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Grandparent Dilemmas

My Two Grandmas

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

My daughter and son-in-law had their first child almost 2 years ago and my daughter is now pregnant with her second.

She called me yesterday to tell me that since there are two grandmothers and to avoid confusion on her son’s part and baby #2, as well as their desire to not have to differentiate between the Grandma who lives in (name you place) and the Grandma who lives in another place, I should choose another name to go by and her mother-in-law would be called Grandma.

This hurts. There is no tradition in my family to be called anything other than Grandma and I’ve been referred to this way up until now. I don’t see why there would be confusion either as I had two grandmothers. Kids have figured that out for years. I’m not a step grandmother or girlfriend of her father and I don’t want to be referred to as Nana or some other option that just doesn’t mean anything to me.

I told her there’s no such tradition in the family and I didn’t want to be called G-ma and the conversation was left with the onus on me to come up with something. Of course it could be vetoed by the parents.

The only thing I can come up with that might be remotely okay is to simply wait to see what the grandkids call me. Not sure if that will fly though.

Any suggestions?
Woman formerly known as Grandma

I am going to give your daughter the benefit of the doubt here and guess that she is dealing with a crazy demanding mother-in-law who is the real force behind this request. Because yes, it’s odd to suddenly demand a change two years later, after you’ve established (and likely feel an emotional connection to)  your chosen, traditional title/name.

Also, yes, talk about a non-problem. Plenty of families use the same titles for multiple grandparents and kids manage to figure it out just fine. Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born, but they’d both been called Grandpa by other grandchildren. When I heard stories about them, my parents would just give me some other clue or detail so I knew which one we were talking about. (And yes, sometimes it was just where they’d lived!)

As new parents, we had it easy — my parents had chosen Pop Pop and Nana well over a decade before I had children, and my first baby was my in-laws’ first grandchild, so they were free to pick Grandma and Grandpa for themselves, as that’s the tradition on their side of the family. However, if there had been overlap, I doubt it would have been a big deal —  my husband had both a Grandma Dot and a Grandma. Grandma Dot was technically named Dorothy, but they added her nickname to differentiate.

So that’s a suggestion you could make, if you have a name or nickname that’s short or easy for a small child to say, or just use the first letter of your name. Mother-in-law could do the same. Your daughter would have an easy way to differentiate to the kids (since for whatever reason that’s a problem she’s choosing to focus on right now), and then with time it’s up to the kids to decide what they’d like to go with. They might pick one nickname or initial and drop the other, or they might invent their own distinction between you two.

I have a friend who calls her grandmother “Grandma Boo,” and that simply happened because that grandma always played peek-a-boo with her as a baby/toddler and the name stuck. She’s now a Great-Grandma Boo. I think that’s pretty adorable.

And honestly, it’s not really that big of deal if you two continue on as Grandma Who Lives Here and Grandma Who Lives There. For some reason this is bothering your daughter, and she doesn’t think it’s a big deal to change up the names after two years. Maybe it’s coming from the MIL, or maybe she just had this idea and felt more comfortable approaching you about it rather than her MIL. Once you expressed your objections and dismay, I’d say she probably should have just backed off/dropped it, but since she’s asking for an alternative, think it over and see if you can find something acceptable to add to Grandma, rather than losing the name completely.

It can always be tough to figure out how hard you want to push back on these things, but hopefully if you can keep the discussions civil and out of THIS IS THE HILL I CHOOSE TO DIE ON SCREW YOU territory, this will all work out. (And eventually settle into a non-issue when the kids come up with their own nicknames/pronunciations/monikers for their two grandmas.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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