Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Name tags

Me and my BFF at a concert a few years ago
Just got off the phone with the person I have called my best friend for the past 15 years.  She and I rarely talk any more.  But when we do, we just pick up where we left off.  Aren't those friends the best?

Anyway, we were just discussing how blurry family lines are now for so many of us.  We have step parents, former step parents, half brothers and sisters, long term live in partners, you get the idea.

She was talking about working through her internal struggle with what name her newly added step-grandchildren would call her.  She was really worried about how her biological grandson would handle hearing his step brother call HIS grandma by the same name.

Birthmother Lisa kicked in.  Immediately I said, "Is the name exclusive for use by just one of your grandchildren? Can you have too many grandmas? "

She said she wanted to be fair to her grandson who has never had to share her with anyone else before. She was concerned for him.

As we talked more, it became apparent that her reaction to this new family dilemma stems from her own childhood.  As a young girl, when visiting her paternal grandparents she was not allowed to even speak about her half brother, they boy she lived with every day. They didn't even acknowledge that he existed since his father was not their son.  She always felt uncomfortable even speaking his name.  She knew it was clear who was and who was NOT family to them.

So sad.

Thankfully she is a better and more sensitive person because of it.  She has gone out of her way to tell her biological grandson that his step brothers and half brothers are always welcome in her home (they are all very little).  She lets him know that anyone that he considers family, she will consider family too.

I suppose that is why I was a little surprised at this newest development.  I know she shows the step-grandchildren love.  She keeps them, buys them gifts, and generally accepts them in the fold as if they are her own.  But it just goes to show how easily we all get hung up on titles.

It's funny to me, because I never have been.  Even when my oldest son was 5 years old (14 years ago!) and his dad and I were divorced.  One day, he confided in me that he didn't know what to call his step-mom.

Without even thinking, I told him that if he wanted to call her MOM when he was at their house, that was just fine with me.  Because at their house, she is the mom.  I assured him that I knew I was his mom and he was allowed to share that name with Christy too, because she is also a mom.  That was the end of that conversation, he was satisfied and he realized that he didn't have to feel guilty. (I strongly suspect he had already been calling her mom but was afraid to tell me.)

I reminded my friend on the phone about the dear little lady who I called mom for many years.  She was not my mother.  She was actually my grandmother's age.  But she treated me like her daughter. As time went on and she and I would sit and visit, I found myself loving her just like she was my mother.  The last few years she was alive, I often found myself calling her mom or momma, as a term of endearment for the special place she held in my heart.

By calling Evelyn mom, I was not renouncing my mother's position in my life.  I still called my mother mom.

I know lots of families who have Aunties and Uncles who have no relationship to the family at all.  It too is a term of endearment.

I asked my friend, what should I call my former step-children?  The kids who I raised in my home for 13 years.  I love them still.  I called them son and daughter when they lived with me.  But now what?  Do I have to take back that name tag?

It all gets so blurry.

So I am just going to call them what I think of them in my heart.  Son, daughter, mom, etc.  And if someone wants to get hung up on the titles, I will let them work that out.  Because it is pretty simple to me.

I have lots of sons.  I have a couple of daughters.  We have even been known to add an extra sister or two from time to time.  It's all good.

As a matter of fact, if someone else creeps into our lives we will welcome him or her with open arms.  And we will figure out what name tag to give them.  Because we have plenty of blank tags for the people we love.  No one has to surrender theirs to give to someone else.  We just make more.  I suppose in our family, name tags are just like love.  There is always plenty to go around.

1 comment:

MommySquared said...

love this ... would life be easier if others could think and live this way ....