Step-grandparents: What should kids call their grandparent’s partner?

Posted in Family.

Your first child is on the way and your parents are deciding what to be called by their new grandchild. But what if your mum or dad have re-married or they have a newly introduced partner? What should they be called and do you have a choice?

He’s not the real Granddad

One mum reached out on Mumsnet with this exact dilemma. Now 24 weeks pregnant, she is worried about what her unborn child will call her mum’s partner of four years.

“He’s a quiet man who doesn’t make any particular effort to get to know my sister and I – which is fine! – and he has a daughter and grandson of his own,” she wrote. “My sister also has an 11 month old son (the apple of my eye!) and my sister has told my mum since before her son was born that she did not want my mum’s partner to be called Granddad. We suspect that my mum is referring to her partner as Granddad when my sister and I are not there, but have no proof.”

Finally, it was time to broach the subject with her mum, and the conversation did not go well. But she was not prepared to give in and let her mother’s partner take that name.

“My dad is still a very active part of my life and will be an active part of my son’s life, so I would feel that it was disrespectful to him for my son to be calling a man I barely know Granddad, too,” she said. “I may feel differently if my mum’s partner had been around for my whole life and I saw him as a father figure, but this is not the case.”

Her mother has said that it’s not up her, and they haven’t spoken since. 

A divided response

The woman’s post has been inundated with responses, most taking her side saying that her mother is being completely unreasonable. “It’s totally up to you and your mum should respect that,” said one reader.

“This is a no brainer for me,” said another. “He is not your little one’s grandad, just isn’t, so why should he be called that.  Just refuse to engage with it.”

However, a number of other parents wonder what all the fuss is about. “My stepdad and I didn’t get on really, but he was a nice “grandad” to my children. My ex’s parents were both divorced and remarried, so my dc ended up with several sets of grandparents,” commented one reader. “I think it’s unkind to be a bit precious about who gets the title of grandparent and deliberately exclude your mum’s life partner.”

While another reader said quite simply, “It’s a name, that’s all. It seems a very small hill to die on.”

Grandparents in garden

What’s in a name?

When it comes down to it, a name is just a name. My parents took an unconventional approach. My mother wanted to be called by her first name, Liz, while my dad (a retired officer from the navy) thought “Sir” might be appropriate. This, of course, was a joke, but all the grandkids took to it with great enthusiasm, and even now my nieces and nephews, ranging from 22 to 26 years, still call him Sir.

My husband’s father, however, remarried later in life, but before we got married and had kids. Our daughters totally see Granddad’s wife as a part of the family, yet address her by her first name. My husband’s mum was already Grandma, so this arrangement seemed appropriate and now is just the way it is.

Obviously most of the time, you wouldn’t mind if your parents want to be called Grandma, Nanna, Pop or Pa, but when they’re not initially part of the family, things might be different. Ultimately, whatever name is chosen will simply become the name your children use. However, everyone has to feel comfortable, particularly the new parent-to-be who has to negotiate between different sets of grandparents and step-grandparents.

The mother on Mumsnet is now dealing with the fact that her own mother is not talking to her. At this stage of her pregnancy, she probably has other things to be thinking about, and making sure her mother’s partner feels “included” may not be high on her list of priorities. Perhaps a simple word is just not as important as we think.


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