Needs of the child
An essential consideration in assigning terms of endearment is what is ultimately in the best interest of your child. I asked myself which was more important – that JJ have us as grandparents? or that he have a forever Mom and Dad? In our case, this was a simpler choice because JJ had plenty of other grandparents, Saunties, and Bruncles, but only one set of reliable parents who were part of his life. While we kept his original birth certificate, the county issued a new one that named us as his parents as if he had been born to us. One of our other adopted children suggested when JJ goes to school, it is more important that he and everyone else knows who his Mom and Dad are. Seemingly simple choices now can become of great importance later in his life.
Involvement of the birth parents
There are many situations in which grandparents care for their grandchildren, even formally adopting them, but the natural parents are still part of the child’s life. In cases like these, it is probably best to keep everyone’s titles the same in order to have less confusion for the child. However, if the birth parents are incarcerated, deceased, have ongoing substance abuse problems, have moved far away, do not ever see the child, or pose a danger or threat to the family, consider what is in the child’s best interest.
Wishes of the child or children
One Grandmother recently told me that when they adopted her grandson at a young age, her husband wanted to continue to be called Grandpa. However, as soon as their boy started to talk, he began to call Grandpa his Daddy, and soon after, Grandpa gave up and embraced his role as Dad along with the new name. What do your children want to call you? What do you want to be called? If they name you Mom or Dad, it is usually because this is how they see you. It is a term of great endearment that fills a need in their life. Names are important because they express relationships to us and others. Strongly weigh what your children prefer to call you and negotiate mutually respectful names for your unique family ties.
Wishes of the relatives
While other relatives cannot determine what your adopted grandchild will call you, relatives will also have some concerns about their changing relationships within this unique family system. Ask relatives what they would like to be called. Grandparents who continue to be part of your child’s life may have unique or cultural names that they prefer to be called so that the child recognizes them as special. Honor those wishes as much as you can. Even small choices as these can strengthen the family ties and provide your little one with the security he deserves.
So, in the land of Saunties and Bruncles there are many unfamiliar twists and turns. The list of difficult choices and tunnels off the rabbit hole on this strange journey will continue on. But, as you take one step at a time, you can successfully navigate your changing role in this new, wonderful family.