Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You Say Nana, I Hear Grandma

I wrote about Jake's grandmothers the other day and wanted to follow up with a really great story.

Jake has one Nonnie, my mother. Not sure how the word came to play. Something about her not wanting to be called "Nana" because my grandmother, Alice (who Elke was named for), had already taken that word.

Alice was a Nana. When she was introducing herself to people, she said, "Hi, I'm Nana." For an entire week during a cruise we were on (she owned a travel agency, so we went on a lot of cruises), the waiter who took care of our table called her Nana. Cason still refers to her as Nana.

Jake's other Nana was Linda, Cason's mother. He didn't start calling her Nana immediately. First it was a grandmama or grandmother or something strange and formal because her other grandchildren - Jake's cousins - had called her that. Thankfully, it morphed to "Nana." Maybe there are just certain words that are common for kids - mama, dada, nana - because they're easy to say.

On Saturday, we were at a family get-together and Andy's mother, Eileen, was there. Jake was walking into the backyard and I said something along the lines of, "Do you want to play Go Fish with me?"

He said, no, "I'm going into the backyard with Nana."

I was surprised to hear this because he has never called Andy's mother by the name Nana. She's either Eileen or Grandma Eileen. They're still establishing a relationship - one that Andy and I are still figuring out. One Jake is still figuring out. One that Eileen is still figuring out.

Maybe I'm being and have been too anxious and over-analytical about our relationship with Andy's family. I can't help but think: Is this a burden to you? Maybe the question is more about me initially coming to them as a divorced woman. Look, I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. Especially now - getting along so well with the ex and all of us working towards a healthy place. None of us needs to be ashamed. God, it's actually annoying that I still feel shame. Yet being ashamed of my divorce is something I still struggle with. And it comes up in weird ways. This might be one of those ways.

Back to the story. Jake is walking into the backyard, calling Eileen "Nana."

So I ask him.

Me: Did you just call Eileen, 'Nana'?

Jake: No, I called her Eileen.

[He runs out the door. Eileen follows]

Me: [To Eileen] You know what. He just called you Nana.

Eileen: [Ferklempt] Oh... oh... oh, really? [Smiling, hand her her chest] Oh... [She follows him out the door.]

Jake, honey, you called her Nana. I heard it. And he called her Nana because the word Nana in Jake's mind means grandmother. It's more than just an easy word association when you're five years old. It's a definition. With that one slip, Jake answered my own question about where we fit. Jake knows where we fit. She seems to agree.

I guess Jake has three Nanas.

And one Nonnie.


  1. Hi Hayley, your blog is wonderful too. I love this post. It's amazing how when we really listen (like you did), our children can show us the way through awkward situations sometimes. Blending is difficult, but it sure seems like your on the right track.

    I'm not sure if you'll ever quite shake the shame thing though. And not that you shouldn't be able to! It's just one of those things. I even still have a bit of it, and I was just the kid and it all happened over 30 years ago. But if you find a way to do it, let me know. :)

  2. thanks carolyn. i know - there's something about how we expect ourselves to be, or how we expect our lives to look, that keeps some shame thing going ... even if there's no reason for it to be there. i think there's some element of forgiveness that needs to happen. and i mean forgiving yourself in that equation as well, even if you were only a kid.

  3. i have a Nana too. i totally get struggling with shame... it was something i did all through my twenties, and less and less now. but divorce is still hard, we feel we failed. i felt that way when i thought Mr. Curry and i were going to divorce, after he was dx with bipolar, and had to really work on refusing to absorb that. you rock.

  4. thanks maggie - i think the more we struggle, the smarter we grow. i know that might sound cliche, but i don't know how to do it any other way. and, it sounds like you and mr. curry have it all good...


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