Name game: Call me "Grandma" or else

Dear Carolyn:
When my grandson was born, I thought it was the greatest thing, and it probably is. However, he is 8 and his parents told him it is OK to call me by my first name. I do not agree. He has, but for a few times, not called me Grandma. Also, they combined their two last names, my son and daughter-in-law, not hyphenated, as his last name.

I am a very warm person but so hurt that I have lost my closeness to my grandson. It is very hard, and I feel myself distancing my feelings toward him. My son does not feel their way is wrong. What is in a name or a title that makes it so important?
– A Lost Grandma

To be sure I'm reading you correctly: You feel distant from your grandson because of these two naming issues, and not because anyone prevents you from seeing this child?

Carolyn: He comes to my home usually on the weekends to visit and spend some time with me. I feel so distant and hurt because of the last-name issue and because he calls me by my first name.
– Lost Grandma again

It's as if someone journeyed barefoot from the corners of the earth to deliver you a sapphire, and you're (peeved) it's not a ruby. If I agree to call you Grandma, will you stop being so blockheaded about one of the most precious things life has to offer? That might be the best deal I have for you, because I am unable to comprehend the idea that a name can get in the way of a bond with a grandchild.

OK, if an 8-year-old named me Buttface or You Old Cow, then I'd surely be in your spot, too insulted to invite the child into my heart – but you're exhibiting such a low threshold for insult that you're allowing a difference of opinion on tradition to get in the way of giving and receiving love. And it's not even the child's opinion, but someone else's.

This family is including you in his life, weekly! Their differing values aren't rejections of you, or even your values. They're merely reflections of time and change and circumstance. So, "What is in a name or a title that makes it so important?" Your own stubborn self-righteousness.

There's an apple at the base of your tree in the form of your son, who's equally blockheaded in encouraging his son to use your first name when he knows it bothers you. (You have absolutely no say in the last name, so I encourage you to draw a smiley face on it. He wears respect for women openly! Good for him.) But your son can be wrong all day and it doesn't change the fact that you can control only your decisions, not his.

So you can talk to the boy, and propose giving you a special name that only he uses. Miss Firstname, say, or Grammie Firstname, or, hmm, does he have any ideas? Or you can decide, just decide, to get over yourself and place more value in loving and being loved – and "very warm" – than being right. Or you can flush this love down the toilet on a technicality. Your call.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com. (c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

5 comments

Pretty self important old hen, ain't she? Attitudes like that lead to obituaries that say: "Died alone at Kumbayah rest home, surrounded by uncaring strangers"

Hopefully the kid will learn respect for his elders from Grandma since he's probably never heard any mention of the idea from his mom and dad. By the same token, I've heard of grandmas scolding a child's mother for not injecting their own kids with brain damage and autism shots so they can be welcomed into government indoctrination prison day camps. Impossible for me to respect that!

Carolyn is half right: Just as grandson's last name(s) is the prerogative of his two parents, and none of grandma's business, what name she chooses to be called by her grandson is between the grandmother and grandson, and none of his parent's business.

The parent-child relationship is unique to those three people, just as the grandparent-grandchild relationship is unique and special between those two.

The parents should be thankful that she wants to be a "grandma" and doesn't want to be called by her first name because she thinks being a grandmother will mean she is old or that her friends will think she is old.

How much does the soon-to-be-defunct The Hook pay The Post to run this idiocy?

I have two wonderful grandchildren who sometimes have called me Mom, Grandma, my first name, etc. I told them they can call me anything they want as long as it is not a bad name. Sorry but the grandmother in this article is missing out on a great thing with her grandchild. Kids love the "naming game". What a sad thing to miss out on for all involved.