DEAR AMY: When I married my wife, she had two kids and I had two kids. We became a very happy blended family of six and have been together for 12 years. My wife's extended family has accepted this. They always include all four children for holidays and recognize all the kids' birthdays. They love all four kids equally; it's very warm and welcoming. My family just can't accept our blended family. They exclude my stepkids on birthdays, graduations, Christmas, family functions, conversations, etc. It really hurts me to see my own family exclude my children. My sister frequently tells my wife that her kids are not blood-related to us. The hurt in my wife's eyes is hard for me to handle. It's hard to accept that, with all the things in this world that could hurt my wife, it's my family that hurts her the most. How can I get my family to understand how hurtful their actions are?
DEAR SAD: You have had more than a decade to train your family to be decent people and let them adjust to reality, which roughly translates to this: "My wife and I have four children. Deal with it." You have not advocated for your wife and children. Now, rather than passively commenting on how sad your wife's eyes are when she is disrespected in your presence, I suggest you act a little less sad and get a lot more mad.
The next time your sister expresses this level of disrespect toward your wife and children, your reaction should be consistent: "This is unacceptable. Get your coat; it's time to go." You owe your wife and all of your children an apology. Say: "My family members are ignorant and have been very rude to all of us. We are 100 percent family, and I'm going to try to do a better job of being a dad to all of you." When you tolerate this sort of disrespect, your stepchildren aren't the only ones affected. This treatment places your biological children in a terrible spot with their siblings.