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My mom remarried to a great guy who has been absolutely wonderful to my kids. Ever since my mom and he were dating my kids have called him Mr. Joe. Lately my mom has been bugging me to get the kids to call him Grampa. I agree that he deserves more respect than Mr. The problem is that he isn't their real grampa so I don't really want them calling him that. Does anybody have any suggestions on what we should have the kids call him? They are 9 and 12 years old.

EDIT: I appreciate the comments regarding different variations of grampa and hearing how others have no issues with calling their step-granddad grampa. But I was hoping maybe someone has some suggestions for names that show the importance of the step-granddad without calling him some variation of the grampa name but still has a feeling of warmth and family in the name (I hope that makes sense).

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Why not simply address him with his first name only? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 28 '11 at 18:50
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I guess it depends on how you define real grampa, but anyone married to Grandma I would have to consider Grampa. Just saying... –  MichaelF Apr 29 '11 at 17:07
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I guess it comes down to whether your kids feel this way and what they want to call Mr. Joe, after all its going to come down to what they want. Talk to them, see how it goes and respect their decision. –  MichaelF Apr 29 '11 at 17:58
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Dunk, after reading your question and all of the comments you have made, it really seems like this is a personal issue for you which can't be solved in this arena. As I see it, you want a new name for Mr. Joe to endear him to the family, but not welcome him in enough to give him the name of "grandpa", or any of the other variants of that name. Michael F. made some great points, but if tltles mean that much to you, I would suggest you just stick with "Mr. Joe" and explain to your mother why a marriage doesn't make a grandfather. –  Kate Apr 30 '11 at 22:33
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Personally, I think you AND your mom should stay out of it. If the kids are happy with "Mr Joe" and he is happy with it, then there should be no issue. If they want to call him "Grandpa" or some variant and he is happy with it, again there should be no issue. –  Kevin May 2 '11 at 20:14
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11 Answers 11

My mom died before my kids were born. My father remarried after my kids were born. We struggle with the question of names too.

I think to answer this question you need to first ask yourself how important names/titles really are (some would say it's just a name) and then ask yourself how important the person is and how this name would make them feel.

My husband calls his parents by their first names and has never called them "Mom" or "Dad". However, as grandparents, they adopted the title and quite like it!

If I had been more magnanimous, my father's wife would enjoy the title of grandmother. My dad refers calls her "grandma" to the children, but he's the only one. It really doesn't cost us anything. After all, special friends get the title of aunt or uncle!

Since your children are older and haven't know your step-father as grandpa from early on, if you decide to re-name your step-father, I would suggest you hold a re-naming ceremony in the same way that someone is knighted. This could even happen on an auspicious birthday or family occasion. This will give you a chance to formally recognize all that he has brought to your family so that he is honoured, as befits the name.

EDIT: If you are looking for a completely different name that is closer than "Uncle" but more distant than "Grandpa", perhaps you could find a nickname instead; something that is meaningful to your children that also relates to your step-dad. This might be reciprocated by the children getting nicknames too (thus not being "grandchildren"). For example, if they all watch Star Wars movies together, maybe he is referred to as "JediMaster" and they become "the Young Jedi". My cousins called my grandmother "LBBG" (Little Bit Big Grandma) because their other grandmother was much bigger than them. She embraced this and started signing all of her correspondence to us with LBBG!

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+1 for the re-naming ceremony. What a great and fun idea! –  Beofett Apr 28 '11 at 17:33
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I guess titles are important too me. I can't imagine not having my kids call me dad, as your husband does with his parents. It would break my heart. It would also break my heart if I were to get divorced and my wife remarried and they called some other guy dad. Fortunately, that divorce thing isn't an issue:) I am kind of looking at things from this point of view. I was hoping to find some title that gives importance but isn't taking the grampa title from their grampa. –  Dunk Apr 29 '11 at 16:53
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As it is most kids might have 2 grampa's, what's 3? –  MichaelF Apr 29 '11 at 17:15
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How do you refer to grandparents formally in your family, as a full name? For example, many families use Grandpa LastName. What if they were to call him "Grandpa Joe" instead of strait "Grandpa". This is similar to "Mr. Joe" but elevated. –  nGinius Apr 29 '11 at 18:02
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+1 for LBBG and also "Grandpa Joe" (the comment) –  hawbsl May 1 '11 at 23:18
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If he behaves like a grampa, I think he deserves to be called grampa. We call my stepfather grandad (even though I call him by his first name).

It can be more complicated if the real grandfather also is around and resents sharing the title with the step-granddad. In that case I would let the real grandfather have a veto.

