Back to a journal entry today.
This post is the 29th in a series.
I did quite a bit of journaling through the time when I was coming to recognize my reality. I would like to share some of these entries with you as a window into what it means to come out. Please come back to read through the rest of the journey. If you haven’t read the first, you can click here to be redirected to that post, called Truth. From there, at the bottom of each post you can navigate to the next.
September 13, 2020
I want to write down some things so they aren’t forgotten. I’ve spoken them a number of times, but that doesn’t mean it will come to mind again in the future. I have decided that, for now at least, I’m not going to change my name. I’m also okay with my kids calling me Mom when talking to me. I’ve asked them to talk about me as their parent to other people (rather than “my Mom”). But one thing I’ve noticed throughout the summer is that I don’t prefer hearing my grandkids yelling, “Grandma!” across the playground. How is it different than my kids calling me Mom? I think the biggest thing is that my kids very rarely yell out “Mom!” in public places, so I don’t feel exposed.
When I first started noticing my discomfort, I looked for gender-neutral alternatives to Grandma. Nothing really struck me as preferable. Then one day I was emailing Jasper and went to sign it “Mom” but my fingers got into a rhythm and added an extra “o” at the end: “Momo.” That seemed like a possibility, both because it seems gender-neutral and now has a story of arising organically. I sat with it for a few days to see how it felt. I talked to Barry about it. I liked it.
So, I had a new name. But I couldn’t figure out how to take the next step. Do I talk to Haley and Jasper first? That feels like asking for permission, which I kind of want, but kind of don’t want to have to. But if I don’t have them on board backing me up, I don’t know how well it will go. And just like with changing pronouns, this means asking people to put in work for me. It means confronting the value my kids have in choosing “Grandma” for me above all other female grandparent names. It means taking risks. After a few weeks of sitting with it, I talked to Haley and Jasper separately, tentatively. I didn’t sound very sure or decisive. I didn’t have a clear idea of what role I wanted them to play. I still didn’t know how to do this; if I was prepared for the necessary repetitive follow-up that would be required.
After a couple more weeks, I had Sam and Silas in the car on the way to the park. Thinking about another couple of hours being called “Grandma” in public, I decided to broach the subject then and there.
“I’d like for you guys and Eli to call me a different name than Grandma. I’d like you to call me Momo instead.”
“No, I don’t want to.”
Not surprising from the child who doesn’t like change. Oh, the brutal honesty of childhood! I explained that Grandma is a name for a girl and that I’m not a girl, so I’d like to be called something else. I explained that I got the name Momo from writing an email to their Dad.
Sam said, “Oh.”
Silas said, “I want to be called Minty!”
So we got out and went to play. I called Silas Minty and Sam called me Momo once. It was a start.
About a week later, Eli and Haley were over. I had a chance to talk to Eli alone.
“I’d like you to call me something other than Grandma. I’d like you to call me Momo.”
“No, Grandma, I don’t want to.”
How could I not laugh? I explained that I’m not a girl so I’d like a non-girl name. He didn’t seem convinced.
I find it a real challenge to correct someone, whether adult or child. Jasper, at least, has been my co-worker with his kids, correcting them whether I’m there or not. I think Haley probably is too, I just haven’t heard any stories or asked her about it.
Yesterday I took Sam and Silas to the park again. As we arrived, I said, “Today we’re going to practice calling me Momo.”
“Right!” Sam said.
There were a couple of Grandmas in there, but she tried! Later in the day, when they were leaving to go home, she came to my room to say good-bye. Coming in the door, she said, “Momo! We’re going home now” and gave me a hug and a kiss. It felt good.
October 25, 2020
It’s been a little more than a month now, and Sam and Silas consistently call me Momo. These days I see them regularly, so they’ve had a chance to practice. It’s interesting to note that it brings two simultaneous responses in me: I like it and I feel guilty. Interesting. I like Momo for a few reasons. I like that it’s not the gendered Grandma. But I also like that it’s an uncommon name, a name for our family. Maybe there are others out there who are also called Momo, but I’ve never heard it. I like that it has a story of origin. I feel guilty because I’ve asked people to do work for me. I feel guilty because the road to regularly hearing Momo has included many corrections, and that still feels uncomfortable. From the stories I read of others who have changed names and pronouns, I’m not alone. On one hand, it feels good to hear what sounds right. On the other hand, it comes at a price I’m aware of.
For me, my family has been willing to make a change (once it was explained). For others, even after explaining, family isn’t willing, don’t want to make the effort. That is heartbreaking for me to think about. It makes me wish I could look each of them in the eye and say, “You ARE worth it! I’m willing to do the work for you.” Thank you to my family that, despite my feelings of guilt, you are willing to do the work for me.