Name calling

About two years ago, I got a big fat promotion. I became a grandmommy. Yup, that’s right, a grandmommy!

Ok, here’s the backstory…

When my little guy started to talk, it was very difficult for people, outside our multigenerational home to understand the difference between grandma and mama when my son spoke. Of course my mother-in-law and I clearly knew which of us he was calling on.

Sometimes when my little guy was out and about with my mother-in-law, people often wanted to know when my mother-in-law had adopted him – since, based on their ears, he was calling her “mama”. My mother-in-law was a good sport and explained my son was saying grandma, that he wasn’t adopted, and she had no plans to start over raising children (full-time) at this stage in her life. One woman even asked from what country my mother-in-law had adopted my son – which is a topic for an entirely different post.

Now that my son is four-years-old, he pronounces most works clearly, and people can easily understand him…which brings me to my grandmommy status.

Since my mother-in-law is the primary childcare caregiver for my son, while hubby and I are working, he is calling on his grandmother a lot. With this, he often calls me grandmommy – and I adore it.

When this name calling began, my mother-in-law asked me if this bothered me. No, it didn’t bother me, and I was happy that she considered this. When living in a multigenerational home, members have to be careful to set-up unnecessary or unhealthy competitions. An example of this could be a young child reaching for or requesting the attention of a grandparent instead of an actual parent. Or when the child is hurt, he/she prefers a cuddle from a grandparents instead of a parent.

Our multigenerational family has been fortunate not to have these types of competitive flare-ups because I believe there is enough – love, attention, hugs, names, etc. – to go around.

If your multigenerational family is experiencing any tension in this area, it is important to address it.


Here are some easy steps to gets started:

  1. Each member of the multigenerational family should make a list of the “competitive” topics that is bothering him/her.
  2. Each topic should be written on an individual notecard and folded in half.
  3. All folded notecards should be thrown into a bowl.
  4. Norms for discussing difficult topics should be developed and posted in the area where the conversation will take place.
  5. A time and day should be selected for the “competitive” discussion – I recommend one hour.
  6. During the discussion – only one topic is selected from the bowl.
  7. The first 30 minutes is used for each person to talk about their feelings, with “I statements”, on the topic.
  8. The next 15 minutes should be used to generate possible solutions. This is not the time for any family member to explain and/or defend themselves – that’s not the point of the exercise.
  9. The next 10 minutes should be used to select one solution that will be completed that day – one solution that will be completed in a week – and one solution that will be completed in a month.
  10. The last 5 minutes are for hugs and kind words – so everyone leaves the meeting feeling safe, loved, whole and inspired.

If these steps are too challenging or intimidating, it is a good idea to hire a coach to guide your multigenerational family through the process.

As my mother-in-law and I discussed this grandmommy term further, I told my mother-in-law I wanted a superhero cape that had grandmommy on it because that’s how people look at me when I tell them I live with my mother-in-law and the two of us actually get along. She laughed and said maybe she would make said cape for me.

Stay tuned…

How does your family handle conflict and tension around family competition?

images 1, 2, 3

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