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Grandmother insisting on calling DC by nickname she has chosen...

(86 Posts)
barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 01:45:27

Is it a bit batshit of my mother to periodically decide on nicknames for family members and insist on calling the person by that name? Usually the nicknames have nothing to do with the person's real name or interests or anything - they're either things designed to highlight some aspect of my mother (her favourite apparent family connection this week, or her favourite historical figure this week), or they're slightly belittling, faintly nasty, faintly judgemental - but never so overt that anyone casually overhearing would be able to say "no that's not right". The only time my mother ever uses someone's real name is when she's furious with them.

Why i'm wondering is I will be telling my dear mother about my pregnancy in a few days' time. Based on past experience I know that one of the first things she'll do is come up with one or more nicknames for my DC. Inevitably these will be nicknames that are all about her - family cultural connections that she likes telling people about because it makes her feel special despite the cultural connections being so distant and tenuous that this makes her look like a total loon.

Having sighed, rolled my eyes, and put up with it as you'd put up with an irritating 8 year old doing the same thing, all my life (though i do have the long-term effect that I hate my given name because I only ever heard it when I was in trouble), i'm aware that turning round and saying "actually it's a really annoying habit, would you stop it" is going to look like an overreaction. Any reaction from me is likely to be met with being told i'm oversensitive and humourless and that it's only words and why am I being so nasty to my poor mother.

However, my instinct re my DC is that I will be putting my foot down and telling her that this child will have a name and no, it won't be a nickname chosen by her, and that it is disrespectful and rude of her to do this.

My sister didn't stand up to her over this, and I remember my niece getting confused and upset repeatedly when our mother kept changing her name and refusing to call her by her real name, once niece was old enough to know what was going on. Our mother kept saying that it was because she was proud of her grandchild that she wanted to call DN by something that demonstrated her "real" heritage (see point above about said heritage being so distant that it's ridiculous - as well as it really being only to do with our mother). Niece now has learnt to roll her eyes and just ignore it.

Do I put my foot down for my DC? Or am I in fact being PFB, humourless and oversensitive?

SeriousCreativeBlock Tue 28-Jun-16 01:50:12

Yanbu! You need to put your foot down early to stop this going on longer and potentially confusing your DS. She had her chance to name her children, this is yours.
My DGM insists on doing this sometimes. DD has a name very similar to Charlotte and my DGM will sometimes say "hello Letty!" Which does my head in and I just say "No that's not her name, it's X"

AnnaMarlowe Tue 28-Jun-16 02:01:23

Just ignore her.

As your children get old enough they will:

Tell Granny "that's not my name"
Can be taught to ignore nickname grin
Can be taught that Granny behaves in some odd ways but that doesn't stop us being polite to her face

My DC are only 8yo. They completely see through both sets of GPs. Both sets adore the DC but have their own foibles.

At only 8 yo they have worked out on their own which foibles are harmless and which are not. One set of GPs are blissfully unaware that this analysis of their behaviour is ongoing.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 02:02:10

Phew. It does kind of feel like my mother can't relate to anyone unless she's decided to confer an identity on them, whether or not the conferral makes even the slightest sense. She often does it in a faintly bullying way, too, which is unpleasant for a child to have to experience.

I remember being about 12 and getting called "Napoleon" for a few months because she wanted to highlight the fact I'd apparently eaten too many biscuits at my Grandmother's place and was therefore a pig --> Napoleon in Animal Farm. She told anyone else who asked that it was because I was short and heroic and knew how to get my own way, but would then later remind me it was because I was ill-tempered like Napoleon, as well as piggy around sweet biscuits.

Out2pasture Tue 28-Jun-16 02:06:47

Leave your mom be, sounds fun and unique. What a great quirky story for your dc to tell when they're 20+.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 02:14:17

really Out2pasture?

I've never found it fun or unique. It's always obviously been all about her - and it's not fun, it's just boring and irritating to have your mother refuse to relate to you except through a lens of whatever her current boring posturing interest is, or what her current slightly nasty interpretation of you happens to be.

For example over the biscuit thing - my grandmother regularly ate entire packets of sweet biscuits by herself. So it wouldn't have been out of place (even if ill-advised) for her grandchildren to end up eating too many biscuits when they were at her place. DM wouldn't ever have put boundaries in place to stop it happening - she'd just pick on one child afterwards - and not the other - and not say to the grandmother "no harm done but can you make sure this doesn't happen again please".

WindPowerRanger Tue 28-Jun-16 02:21:27

i'm aware that turning round and saying "actually it's a really annoying habit, would you stop it" is going to look like an overreaction. Any reaction from me is likely to be met with being told i'm oversensitive and humourless and that it's only words and why am I being so nasty to my poor mother.

