It’s like this running joke. A cliché gag we’ve seen played out typically on sitcoms: the mom who is so unprepared, so unwilling to be thought of as “old,” that she refuses to be called Grandma. Someone, either her adult children or grand babies (or hell, she’ll do it herself ), comes up with an alternate — a kinder, gentler name to call this woman.
Now, she’s not trying to deny these young’uns. Of course she loves the kids. That’s a given. What she doesn’t love is being called Grandma.
So the nontraditional nickname creation begins …
Their actual first names. (whuuuttt?)
Woof. (*long stare*)
For my parents, this wasn’t their first time at the grandparents rodeo. My nieces christened them “Grandma” and “Granddad” decades ago, and my folks continue to wear those names quite proudly.
On my in-laws’ side, The Youngster is their first grandchild, and they were also raring to go. Grand Land, here we come! Actually, just before our son was born, my husband and I tried to go “cute” with my mother-in-law’s name. How about GranJan? (Her name is Janet.) Quickly, we collectively rolled our eyes at that one. And, yes, I tried to blame that silliness on pregnancy brain.
No-no-no. The MIL happily wanted to be known as Grandma. My father-in-law was given Grandpa — a little distinction that my son doesn’t let you slip up on. Make the error of saying Grandpa when you really mean Granddad, and he will correct you.
It still makes all four parents giggle to hear the G-word from these kids. And to be honest, it kind of tickles me too. I only knew one grandparent: my maternal grandmother. Sadly, the others passed long before I came on the scene. I called her Ma — because everyone else did — but sometimes went for Gran or Gran-Gran. She was lovely and answered to all of it.
Curious, what do your kids call your parents? Is it a nickname you created? Is it a flubbed name (because of toddler lisp cuteness) that just stuck? Or is it a traditional cultural name like Bibi? Leave a comment below. As always, I’m interested to hear your take.
As I drove by the house with its orange, pro-gun rights flag flapping in the frigid breeze, I thought … well, first I thought, What the hell? I was actually considering pulling over and hopping out of my car to snap a photo. However, I was running too close to being late for a meeting (and I had flash visions of an ugly, git off mah lawn-style confrontation with the owners), so I kept it moving.
But the idea of the flag stayed with me for much of the morning. I started thinking about what it would look like if homeowners — more specific, parents — posted bright flags outside their doors letting you know that they indeed had firearms in the house. I know. The whole thing crosses many lines and bumps up against civil liberties, but it still made think how these flags could pull a very prickly subject out of the shadows and into the literal open air.
The loaded-weapon-in-the-house issue swirls around my head each time I read about the number of children shot to death in the last year or about a young child taking a gun to school or — worse — ends up dead after finding and playing with their parents’ firearm at home. It comes up again when I think about my son soon going off on more solo playdates (he had his first one ever just two weeks ago).
I’m a confident person and trust my choices as a mother, but having to ask a parent (and somewhat stranger) if they have guns in their home makes me oddly uncomfortable and sheepish. I haven’t done yet. I haven’t had to ask so far. But part of me feels like I should get un-sheepish about it, because it’s about safety and protecting these young folks.
Curious, are parents actually following through on this? Are you asking other parents or guardians this important question before allowing your kids go to playdates, sleepover, birthday parties alone? And on the other side of it, have you been asked about firearms in your home? If so, were you insulted? Annoyed?
Definitely leave a comment below. I’m always up for hearing your take.
Yesterday I read Ta-Nihisi Coates’ latest piece in The Atlantic on my iPhone. Midway through the first paragraph, I felt my ears warming up (certainly turning red) and my breath quickened in that way it does when raw emotions — anger, fear, heartbreak, outrage, a confused mix of all of them — start to boil up in my gut. Coates met and talked with Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, and he took his 13-year-old son with him. Coates brought his child, he says, because 13 is “about the age when a black boy begins to directly understand what his country thinks of him.”
