Q: I married a man 3 1/2 years ago who has two adult children. The grandchildren are 3, 3, 1 and 4 months. I feel it is disrespectful to have the children call me by my first name (which is what they are doing), yet Mrs. is too formal. I had a rocky start with his sons so I did not want to push the issue. Things are much better now, but I'm not sure if I should say anything or just let it go. I've talked to my husband about how I feel but he hasn't talked to his children and he still refers to me by my first name to the grandchildren. It is making it difficult to bond with the children because it bothers me every time they say my name! I'd really like to be their Grandma, but I don't feel like I'm accepted in that role.
A: I am with you on the disrespect — not because informality chafes, necessarily, but because I'm grateful I was taught that kids are kids and a friend's mom is Mrs. Friend's-Last-Name. Social ranking has its place. That's pro-speaking up.
Cons: Calling you "Grandma" might seem disrespectful to their two grandmothers.
And, I have yet to see a person nitpick her way into someone's heart. In your rocky start and in your emotional ambition to be promoted to Grandma, you have two issues substantial enough to reduce your name campaign, by comparison, to a snit.
And, given your husband's lack of follow-through, you'd be in this snit alone.
And, kids have a way of conferring titles on people they love — Meme, NooNoo, whatever-poo — so the last thing you want is to fuss over something that may eventually fix itself.
And, not least: These kids "still" call you by your first name, which implies continuity, which says you really spend time with them. Lucky you. If you can't see that's the only thing that matters in forging a bond, that one's on you.
Wait this one out
Q: When should it really matter that my 23-year-old son's 20-year-old girlfriend won't speak to me because I "was rude" to her? I apologized on her voice mail because she wouldn't pick up her phone. I've told him I am hurt and even feel betrayed by him. He says to just give it time. I don't want to make a bigger deal of this than necessary. Objectivity, please.
A: Not speaking to someone is a primitive (and, as you can attest, highly effective) form of control. Since your son indulges his girlfriend's controlling behavior, it already matters. Quite a bit.
However, most relationships die out on their own, especially those between immature 23- and 20-year-olds. It's important not to interfere with this process.
A sustained attack against the girlfriend would likely force your son to defend his decision to be with her, thus motivating him to look for only the good things about her.
You want him looking out for the bad stuff, and not because you say so, but because it's in his interests to. So, tread lightly: "For you, I will give it time. But for me, please, will you be careful? The silent treatment is awfully controlling behavior." Plant seed, wash hands, wait.
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