When we think of families, we like to imagine fun trips, laughing over dinner, making memories in the kitchen, and more.
But some families simply aren’t meant to have that kind of quality time, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Unable_Influence3547 had a decent relationship with her teenage stepkids, but they had shown no interest in getting involved in her family traditions.
When her in-laws challenged her and said she wasn’t trying hard enough to involve them, the Original Poster (OP) wondered what else she could do.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my in-laws I won’t exclude my child from traditions just because my stepkids don’t want to take part?”
The OP had a decent but not perfect relationship with her stepkids.
“I (42 Female) am a stepmom of two kids, Emma (16 Female) and Luke (15 Male), and I am a biological mom to my son Dex (6 Male) with my husband.”
“I have been in a relationship with my husband for 11 years and we have been married for nine years. I met him two years after his divorce.”
“My stepkids are in our house every other week and with their mom every other week. The relationship with my stepkids is okay. Not perfect but not totally awful.”
“They have always kept some walls up between me and them and my family and them. Polite and they’ll talk friendly enough. But they don’t want to be a part of family things with us either.”
The OP was a little disappointed that they showed no interest in her family traditions.
“My mom has this cookbook that has been used by four generations of the family now. My grandma started it with her and her kids, and then my mom got it and shared it with me and my siblings, and now she shares it with her grandkids.”
“Emma and Luke were offered to take part multiple times, and they have always said they weren’t interested.”
“My mom was a little upset but understood that they might not be totally okay with that idea, and she has left it open for them to change their minds.”
“The first time we offered this to them was about a year into the marriage. So they would have been about seven and eight at the time. At that point, they had known me for about two years (my husband and I were together close to a year before I was introduced to the kids).”
The OP’s in-laws only got involved when the OP’s son showed an interest in her traditions.
“Last year, Dex took part in the tradition for the first time with my mom and I. My stepkids did not want to join us so we didn’t force it.”
“Dex regularly now cooks recipes from it with my mom (and sometimes me too). He loves it. He wants to add another recipe when he’s older, something we’ve all done.”
“The topic came up while my in-laws were around and Dex was telling them all about it. He mentioned how much he loves being part of it and he loves cooking and baking.”
“My in-laws asked if Emma and Luke had ever been a part of it, and we said no, they hadn’t wanted to be.”
“They asked why not, and we said they didn’t seem the most comfortable with fully integrating like that as to be part of something that is a family tradition on my side, but it will always be open for them to change their mind.”
“They said we should have waited for them to include Dex and how my family, and I have shown we don’t care if they’re involved or not.”
“I told them they might never change their minds.”
“They said I have made it so they won’t now. They know my bio kid is more wanted by my family.”
“I said that’s unfair. They have been offered the chance many times and Dex shouldn’t have to miss out because his siblings say no.”
“I believe they are old enough to know what they do and don’t want. Even when they were younger and offered, it’s one of those things where you can’t force it and expect a good outcome. Which is why we didn’t and left the offer open.”
The OP’s in-laws continued to challenge her role as a mom.
“They said that’s my role as a mom of three instead of a mom of one.”
“I told them I would not make my son miss out just because my stepkids said no.”
“They said that’s why I’m wrong and why I am proving to be a poor parent to the non-bio kids that I have.”
“My husband told them to leave and said they were wrong.”
“But they insisted it was me who was wrong here, even though they’ve never asked their grandkids what they thought about it or if they even wanted to be involved.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some felt the OP was walking the delicate line between inviting her stepkids and not pressuring them and was walking it well.
“Absolutely not. In fact, you’re being a good parent to all of them being flexible to their wants. If stepkids didn’t want to, that’s fine as you didn’t push them so. In fact, your family left the door open for them in case they do change their minds.”
“And Dex should not be told to wait. Have him shine on this awesome hobby of baking. The in-laws went way out of bounds for these suggestions.” – KyotoDreamsTea
“NTA. You tried your best to get them involved and you listened to their wants when they declined. Maybe try to start some new family traditions that they are more interested in. Oh wait, you already tried that. Your in-laws are not listening.” – PrettyLittleAccident
“NTA. Cheese and Crackers, these ‘kids’ are sixteen and fifteen, legal adults in Sweden. (For many things, not all.) They are not six or seven-year-olds who are actually children and should have extra consideration for things.”
