case, if it comes out (even with the grand daughter just bragging about it), it can be misunderstood, although it was not meant that way. – martin Sep 14 '15 at 7:43
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They live in another state and do not come to see me.

While your son and his daughter have had time to bond with your new granddaughter, you have not. Of course your granddaughter is much (more) beloved by you. But you have an opportunity to show your son that you love him by loving and accepting the people he loves. Also, doing anything less will put a strain on your relationship with him.

Please help me understand all of this because I think real love takes time to grow and I also know my granddaughter would be hurt all of a sudden I stopped telling her she was my special girl.

Your granddaughter is 11 years old, and probably would appreciate "I love you so much" as much as "you're most special to me". She has had time to bond with her sibling by marriage and might even feel uncomfortable with you addressing her in such a remarkably different manner.

My best advice to you is to think about your priorities, and act on them. If your priority is to love your son and have a good relationship with him, you should probably just accept what he's saying, apologize, and promise you'll try to do better in the future. Then do so.

If your priority is to maintain your relationship with your natural granddaughter, remember that if you alienate your son, your relationship with your granddaughter (who is only 11 and still impressionable) can suffer.

If your priority is to change your son's opinions and demands, you can try to do that, but he's an adult now, and you can only control your own behaviors and opinions, not anyone else's. It's not pleasant to be called out on something you feel strongly about, but it's happened.

You need to deal with what is, not what should be. Things in life are rarely what they should be.

Please forgive me if this sounds unsympathetic. I'm not unsympathetic to your position. There are just times to be pragmatic and times to fight for your ideals. This sounds like the former.

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You can't be made to love anyone. But there's a difference between how you feel about a person and how you treat them.

Both girls are now your granddaughters, so as a grandparent, you're supposed to treat them equally. Since this situation is new to you, it may take some conscious effort. Make sure you give the girls gifts of equal value (both monetary and emotionally) and at the same occasions. When calling them, speak to both of them separately. Ask both how they're doing, how their day was and so on.

Show both equal love, give both equal love.

Try to not emphasize your "extremely close bond" or that "beautiful relationship" too much. Words like "favorite" should disappear from your vocabulary, even in private conversation with either of your granddaughters. Neither of them must be made to feel more or less special than the other.


But some damage has been done. Your granddaughter overheard you on the phone with her sister, calling her your favourite. Her father was right to bring this to your attention.

Of course, you were used to calling her that. I assume (I hope) your son's daughter from his previous marriage was your only grandchild until he met his current wife. If you have other grandchildren, you shouldn't be calling one of them your favourite, regardless of the present change.

So it's now up to you to undo that damage. Talk to the girl you've hurt and explain that you were used to calling her sister that, but that of course you're very glad you now have two granddaughters and that you love her very much.
Try to spend some time with your new granddaughter alone, trying to get to know her better. You've had 4 years already for this, but better late than never. This is of course not easy when they live in another state, but plan some activities with each of them alone when they're visiting or when you're visiting them.

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What do you mean by "love"? If you mean the way it is often portrayed in media and talked about by people, a feeling of affection, then that may never be the same for your new grand-daughter, or it might take a while, and that is natural. Feelings come and go, they can be affected by something as trivial as weather. A bad cold can make us feel so irritated at everyone in general that we treat a person that we otherwise "love" with the very opposite of affection. Affection is a terrible way to define love, and yet it is what most people mean by it when they say the word.

If on the other hand, by "love" you mean a commitment to put the other person's well-being ahead of your own, for the rest of your life, then you should start to love your new grand-daughter, the same as the other, starting yesterday. If we mean by "love" the kind of patience, kindness and favor that a grand-parent is expected to show their grandchild, then those are actions and attitudes and decisions, not feelings. You can decide to treat both of them the same, no favorites, starting today. Nothing will do more to grow your affection toward your new grand-daughter than a decision of your will that she is the same to you as the other, and that you will treat her so.

Your son should not have had to tell you that you should only send a present to one if you are sending a present to the other. Maybe only your earlier grand-daughter got on the honor roll. If so, it is probably best to avoid the present anyway, just to avoid even the appearance of favoritism.

Real love does not take time to grow. I have loved my children since the moment they were conceived. By that I mean: I have sought the best for them, I have busted my butt making sure they were taken care of, provided for, protected, well trained. That has at times meant 14 hour workdays. Ok, so I worked 14 hours, spent 6 with them (and my wife), helping them with their homework and hearing about their day and praying with them. That left 4 for sleep. Fine, I'll sacrifice my sleep before I sacrifice their well-being. Earlier this year, I had some savings and needed a car. I could have bought a nice new one. Or I could put a chunk on my oldest daughter's account, for her college expenses, avoid her having a bigger debt when she gets out. That meant I would get an older, used car. Not a hard choice to make. You love people with that definition of "love", and the emotions will follow most of the time and the rest of the time emotions won't matter.

I would suggest that you make a trip to see them, if you can, and plan with your son that while you are there, you will take your grand-daughters out on dates, one at a time, your new grand-daughter first. Or send them flowers, the new grand-daughter first, then a couple of days later, your other grand-daughter. Make sure the florist gets the exact same arrangement, and have them sign it "to my beautiful, special princess, from your loving grandma". Commit to your son that you will always treat them the same, and apologize for the error in calling one your "favorite".

You know how special your first grand-daughter has been to you.... you have just had that blessing doubled. It may not feel like it yet, but you can get excited about that, about sharing the awesome grandma-princess relationship with not one, but two special girls. This will not diminish, but multiply that joy for you and for them. Don't worry about the feelings, they will come. But don't waste time waiting for them.

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