Dear Carolyn: My daughter and her husband live across the country from us, so we mostly talk with her on the phone several times per month. She recently shared the happy news that she is pregnant with a baby girl. This is her first child.
We were very excited until we learned the baby will be named after my ex-husband’s mother. This is very painful, even though it has been many years since the divorce occurred. This is her paternal grandmother, whom she saw frequently growing up.
I simply do not want to be continually reminded of my ex-husband. I have said nothing, assuming this is up to my daughter. But, how do I deal with this? My daughter must either be intentionally doing this to get back at me and my family, or it’s unintentional and simply not sensitive to how this will make us feel.
Do I simply need to let this go and make the best of it?
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Isn’t your daughter herself already a continual reminder of your ex-husband?
What if the baby strongly resembles your ex, or his mother?
These are not snarky questions. Lineage puts all kinds of reminders in play.
You divorced your husband, yes, but your daughter didn’t divorce her father, her grandmother or her gene pool.
Chances are your daughter bears many resemblances to that side of the family, and you’re able either to shake off the reminders of your ex or not even process them – because your daughter is her own person and you love her.
The same will presumably apply with your granddaughter. She will be her own person, you will love her for who she is, and you will incorporate her name as part of her instead of a nagging relic of your mother-in-law.
In case you’re skeptical: Wanting this to happen and believing it will happen both make it more likely to happen.
I realize my answer offers little validation for how you feel right now, and I wish it could be otherwise. You have bad feelings for your ex and this stirs them up on an occasion you hoped would be uncomplicated in its joy. That in itself is hard.
But your argument doesn’t have even a wobbly leg to stand on, and I don’t think advice would be helpful that suggests otherwise.
To see why, try this rephrasing of your question: “My granddaughter will be named for her great-grandmother. Can you believe the outrage?”
As a disinterested observer, the answer is no, I see no outrage here. Unless her grandmother was a monster – which you don’t imply – this is a lovely honor for your daughter to confer.
One you’re making about you by taking it personally.
Maybe your daughter even intends to honor both sides of the family with successive children she hopes to have. Maybe her father’s family won the coin-flip to go first because one of the families had to.
I say this not to get your hopes up – please don’t, she might just love Grandma’s name – but to help you pile up as many rationales as you need to justify not taking offense and thinking the worst of your daughter’s intentions. Find one that works, and repeat after me: “My daughter is expecting, yay!” Then choose to leave it at that.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.