Would The Real Grandparents Step Forward?

February 28, 2017

Holidays at the beach, helping with the gardening and tea cakes with lemon icing; these are the memories of my childhood which remind me of the important role that grandparents play in a child’s life.

I commenced my life with four grandparents and a great-grandparent, the mother of my maternal grandmother.  I had a Poppy, a Granny Soda, a Grandpa, Da and a granny.

But what’s in a name? Apparently a lot in our world of step-parents and non-traditional families, where newborns can now potentially enjoy the love of eight grandparents (or more!) instead of the usual four. In my own case, my children have seven grandparents who are available to pass on their worldly advice while also slipping them another lolly.

But let me take you back to when I was pregnant, and already exhausted, with my first child.  My ex-husband (yes that should give you some clues about where this article is going) and I were sitting having our evening meal when I raised the issue of what all the ‘grandparents’ in the family were going to be called.

On my side there were two step parents and on his side just one, and we had both of our parents.  His response to my question diverted the fact that our children would be blessed to have so many grandpas, nannas and mamars into a parallel universe.

“Well, the blood grandparents will be called grandma or grand-dad or whatever.  They can choose. The others aren’t really grandparents,” or something similar to that, you get my drift.  It had never crossed my mind that family, in whatever form it presented itself, was not ‘real’ family.

In our circumstances,  I argued that with every relationship it was up to the people involved to establish it, maintain it, nurture it or leave it to fade away. This meant it was up to the kids and our parents and partners as to how these relationship would turn out. My enthusiasm continued. I reminded my then partner that it takes a village to raise a child.  I pointed out our familial situation would mean that our children would be in the amazing position of having the support of seven grandparents. Ultimately they would determine how strong or distant their relationships would be.

Nobody questions the mantels of Aunty and Uncle, as well as combination of these thanks to same-sex partnerships. The dedication of these names are always given to one blood relative and their partner. It’s a done deal and has been for generations. No one goes around saying that Aunty Val isn’t really part of the family because she simply married Roger.  So why can it be such an issue with grandparents and new partners?

In an era where step-parents are as prevalent as graffiti, the issue of blood relatives vs step-parents and who claims the preferred grandparent term seems to be an issue that faces some modern couples. Luckily for most, it’s more about the celebration of a wonderful expansive family.

But we were not the only couple who has wobbled through a conversation of this type.  There are people who have really strong opinions about blood relatives vs those who have married in and the appropriation of traditional titles. But as the traditional family unit continues to change so do our attitudes and I am hopeful that conversations like these will simply cease to exist.

How did we tackle this difference of opinion? We ended up speaking with all the family and determined who wanted to be who in the zoo with me pressing a ‘one in, all in’ agenda.  We eventually settled with a Mamar, an Oma, two Nanny’s, a Grandpa, a first name and a Poppy.  Traditional names within each side of the family played a part but these affectionately known titles evolved over time and then stuck thanks to the children. Let’s be real about this. If you take the names out of the equation you are simply left with a couple of kids and a group of doting baby-boomers.

In a world where most parents find themselves in the workforce and consumed by busy lives the fact that we have even more grandparents in families fills me with joy. More people to help with support, encouragement and guidance, a wider melting pot of experience, opinion and personalities, and the opportunity for more people at the dinner table. The more the merrier I say. What’s not to love?

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Libby Fordham
Writer, thinker, creator – Libby is interested in the things that make the world turn. She loves to explore modern life, its ironies, complexities and culture. She is currently writing her first book while also juggling a business, her art and her family.