Ask Ellie: Rejecting ‘Grandma’ title sends a divisive message

Dear Ellie: My husband of 18 years is 21 years my senior and had two children from a previous relationship.

We have two children of our own. I love his kids, treated them as my own. We had them every other weekend and longer during the summer months.

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I bonded well with them, as they did with me and their two younger siblings. Their mother was very involved in their lives.

Currently, one of the girls has married and had a baby. My husband is over the moon.

The baby is now here and they keep referring to me as a grandmother — my husband especially.

While I’m still considered young, I’m not bothered by being called Grandma, but I feel like I’m depriving my own children of having their children be the first to call me Grandma.

I’ve recently told my husband that I prefer to be called Auntie B — as the girls call me — or grand partner. He is appalled that I even considered it. Am I mean to want to reserve “Grandma” for my “real” grandchildren? How can I get my husband to understand?

I’ll love this baby as much as I love those of my “own” children, but want to keep “Grandma” for them.

Call Me “Grand Partner”

Gamma, Nana, Mimi are easy-to-utter names babies learn and hold dearly from infancy to adulthood.

Sorry, but “Grand Partner” is not only cold and difficult for an under-two to say, but may morph into calling you “GranPa.”

No matter how warmly you feel toward this baby, it distances you from the daughters whom you helped raise. And from your husband.

Your reasons for creating two tiers of grandparenting, ring hollow after you took pride in bonding with your step-children.

Some of the warmest family scenes I hear about from readers, is when a Grandma and Grandpa visit with their extended (and often blended) family of grandchildren who rush to them, all calling them by the same name.

Your distancing from this scene, I suspect, does have something to do with your being a younger Grandma than you were prepared to be.

Too bad. I remember my cousin who had married a much older man, being adored as a grandmother by his extended family because she was so young.

Consider talking this decision over with a therapist, because even if age isn’t a factor, it has deeply hurt your husband.

Reader’s commentary regarding when someone wrongly insists you have bad breath (Nov. 19):

“During my high-school years, my mother, who had severe gingivitis with accompanying halitosis, was the only person who ever accused me of having bad breath, especially when I was with friends, humiliating me.

“My dentist and orthodontist stated clearly that I was taking good care of my mouth.

“I came to believe that since my mother’s nose was closer to her own mouth than to mine, she was avoiding acknowledging that it was her breath that she was smelling.

“I’m now a senior but cannot forget this and other public humiliations by her. Now that she’s in a seniors’ residence with friends visiting regularly, I avoid any further abuse by visiting only by telephone. My friends and my therapist view this as appropriate.

“The letter-writer’s boyfriend should also ensure that he’s not smelling his own breath. If he still claims that her breath smells bad after a clean bill of health, it’s verbal abuse and good reason for ending the relationship.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Labelling step-grandparenting differently from grandparenting sends a divisive message.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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