Hi. Since there aren't any good resources for relatives of people who have kids, I thought I'd use this as a resource to see if anyone in this community can help me.
Let me provide some background information first. I'm an aunt, not a parent. With that said, I have spent my whole life around kids. I've babysat multiple kids at a time since I was 12 years old, coached children and teenagers, been a camp counselor, and cared for dozens of my friends' children from 4 months on up. In addition to being with kids (yet not having any of my own) I think I have a uniquely objective perspective. With that said, I am fully aware that once you have a child, it CAN (but not always) change everything.
I am writing on behalf of my entire side of the family because we are extremely frustrated.
My brother and his wife have two kids. A 5 year old boy and a 1 year old girl. For the past 5 years, her side of the family has been the only "approved" relation that is permitted to spend unsupervised time with the kids, despite my side of the family's best efforts. My brother and his wife always have some sort of excuse that excludes us (my brother is the kind of husband who can't stand up to his wife for fear of an arguement). So, we rarely get to see the kids. Furthermore, her parents are extremely unbalanced and have no experiences or friends outside the family circle, so my niece and nephew rarely get to experience anything out of the ordinary. My family is very much the opposite. We encourage diversity in foods, experiences, people, and foster independence and creativity.
We are frustrated on several levels:
Based on our collective experience and research we think that the lack of exposure to my side of the family is limiting the emotional growth of the children. The 5 year old is undisciplined, self-absorbed, and completely attached at the hip to his parents and maternal grandparents. The kids are 100% their world - not even a romantic getaway for the two of them is acceptable.
The mother is extremely stubborn and manipulative. She is the kind of person who is unable to agree to disagree. On several occasions she has fabricated emergency situations that prevent us from seeing the kids when scheduled. She also has stated that the children are allergic to dogs (of which we have and are a large part of our family), and therefore is an excuse not to see us. I have confirmed from my brother that no such allergy exists. She is also very religious and thinks that because we are not, we must not share the same or similar values.
Both are extremely overprotective. This is an assessment not only by the two sets of aunts and uncles, it is also an observation of my parents, and our friends who have kids who have had the misfortune of being around my brother and his wife.
As the aunt, I sit quietly and observe. I bite my tongue - a lot. I fully realize that these kids are not mine. However, it TAKES A VILLAGE to raise a child, but apparently my village isn't qualified. My parents have tried to communicate their concerns and desires with little to no effect.
We love the kids and can't stand to see them on the path of growth they're on now.
This probably is not what you want to hear, but your options are limited. As a parent, the parents have the right to decide who they would like to dominate their children's lives - even to the exclusion of extended family. Having said that, I recommend you do EVERYTHING you can to develop a close relationship with your sister-in-law. You don't like her and I bet she can tell. Why would she want her children around someone who doesn't like her? But if you make an effort to include her, visit her every time you are invited, ask her questions about the children, etc, she will most likely become more open to the children spending time with you. I know you said she is stubborn and manipulative, but if you want to see more of the children, you will have to learn to handle those traits in her. You can only change your response to her - you cannot expect her to change. I know that seems harsh, but unfortunately you must build trust with BOTH parents before you can expect to be part of the children's sphere of influence.