“They are grown enough to know what they want and don’t want. They said no, so it is a no! Dex is an actual little kid, he deserves to do things he wants to do despite what his step-siblings are doing or not doing.” – Smiles-Bite
“NTA. You would be otherwise if you only offered this when you started sharing the kitchen with Dex, but they have been declining your offer literally for YEARS.” – ratherbereading2
“I can’t imagine a childhood where I had to do everything my sibling did and nothing else. He and I are not alike. We like different things. And we aren’t even a mixed family. NTA, OP.” – CannabisAttorney
Others agreed and felt the in-laws needed to check themselves.
“Did the grandparents even bother to ask their teenage grandchildren how they felt about this? Or are they just assuming that the half-sibs were purposely excluded by your family?”
“NTA. You’re doing it right in a tough environment. Keep it up. I can only hope that someday in the future your stepkids become more open to a closer relationship with you.” – BunnySlayer64
“See, this is kind of all you need to know: the in-laws didn’t even attempt to talk to their grandkids about this; they’re just pressing the OP. They’re picking a fight to pick a fight, not because they’re very invested in the actual stakes.”
“Or maybe they have different stakes (jealous of your mom’s time with Dex? I don’t know, just speculating). We don’t know about it. Either way, NTA.”
“Dex is his own person, not a teaching tool to his siblings. He gets to have his own life and interests, just as they do. Respecting your kid’s boundaries is a good thing, and including kids when they want to be included is a good thing. If you put your life and Dex’s life on hold until his siblings want to be involved, the whole family will just learn to resent each other.” – dryadduinath
“I know this activity isn’t charged with family so it’s different, but I think of this as offering to sign the older kids up for baseball or softball every year since they were younger and the kids saying ‘no.’ Then their much younger brother decides to play. The older kids could approach their parents at any time to start playing.”
“And in response, the bio grands of the older two throw a hissy fit and insist, ‘The older kids should have played before the younger sib! It’s not fair!'”
“You: ‘But we offered it to them every year and they said no.'”
“Bio grands: ‘You still should have waited and it’s still not fair!'”
“You: ‘They can start any time.'”
“Bio grands: stomps feet! ‘Not fair!'”
“That’s what this feels like to me. NTA.” – UCgirl
“Ding ding ding! I have a formative memory of my dad’s mom yelling at my mom when I was six years old.”
“I’d had very long hair down to my waist and asked to get it cut off to my shoulders because a girl in my class got a haircut and I thought it looked cool. So my mom took me to the local beauty school and I got a cute little haircut and bangs and I was thrilled.”
“We all met up for Easter a few days later and my grandma goes, ‘How could you do this to her?!’ and my mom was like, ‘My six-year-old asked for a haircut, so I took her to get a haircut. What is there to be worked up about?'”
“And her problem, of course, had everything to do with her own jealousy of my waist-length, pin-straight hair, and nothing to do with her concern over my mental well-being or what I wanted, because it was something different than what SHE wanted.”
“The OP’s in-laws have the exact same problem and are sending the exact same message to Dex as my grandma sent to me.” – GlumBodybuilder214
“OP, you’re doing nothing wrong. I’m the odd one in my family who isn’t interested in the same things as everyone else, and I feel more loved when my family lets me opt out of things I don’t want to do because it shows they’re listening to me, and value my preferences.”
“I’d feel terrible if I was forced to choose between making myself miserable doing something I don’t want to do, or making someone else in my family miserable by making them miss out on something they’d enjoy.”
“What the grandparents are suggesting here is a horrible position to put someone in.” – pocketfullofdragons
The subReddit couldn’t help but side-eye the OP’s in-laws and what their priorities appeared to be, which was the appearance of a unified family, rather than a family with diverse interests.
While the in-laws may have wanted to see everyone laughing in the kitchen, it seemed the OP was doing the right thing by inviting her stepkids to get involved and then respecting their wishes when they said no.