Positively Paula

Stepfamily Name Calling Doesn't Have to Be Negative

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Have you ever experienced learning or thinking about a person, place, or thing and then suddenly it pops up everywhere around you? That's how I've been feeling since I wrote about stepfamily terms. There is yet another aspect of terms and naming in the stepfamily experience - what to call extended family members. The sooner you tackle this topic, the better! Even seven years into a remarriage, this little, but sometimes awkward situation arises!

I remember the first time my new in-laws visited our home after I was remarried. My teenage son was standing in the kitchen with my mother-in-law and me and I could see he was struggling to get her attention. It dawned on me that he didn't know what to call her. And, I felt awful that I hadn't initiated a discussion earlier (with my son or my mother-in-law) about what my kids were going to call their new step-grandparents.

I jumped in and started the quick conversation, but it felt really awkward to me. I'm not sure how they felt at the time. But, why hadn't I thought of it sooner?

A few weekends ago my husband, son and I visited my stepson who is away at college. (Or, shall I say "our son?" Again, here I go wondering if it would bother anyone, especially my stepson, if I call him "our son" in public. And, this is STILL after being remarried for nearly eight years!) Anyway, my mother joined us for the trip.

My mom, son, and I went in to see my stepson's dorm room. When we entered, he was the perfect gentleman and introduced us to his roommate. He introduced his stepbrother as his "stepbrother," me as "Paula, my stepmom," and then he just paused when it came to my mom. He normally calls her "Miss Andrea."  Again, a little awkward silence...or, maybe it was just my imagination.

I spoke up and said, "This is his step-grandma, my mom, Miss Andrea." Phew! Having an analytic background, I am well aware of my tendency to overthink. But, really, I've been thinking about how well or not we've covered stepfamily names and terms within our family. I know the bottom line is to have good communication and everyone should do what works for them as a family. But, am I the only one still trying to figure all of this out? And, does my stepson even want to refer to my mom as "step-grandma?" I have no idea, but I plan to find out.

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