The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Baby may have final say in what to call grandma

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband’s daughter will be having a baby soon. This will be our first grandchild, and so what the child calls me will, I imagine, set the standard for future grandchildren.

My husband’s daughters were adults when my husband and I married. Although we rarely see his ex-wife, I suspect that we will all be thrown together more frequently when babies enter the picture.

Should the children call me Grandma also, since I am their grandfather’s wife? Is there another possibility? I really want to do the right and kind thing. I don’t want to upset anyone, or confuse anyone, but the children using my first name seems odd to me, and, as I am a Yankee, Miss Scarlett just would not fit.

GENTLE READER: Even without divorces, it is not uncommon for children to have more than one living grandmother. Well, two, anyway; and with divorces, four or, in the case of step-exes, more.

So it behooves the family to work out designations, which could include some version of the title (diminutives, such as Granny, with or without your given or surname added, or translations that refer to the family heritage, such as “Oma” or “Nonna”), or just a special, affectionate nickname.

All generations may be considered interested parties in finding something mutually agreeable, and, in your case, your stepdaughter may also represent the wishes of her mother, toward whom Miss Manners appreciates your sensitivity.

It should be noted, however, that veto power ultimately goes to the baby, who may eventually ignore even unanimous decisions and call you what he or she likes.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m about to go to a high school reunion. How does one reply when someone compliments you besides thanking them, if the years haven’t been as good to them as they have to you?

I look younger than my age in years, partly because I have a young-looking face, but also because I work out, watch what I eat, and haven’t spent time in the sun so my skin looks good. When people compliment me about how good I look or how young I look, I thank them, and if they look good too, I return the compliment.

GENTLE READER: Contrary to common expectations about high school reunions, participants are not required to appraise one another.

The real purpose of reunions is to allow everyone the opportunity to upgrade the impression he or she left years ago. So if someone compliments you, Miss Manners recommends that after you accept graciously, you provide the desired opening by saying: “How wonderful to see you. I’d love to catch up.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I sent a note of congratulations, along with a monetary gift, in response to a graduation announcement I received. I eventually received a hurtful response from the parent, saying that the size of the gift showed that I must be in financial hardship.

The person went on to say that they started to send the gift back to me, but decided to thank me for the thought. This was a very painful response to a genuinely heartfelt expression of happiness for the family. The person is not ignorant of social graces and manners.

GENTLE READER: Really? And what would this person have done if he or she was, in fact, ignorant of social graces and manners? Sent a collection agency after you for whatever amount they believed that you owed?

Miss Manners cannot help noticing that while insulting you for your present, the family still accepted it. No response to them from you is necessary. Ever again.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

2014, by Judith Martin



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