Ask Amy: Probably best to let Grandma be Grandma

FresnoJune 23, 2013 

Dear Amy: I have two young children who are just beginning to talk. I asked my dad's girlfriend of 12 years, "Kate," if she would like my kids to call her "Grandma," and she very graciously accepted but added that she wasn't sure my mom was going to like that very much.

I maintained that it was my choice. She lives with my dad (who goes by "Grandpa"), so it didn't seem like a big deal.

Tonight, my mom found out, and she became very angry.

I know my mom is still very upset that my dad left their marriage for this woman, but Kate has been supportive and loving and generally everything a grandma could be.

I don't know what to do because I risk hurting someone's feelings either way.

— Confused in New York

Dear Confused: If you don't want your kids to pay the consequences of your parents' actions, then why does it seem like you are using them to punish your mother just a little bit?

"Kate" was wise to see how loaded this issue is, and she was kind enough to think of the effect this would have on your mother. You? Not so much.

The usual protocol is for children to call their biological grandparents by traditional names, then to use a separate but equally lovely and often adorable nickname for step-grands and others in a "grandmotherly position."

However, you can do whatever you want to do, including admit that you might have made an error and correct it (if you care to) before it becomes too confusing for the kids.

Dear Amy: My best friend "Doug" and I decided to live together over the summer before we go back to college.

We planned the move last fall so we would have plenty of time to look for jobs and split the costs.

I got a job, but Doug did not; he didn't even apply. I found him a backup gig doing sales, and we agreed that he could spend the first month looking for jobs, and if he didn't find one, he'd take the backup.

A month has now come and gone, and he still won't work. He just sits all day in our apartment and plays computer games.

— Best friend

Dear Friend: I'm going to assume that "Doug" isn't paying his share of the rent. If he is paying his share, then other than being disappointed in his inertia, you don't really have leverage over how he chooses to waste his time.

Doug's lethargy could be due to depression, drinking and/or drug use, emotional paralysis or — the old standby — the desire to take advantage of an awesome opportunity to simply do nothing in particular.

Call his parents, tell them what's going on and ask them to come get him. If they won't/can't, then you'll have to tell him, "Doug, I don't know what's going on with you, but I need the rent by Saturday. If you don't come up with it, we'll have to pack up your stuff, and I'll drive you to your folks."

Dear Amy: Replying to the letter from "Sad Daughter," whose father's new girlfriend seemed to be alienating him from the family, I think it's possible that the father could have senility, which would make him vulnerable. I hope the adult children keep in close touch.

— Been there

Dear Been There: Judging from the responses to this letter, older men seem to be somewhat prone to clinging to a new partner after their wives have died.


Contact Amy Dickinson via email at, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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