I think it is worth putting your foot down. You will have to fight a lifetime of conditioning not to stand up to your mother. Just shrug your shoulders at any of that and say something like "Whether that's true or not, I don't want you to use nicknames. Just use the given name."

The Napoleon thing is truly shit. Really nasty. Don't let anyone guilt you into backing down.

Out2pasture Tue 28-Jun-16 02:23:03

so what were the family nicknames, after all that was the title of your beef.
As for early childhood confusion, plenty of kids learn two or more languages and figure out who is who.

DontMindMe1 Tue 28-Jun-16 02:33:50

she's very passive aggressive isn't she?

Best way to deal with ppl like that when they refuse to stop-a) go low/no contact until they get it or b) do it right back - and if others join in it's even better.

After years of going by my nickname i changed it officially via deed poll. My siblings-all younger than me bar one- still choose to call me by my birth name even though i've said the only ones 'allowed' are my parents. Even though i correct them everytime they say it. Their excuse - wait for it.........they 'forget'!!!!!!

Your name is a big part of your identity and it's belittling and rude to consistently refuse to call someone by their choice name. And i agree that it's also a form of bullying, albeit a very passive aggressive form.

as these are my siblings and i'm not feeling like going nc at this point, i give it back now. I've told them i find it offensive and rude when they call me by someone elses name, they still do it. when they do, i call them by someone elses name. they think it's funny at the moment, making jokes and saying 'doesn't bother me'....but i've only just started.... grin

with your mil, show her what it's like to be on the receiving end. if she gives your dd a nickname, give her one. make sure it's one she won't like her dgc calling her - or anyone else. maybe something along the lines of 'Nanny Batty'?

user1465823522 Tue 28-Jun-16 02:35:22

I call my own daughter 'Kev' (not at all related to her name) and call my nephew 'Tub' and my niece 'Devil' . I also call my best friend 'Sexy' and neither of my brothers are called by their real name.

in mu opinion nicknames are just that. names picked, shortened, altered etc as a term of endearment.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 02:38:21

Out2Pasture the nicer stuff is something along the lines of mother's family having come from a particular country/culture nearly 1000 years ago (yes, 1000) and thus all the family having to be called random names from that particular culture. Despite the fact there are zero other connections to that culture in the family, noone is interested in it particularly, and all explanation to outsiders has to be routed through it being all about my mother's cultural heritage and academic prowess in knowing about such things. And if the outsider doesn't congratulate mother on her academic prowess and fascinating family connections then they get called stupid and philistinic behind their back.

But mostly once the child arrives and has any behaviours mother can bitch about, the nicknames are of the nastier sort.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 02:45:28

user1465823522 but the difference is that you're using them as terms of endearment; and also that presumably, "Kev" "Tub" and "Devil" aren't parts of some cultural narrative that's about you, or about something that you want to criticize in the other person - they're just references to some shared joke in the past.

As always, the difficulty is with dealing with the intent behind and duration of what could (in other contexts) be a perfectly innocent behaviour.

Champagneformyrealfriends Tue 28-Jun-16 03:01:50

Would love to know some of these nicknames! grin

Can't you come up with s vaguely offensive one for her? Give her a taste of her own medicine!

Out2pasture Tue 28-Jun-16 03:12:57

not the backstory what are the nicknames.

myownprivateidaho Tue 28-Jun-16 03:27:33

It's hard to tell if you're being u or not since you sound so bitter. This might be justified, I don't know. I don't think there's a thing inherently bad about nicknames and they can be nice. I think if you would be u to take a stand against nicknames in general. But if she's using them to bully then obviously that's not ok. Problem is it's hard to tell if you're right about that since you seem to hate her.

kawliga Tue 28-Jun-16 03:50:11

I found the story about Napoleon painful to read. remember being about 12 and getting called "Napoleon" for a few months because she wanted to highlight the fact I'd apparently eaten too many biscuits at my Grandmother's place and was therefore a pig --> Napoleon in Animal Farm.

That's really cruel, in a very twisted kind of way. It would almost have been better to call you 'greedy' or 'piggy', but no, that would reveal to everybody that she was insulting her own child, so she chose a name 'Napoleon' that she could pretend was about him being short hmm and heroic - heroic sounds good until she adds the bit about you getting your own way. Getting your own way is not even slightly 'heroic'. It is more like, spoiled and selfish. All these sound to me like barbed insults, sorry.

These are only framed as 'nicknames' so that you can't object, because who would object to a nickname? Nicknames are friendly and lovely, so you will look like the bad person if you don't just put up with it.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 04:03:12

kawliga your description is spot on.

out2pasture the cultural ones would be too identifying sorry (because htey're so bloody weird and because she insisted on doing it in front of my friends and colleagues).

