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posted: 9/18/2013 9:05 AM

What's in a name? Hurt grandma wants to know

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Q. When my grandson was born, I thought it was the greatest thing, and it probably is. However, he is 8 and his parents told him it is OK to call me by my first name. I do not agree. He has, but for a few times, not called me Grandma.

Also, they combined their two last names, my son and daughter-in-law, not hyphenated, as his last name.

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I am a very warm person but so hurt that I have lost my closeness to my grandson. It is very hard, and I feel myself distancing my feelings toward him. My son does not feel their way is wrong.

What is in a name or a title that makes it so important?

A Lost Grandma

A. (Reading letter to spouse for confirmation.)

To be sure I'm reading you correctly: You feel distant from your grandson because of these two naming issues, and not because anyone prevents you from seeing this child?

Q. He comes to my home usually on the weekends to visit and spend some time with me. I feel so distant and hurt because of the last-name issue and because he calls me by my first name.

Lost Grandma again

A. It's as if someone journeyed barefoot from the corners of the earth to deliver you a sapphire, and you're (peeved) it's not a ruby.

If I agree to call you Grandma, will you stop being so blockheaded about one of the most precious things life has to offer?

That might be the best deal I have for you, because I am unable to comprehend the idea that a name can get in the way of a bond with a grandchild. OK, if an 8-year-old named me You Old Cow, then I'd surely be in your spot, too insulted to invite the child into my heart but you're exhibiting such a low threshold for insult that you're allowing a difference of opinion on tradition to get in the way of giving and receiving love. And it's not even the child's opinion, but someone else's.

This family is including you in his life, weekly! Their differing values aren't rejections of you, or even your values. They're merely reflections of time and change and circumstance. So, "What is in a name or a title that makes it so important?" Your own stubborn self-righteousness.

There's an apple at the base of your tree in the form of your son, who's equally blockheaded in encouraging his son to use your first name when he knows it bothers you. (You have absolutely no say in the last name, so I encourage you to draw a smiley face on it. He wears respect for women openly! Good for him.)

But your son can be wrong all day and it doesn't change the fact that you can control only your decisions, not his.

So you can talk to the boy, and propose giving you a special name that only he uses. Miss Firstname, say, or Grammie Firstname, or, hmm, does he have any ideas?

Or you can decide, just decide, to get over yourself and place more value in loving and being loved and "very warm" than being right.

Or you can flush this love down the toilet on a technicality.

Your call.

• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

2013 The Washington Post

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