I became a parent (again) when I was 49 and my then-3-year-old grandson came to live with me. We both had a lot of adjustments to make. He missed his parents very much, even though they had only been capable of sporadic parenting, at best. I had been a very young mother the first time around and was some 20 years removed from having a 3-year-old around full-time.
At first, during the 'honeymoon' period, he tested some limits and generally behaved like he was on an extended long-weekend visit. I also fell in with this behavior pattern and was quick to overlook all but the most egregious misdeeds, knowing how overwhelmed he had to be by all the changes in his life.
Gradually, we settled into something more natural. One day, in passing really, I said something like, "Son, would you hand me that book?" He did as I requested, then tilted his head and said, "Nana, you called me 'son.'" I smiled at him and asked him if he minded. He said "No" and that was that. I thought.
About two weeks later, in a similarly low-key situation, he asked me a question, which began or ended with 'Mom.' I definitely noticed but decided not to make a big deal out it. He looked at me and said, "Did you notice that I called you 'Mom'?" I told him I did. And he said, "Did you mind?"
I almost cried. Instead, I just told him that it was fine with me. From then on, I was always 'Mom.'
As it turned out, the people who did mind were his parents. They were both outraged and accused me of trying to 'steal' their child from them. Explanations of the innocent way it had all started fell on deaf ears.
I soon read that many children being raised by grandparents call them 'Mom' and 'Dad.' Some of it is a sign of the loving relationship. It is also an expression of a child's desire to have a 'normal' homelife--one that matches that of his friends.
My grandson (now 17) and I both always knew that our relationship was grandparent and grandchild. But for a while, he called me 'Mom' and it was just fine with me.
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