Another of her favourites was "patisserie" or "pastry chef" or "Carême", applied to me or my sister for apparently being a slut - derived from calling someone a tart - but which if anyone enquired, could be explained away as "oh she spends so much time cooking when she should be studying [indulgent tinkly laugh]".

myownprivateidaho given that she has done this kind of thing all my life and I'm now 40 - that's a lot of passive-aggressive two-facedness to put up with from one's own mother. So yes, I do dislike the woman, for the way she treats other people. She dishes it out with little barbed insults all the time - but if you call her on it you're the big bad nasty person being mean to poor little her. She has spoiled a lot of my life, but I'm damned if she's spoiling aspects of my child's.

Brightredpencil Tue 28-Jun-16 04:12:09

Start calling her Madame De Merteuil (Les Liaisons Dangereuse) - she sounds just as possibly more manipulative.
I think playing her at her own game will make the point combined with a clear and unequivocal warning/assertion.

kawliga Tue 28-Jun-16 04:13:21

To go back to your OP, you can put your foot down but you know that won't work. There you will be, trying to put your foot down to an adorable nickname for your baby and nobody will understand why you don't want the gran to have a lovely nickname for the baby. Only you will know the secret horrid abusive meaning.

She basically called you a greedy pig and a tart, so this is what you can expect going forward. I have no advice for you. I know families are complex. But don't delude yourself that you can 'put your foot down' because that won't work. That's why she frames it as an innocent nickname, so that you can't put your foot down!!

Hackedabove Tue 28-Jun-16 04:36:07

I was going to post about how my Granny got my then 2 YO brother to call me by a shortened version of my name and it did stick. My poor mum, she was that MIL. And I have spent all my life having people ask why I have 2 different initials (I wonder if the Duchess used to get it too).

But this is not the same, she sounds like she has spent your life belittling you and your sister etc.

I would ignore her and as your DC grows up just make clear it's their grandmothers quirk and just try and laugh it off as her being stupid.

flumpybear Tue 28-Jun-16 04:37:32

This sounds awful, passive aggressive way to ridicule or upset people, controlling! Tell her, from the outset, set boundaries you won't allow her to cross for your own child - tell her 'no nicknames ever for my child - only his or her real name - no debate, that's YOUR rule'
Good luck - don't back down!!

myownprivateidaho Tue 28-Jun-16 04:40:58

I'm not saying you're u to dislike your mother. I'm saying that your strong dislike of her makes it hard to tell if you're being u or objective in your assessment of this situation. I guess I'd say that if you genuinely think she'd give a mean nickname to a baby then you've got bigger problems than a nickname. However, if she gives out nicknames to lots of people who aren't bothered by them and even like them, then it might be that your future dc will like having a name that only granny calls them. Their relationship with your mum might not be as toxic as yours. Some people are shit parents but great grandparents. But then again, it might be just as toxic. Hard to call it from what you've said.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 04:55:42

myownprivateidaho - I do see what you're saying.

She oversteps the mark with people's nicknames fairly frequently - she has relatively little insight as to other people being able to see when she's trying to use them to triangulate. She however would say she had fun nicknames that indicated funny things about these people ("dopey dora" for my aunt, for example - she will say it to anyone just as long as my aunt in the same room as her. Aunt's name isn't Dora, and she finds my mother boring and irritating, so comes across as humourless and dry in my mother's company...). So it's not a climate of stable or fun nice nicknames for all - also the nicknames change fairly frequently, whenever she finds something new to criticise. My father will rip the head off anyone who says my mother's behaviour crosses a line, telling them they're precious and humourless. And he and my sister generally find the nicknames hilarious - and encourage my niece to use them too... even though she clearly finds it boring when applied to herself.
It's all a bit of a mess. I don't want my DC to get caught up in it.

barabasiAlbert Tue 28-Jun-16 04:56:24

sorry - "just as long as my aunt isn't in the same room as her" i.e. my mother

kawliga Tue 28-Jun-16 05:03:05

Hard to call it from what you've said.

sorry, but it is not hard to call it from what OP said. Two examples she gave: calling a 12 year old girl Napoleon to mean she's a greedy pig for eating too many biscuits, and calling her and her sister 'pastry' to mean a tart, a prostitute. How is that 'hard to call it'?

Some people will put up will any amount of abuse because it's coming from a family member. I too have been told I looked like a prostitute by my own father, because I was wearing lipstick (age 12/13) and as soon as I grew up and saw things for what they are, I did not find it 'hard to call it'. Some things are just wrong. I don't speak to him any more as he thinks he did nothing wrong.

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