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My real father passed away 7 years ago. I can't get over the idea that it shows disrespect towards him if I use his title for somebody else. Even if that somebody else behaves like grampa. That is why I am having such a hard time with this question. –  Dunk Apr 29 '11 at 16:46
    
@Dunk Something you might consider is the children's desire to have someone to call Grandpa (if they have such a desire). Yes, there is an issue about respect to your departed father but, as you can clearly see, the issue is more complex than that. –  DrJ Jun 16 '13 at 3:37
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I'm in pretty much the same exact situation you are in (except for my son being 7 months old, which does change some aspects pretty significantly). My mother and her husband sent my wife and I lists of names they were considering, and honestly, we hated most of them. I strongly feel that the parents should be the ones coming up with the list of potential names, or at least an active participant in the process of choosing, although this could depend on your relationship with your mother.

Just make sure that whatever you do decide on is something "Mr. Joe" and your mother will both like. Not everyone will be happy being called "Mee-maw" :)

Here is a pretty good list of possibilities.

That website has a list of international names, too, which can be a great idea if your family has one or more strong ethnic identities. We were looking at "babushka and dedushka", for example.

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Thanks for the list. Unfortunately, I didn't care for any of them but that doesn't mean my mom, the kids and Mr. Joe won't also, so I'll forward it on to them for an opinion. –  Dunk Apr 29 '11 at 16:58
    
@Dunk yeah, there are some really horrible nicknames there. You should have seen some of the ones my mother sent us. I should have kept those emails, because some of the ones they came up with were truly bizarre (to me). "Frick and Frack" is the one that stands out the most, though. –  Beofett Apr 29 '11 at 17:58
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I don't think the name that your kids use for him is going to have a major impact on how they view him. If your mom is worried that your kids do not seem to accept him as warmly as their grandpa as she does as her husband, you should probably have a frank talk with her about that issue.

If your kids already love him, then chances are that "Mr. Joe" is a phrase filled with positive emotions for them. I'm not entirely sure it's worth changing the name entirely and losing those associations in order to gain the default associations of grandpa or grandfather or grandad or gramps or Grandpa Joe or whatnot. You should probably consider this carefully and possibly discuss with your Mom and Joe.

But there are plenty of variants on "Grandpa" to choose from (see above), so you needn't worry about a name collision with other sets of grandparents. Since your children are used to calling him Joe already, changing the impersonal "Mr." to a more personal "Grandad" or somesuch, while keeping "Joe", might be a good compromise that satisfies everyone's preferences adequately. (Explaining the change should be easy enough: now that he's married to your mom, he's part of the family, so you're going to use "Grand___" instead of "Mr.".)

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+1 - "Mr. Joe" is definately a phrase filled with positive emotions for the kids. The kids warmly accept him. I think my mom wants to change the name in order to make Mr. Joe feel like he is more important in the kids life. After all, they've called him Mr. Joe from the first day they met him and he has earned a much higher level of importance since then. So I agree in that regard. It is simply the grampa (and variants) title that I am having problems with since they already have 2 grampas (one of whom passed away). –  Dunk Apr 29 '11 at 17:06
    
@Dunk - But if he realizes how much they like him, and they realize it, how much does it really matter if the name sounds to outsiders like "Grandpa" or "Mr. Joe"? In social settings with friends, maybe it would make a difference. But if it's just for within the family, it sounds like things are already going well. –  Rex Kerr Apr 29 '11 at 17:41
    
I agree with your opinion. Everyone seems happy too me. However, my mom has been pushing the issue a little bit and I can see her point. That's why I'm interested in some compromise win-win solution such as an alternative name that doesn't necessarily imply he's grampa. –  Dunk Apr 29 '11 at 20:16
    
"that doesn't necessarily imply he's grampa" but he is, isn't he? Sounds like you are trying to give a title to biological grandparents vs. grandparents via marriage. The kids don't care about that at all. Hopefully both you and your mom can agree on that. –  DA01 Sep 10 '12 at 21:40
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What people call each other reflects their relationship with each other. It neither adds nor takes away from their relationship or their memory of anyone else. It seems like you're the only one who has a problem with it. I can understand that. My mom divorced and remarried when I was over 30. Since I never lived with my stepdad I don't feel like he filled the "Dad" role in my life, so I call him by his first name. He does, however, currently fill the Grandpa role in my childrens' lives, and I see nothing wrong with him being addressed that way.

Children themselves are perfectly capable of adjusting to names. My siblings and I called my Dad "Honey" until I was 5, because that's what my Mom called him. They asked us to stop and we did. My children call any old man who is nice to them "Grandpa," but we don't correct them because they are perfectly capable of understanding they have no familial connection.

