Oct 12, 2011

My grandson's parents can't agree

Category: Family Issues
Posted By: Grandad
I have a grandson, he is 1 year old and 1 month. He is a bright intelligent little guy. My question is with regards to his given name ( birth name). My daughter is 19, the father of the child is 24 and of Indian decent. He refuses to call the child by his given name "Dominic", and insists and demands he be called "Riyhann". They were never married, hardly knew each other, and she got pregnant, he denied the child was his, all the way till the state made him take a paternity test(California). Once that was done they made him start to pay support. He has limited visitation, 3 hours a day, and one night on the weekend. But he and his family refuse to call the child by his given name, and are very openly disrespectful to my daughter in the child's presence. The father knows this upsets her and when he returns the child, he will always make a point to say the name he has demanded, at least 5-10 time before he will try to return the child to her. He is very openly hostile to her. Can you please tell me at his age if the conflict in calling him by his given name and the hostility will have a detrimental impact on him at this young an age. I am concerned for him, as he may get confused.


Oh dear, it sounds like a really, really difficult situation and I can see why you are worried about your grandson.  In short, I’m afraid that all the difficulties will definitely be affecting your grandson and you and your daughter will need to find ways of helping him to understand and cope with what is going on.  The issue over the name, however, is secondary to the split and hostility between the two sides of his family.  He might get to understand that different people call him different things if it were done without any hostility, people do after all, have nicknames for children which is perfectly accepted.  The problem for your grandson is that the name seems to stand for all the other difficulties between his parents and his parent’s families.  I understand that his father accepted paternity very late in the day and this makes it hard for you to feel generous about the part he has to play in your grandson’s life, but the fact is that they are also his family.  And although contact is limited, it is a fairly hefty chunk of a one year old’s life.  He will feel that he also belongs in that family.

I know that it is difficult but I think that there are two things you need do for your grandson.  The first is to try as hard as possible to build a bridge between the two families and to start to come to accept the parts that each play.  The very best option would be to go to a mediator and start to work out a way of being amicable with each other.  If this isn’t possible, then maybe some more informal gestures, such as inviting them to a birthday party, or to play in the park together.  You, as grandparents, could invite the other set of grandparents and start the ball rolling that way.


If this really fails then all you can do is try to honestly see both sides of the story and help your grandson to understand this, explain to him why his father is so angry.  My guess is that they have tried to change his name as a way of making him feel more like their own and that they don’t feel secure that he really belongs to them, or that their culture and their wishes for his upbringing will be accepted.  This is what you could begin to help your grandson to understand as time goes on.  It is also what you could discuss with his father’s family and see how you might show willing to what they wish for.  For example you could put Riyhann as a second name, which would make it easier for him to understand, and to explain to friends, as he gets older.


I hope this helps, and I hope you can help your daughter find a way to make things less hostile between the two sides of the family.  This is, in the end, what will help your grandson most.  He is lucky though that he has a grandfather who is thinking about him and trying to help and can provide a different kind of male role model if necessary.

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