My son has always called his grandma (my mother-in-law) the Italian word for grandma, "nonna" and his grandpa "nonno", the Italian word for grandpa. Recently my son called his grandpa "nonno" in front of his new wife and she then told him to start calling him just Grandpa Steve instead of "nonno".

I asked why and she said because it sounds like my father-in-law and mother-in-law are still married and that's not fair to her. I just looked at my father-in-law and he didn't say anything. My husband wasn't present when this conversation happened but he wasn't happy. He said there's no way she (step-grandma) is going to change the way my son calls my father-in-law.

What should I do? Am I overreacting or am I right for also feeling like she has no say so in what my child calls his grandpa?

  • 4
    Are you sure this is a parenting.se question? I mean obviously the names used for different people is a parenting choice, but all the uncertainty seems about minding adults' feelings. Maybe interpersonal.stackexchange.com would be better.
    – user26011
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 23:47
  • 1
    Makes no sense that grandpa would not mean not still married. Tell her not her business.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:10
  • 1
    How old is your son?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:31
  • 1
    @notstoreboughtdirt interpersonal don't do "what should I do questions"
    – WendyG
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 9:41

2 Answers 2


I think you should tell your son to call his grandpa whatever he is comfortable calling his grandpa unless his grandpa asks him to call him something else. You're not overreacting and I think you are right in feeling this way. If your son is uncomfortable with the change, it's not up to her. Explain this to her next time, calmly, without fighting.

Don't entertain any follow-up arguments. Entertaining any follow-up indicates that there is a choice in the matter when there isn't.


If your FIL's new wife is not your son's grandmother, your son calling your MIL "grandma" and your FIL "grandpa" while the new wife is just called e.g. "Jennifer" should still be just as offensive to her.
Thus her claim that "grandpa is OK but nonno is offensive" (English good, Italian bad) looks to be at least partially motivated by racial issues. Anyways...

In any case, how your son calls your FIL is an issue between your son and your FIL, and no one else.
Your FIL might not be comfortable talking about the issue in front of his new wife, but you should ask him directly when she's not around:

  • If he doesn't want to be called nonno anymore, ask him to please have a talk with your son to explain that he wants to be called "grandpa" from now on, since you are afraid your son wouldn't understand such a change if it came from anybody else.
  • If he wants your son to call him nonno, then tell her wife that you think nonno is OK and she should not interfere in the relationship between your son and his grandfather. Do not tell her that your FIL agrees with you, even if he does: your goal is to protect the FIL-son relationship, not to destroy the FIL-wife one.

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