By the time I reached the end of the piece — mindful and reading McBath’s parting words over twice and slowly — I had to set my phone down on my lap so it wouldn’t slip from my sweaty hand. McBath, this mother without her only child, turned to Coates’ son and, before giving the boy a hug, said:
“You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid of being you.”
This shook my spirit, because I have been thinking a lot about when I will have to tell my own brown-faced boy the same words, assuring him of his clear and true value, despite what the world is trying to convince him about himself. I’ve been thinking a lot about when I will have to have The Talk, about what others assume about him, about his life, about his intentions as he browses through a store or when he hops in a car with his friends — music blaring — or when he strides down the night’s sidewalk. You have to be you.
Then this morning I woke up to see that two years ago today, February 26, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. And it all comes back fresh. Another black mother without her child. Another family destroyed because one man didn’t understand or care that “the idea of feeling threatened is not the same thing as being threatened.”
This erasure story — the one about the unarmed black boy dusted away like pesky lint — cannot continue. It simply cannot. But the real outrage is … it does and will continue. It is happening on loop, just with different cities, different details, different juries — same verdict. I don’t know exactly how to move the needle, how to reshape the ending to this horrific story, but something must change. Because our black babies’ lives literally depend on it. Because we need to be able to look them in the eyes and say with conviction: You have to be you.
Late last month, I asked if you — like me — felt that parents have gone from clever to snide. It just seems like there’s a proliferation of posts, listicles, essays, new studies, and opinion pieces basically saying that having kids is the living worst.
Then a few weeks ago came this piece on Slate by Ruth Graham, a childless woman who says that all of these realtalk-parenthood-is-the-pits pieces is a lot to process. (The five links in Graham’s first few paragraph alone — Lordy!) And the cumulative effect on ”a possible future parent, it’s utterly terrifying.”
Over the weekend, NYTimes Op-Ed Columnist Ross Douthat also wrote about this parental pity party, as he called it, and the “internet’s ever-expanding Book of Parental Lamentations.” Douthat wonders why even he has become such a whiner about fatherhood, too eager to tell it like is and ostensibly scaring potential parents off. He also touches on Jennifer Senior’s book, All Joy and No Fun (which I’m reading right now, and very much enjoying), as good place to find some explanations for why parents feel so utterly doomed. And he added this angle to things:
“The ‘look how impossible my life has become since I had kids’ genre is a way of passing judgment, on people who have opted out of the parental mission altogether.”
I linked to Douthat’s op-ed on MMM’s FB page and to my Twitter, asking if folks agreed with the “passing judgment” part of it. This launched a really great conversation between two other moms and me on Twitter. One of the women, a mother of a teenager, said she’s had enough of the “woe is me” complaints from parents because it felt like the same voice over and over — a privileged voice.
I can see that. Working class parents aren’t out here moaning about how much they miss long, leisurely brunches now that #thembabies entered the scene. They’re typically focused on more pressing matters, like, making ends meet and keeping their families fed and under a reliable roof.
That “same voice” issue could also be an offshoot of the emergence and popularity of the raw truth brand of mom blogger. (Dooce‘s Heather Armstrong is often dubbed the godmother of this style of blogging; she’s been doing it successfully for the past 13 years.)
And there there’s social media, where everyone is either trying to climb on top of the noise to post the funniest, most frank and ribald thing about life in the parenting trenches — in under 140 characters — OR they’re showing you how Instagram-filtered perfect their families’ lives are. Honestly, it all starts to melt together into a singular, repetitive sound. One voice.
I’m hoping to bring a different tone to this ongoing conversation about parenthood. It’s hard, what we’re doing here. Yes, it’s challenging raising these tiny humans. And you’ll regularly need to hear Amens from the choir, the congregation and — listen — the preacher too. So …
Go ahead, vent about the smashed flat screen.
If You’re in the Throes of Postpartum Depression, reach out, speak up, find community, get support, talk it through.
I’m not saying parents need to pipe down about their struggles. Not at all. I just hope we can ease up on playing the MY LIFE IS RUUUIINNNNEDDDDD track on this inspired album so much. The CD is kinda scratched.