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How Do I Say No to Grandma?

My grandmother, I'll call her "Elizabeth," has always wanted a girl named after her, but she only had boys. She now has three female grandchildren (including me; there are also five boys). One granddaughter has the middle name Elizabeth, but my grandmother constantly complains that "the middle name doesn't count." She's started trying to make us promise to name our future children Elizabeth! She's my grandma and I love her, but I'm not sure if I want to associate my hypothetical kids with her. I feel so guilty about even writing this. Is there anything that I can do?

–Not Elizabeth!

Wow: Grandma is really putting you and all her grandkids in a tough spot. The guilt trip is unfair, and as you're noticing, it isn't working at all. It's making you and your cousins feel less inclined to honor your grandmother with a namesake.

For now, it sounds like you're young enough for the easy out: "Grandma, I love you and your name, but I can hardly make a baby name pledge on behalf of a partner I haven't even met yet!" Keep reinforcing this message: You love her, but you may not be able to show it by using her name. Who knows: You might have only sons as well!

When the time comes—or if you, a sibling, or cousin is already in a position to name a baby girl—things get harder. Grandma's already said she doesn't feel honored by a middle name, which is often a helpful solution for a problematic namesake. Similarly, I'm guessing a nickname or variant (Eliza, Isabel, Elle, Beth, Libby) is no good either.

And anyway, it's not the name itself you have a problem with. It's the association with the person. Is there any polite way to fend off a relative who wants a namesake? The answer might be no. Someone who's brash enough to try to extract such a promise can't see how unreasonable and unfair it is. In that case, your best bet is to stand your ground and avoid the name. Brace yourself for criticism, and be determined to rise above it: "We love you, Grandma, but this baby just isn't an Elizabeth! We hope you'll love her just the same!"

And it might not hurt to have Grandma's sons intervene and point out how off-putting she's being. They may be the only ones who can help her see the light: She might just get her namesake after all … if she turns off the pressure.


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October 9, 2017 12:42 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Ugh. I agree, tell her you can't promise what to name your hypothetical future children and that you'll "think about" Elizabeth when the time comes.

When the time comes, or if the time is actually now, you have 2 choices. Tell her flat out in advance that you've chosen another name, or hedge and hope she gets over it once there is a sweet baby to distract. I'd lean more towards the first option, because she honestly sounds like the 2nd wouldn't work.

October 9, 2017 6:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Coming from someone with an overbearing Grandma, if you don't plan to actually consider the name, do not tell her you will think about it. In my case, those words would be clung to, probably twisted into a promise, and cause an even bigger fallout if I didn't use the name. I think the best way to proceed here is to just be honest. I'm not sure you can avoid hurt feelings, but what can you expect? You can't really reason with someone who thinks it's okay to demand another human be named their name. She's very obviously thinking only of herself in this case. Maybe this is her way of ensuring she'll be remembered long after she's gone. Is there some other way you can assure her of that?

October 10, 2017 10:28 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Get her to talk about something else! Have her talk about her life and there are family history or story apps your phone can use to do it just recording audio. Have her do little quips about growing up, who she's named after, what meaningful momentos she has and take a picture, she needs to focus on something else and this is the bread and butter version of that anyway. ;) If that seems overwhelming just do it on Thanksgiving with her and make it a tradition. (If she's beating a dead horse, ask her if she had a grandma like her and if she got to pick her babys' names!)

October 11, 2017 2:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

"Grandma, Cousin Ashley already gave her daughter Sophia the middle name Elizabeth! I can't steal Sophia's middle name for my baby!"

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