I had foster kids who would call me "Dad" at home because that's what my biological daughter called me, but when we visited their birth parents they didn't feel comfortable calling me Dad, and I understood perfectly. The name is really the least important part of a relationship.

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I am amazed at all the different advice given on this subject of what to call a step parent or step grand parent. I was a widower who remarried a widow with three daughters. I had three sons, all were grown with children of their own. On my side of the family there was no biological grandmother, on her side there was no biological grandfather. We have been married 15 years and she is Nana to my grandchildren, and to hers, and I am grampa to my grandchildren, and to hers for this reason, the biological grandparents are not alive. They cannot hold, touch, or love these children, we can because for whatever reason known only to God, we are here. We are grandparents to all in every sense of reality. Don't make this difficult beyond what it should be. They are married to each other, therefore they are grandparents to each son or daughters children on each side of the family. There are too many real problems in the world to make this one of them. Live life!!

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For my family, the grandparent title means more about the role they play in our kids lives than genetics, so my kids' step-grandparents are 'Granddad' and 'Nanny'.

(not criticising you for feeling differently btw, just thought you might like to hear a different pov!)

That said, with the two step-grandparents, four biological grandparents and five great-grandparents so we have a Grandpa, a Grandma and have had good fun with nicknames to differentiate between some of the Nanny's & Granddads. 'Nanny Woof' has a dog, 'Nanny Bis' has biscuits, 'Granddad Fish' has - surprise - pet fish, etc.

The key thing here is it was my son who came up with the nicknames, so they were fun, they stuck, and it's hard to be too insulted by a nickname given to you innocently by a cute two year old ;)

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In principle I agree that the role is more important. However, when one party can't fulfill that role because they passed away, then I can't help but feel that it is disrpespecting of that person's memory to give the title of what would have been their role to someone else. It would have been cool if the kids came up with something on their own but they are now firmly entrenched with Mr. Joe unless we tell them to call him something else. –  Dunk Apr 29 '11 at 17:12
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There are many names for a Grandad. The important thing is that it should be something only the grand-children (or step-grandchildren) use, so it is intimate, personal and endearing. "Mr Joe" isn't ticking those boxes. Can you find something that does (but isn't "Grampa")?

Edit: Actually, reading again some of your comments, "Mr Joe" does seem to be the intimate and personal name, it's already doing a great job as a "grampa" name and "belongs" to the kids (and to him). Sorry to say it but perhaps you just need to carefully and lovingly help your mum to see this.

The artificiality of forcing a name change on all parties might do more harm (certainly more awkwardness) than any potential benefit.

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No one will replace your dad. However, in his absence maybe he would be pleased that someone was stepping up to love the people he would love if he were still here? I don't know if that alternative view might help. In our family we have a whole mess of step this and step that, and so names are often more about roles than biology. Perhaps grandpa joe? or big joe?

If you would have used grandpa for your dad, perhaps you could use grandad?

Know that whatever you decide, your father is honoured by who you have become.

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I'm a father myself and if I passed away, I would in no way feel disrespected if my grandchildren started calling their step grandfather "Granpa Joe", especially if he is "absolutely wonderful" with them. On the contrary, I would be happy that they had such a positive figure in their life.

However, I don't think you should force the children to call him that. If they choose to, let them. If they don't, don't force it.

On the matter of respecting your father, maybe having a tradition where you do something he loved around his favorite holiday every year to remember him.

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We made a point of being inclusive when it came to family titles. That means among other things, that the woman who married my (divorced) father just a few months before my own wedding is "Grandma" to my kids, because she wanted to be. It also means that each person chose their own titles - some chose what their other grandchildren were already calling them, for example - and as it happened, we ended up with no need to use last names or initials or other distinguishers to tell them apart.

A parent who decides they are in charge of other people's names is likely to fight battles of control with those people and with the children for a long time. If "Mr Joe" wants to say, one day, "hey kids, now that I'm married to Gramma it sure would be cool if you'd call me Grampa Joe" there really should be no impact on your relationship with your own divorced father or your memory of your late father. You can have more than one sister. (I have three, not all of whom have the same mother as me.) You typically have more than one grandfather. It's all good. Were you able to take that attitude, I think you'd have an easier time navigating the waters of family dynamics.

But I know, that wasn't the question. IF you want to promote Mr Joe from "friend of the family" to "almost family" then I suggest working with your mother and Joe to come up with a nickname, so that the kids are the only ones who call him that, and it is a bit special and supports his special role in their lives. Just do keep in mind that he may not be entirely flattered at being "almost family" and there may be more benefit in finding a way to promote him to "family". It doesn't mean anyone is being replaced or forgotten. You're just opening the circle a little more.

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