DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son and a former girlfriend recently had a baby, which they gave up for adoption. As is seemingly more common these days, the adoption was "open." That is, the adoptive parents have agreed that my son and his family, including me, will be able to visit his biological daughter twice a year and otherwise stay in touch with the adoptive family.
While I am delighted to have some contact with my biological granddaughter, I am confused as to what she should call me when she gets old enough to talk.
I believe my son prefers that she call him by his first name. Since he is rather young, and their age difference is not that great, this will probably work fine for the two of them. I am 50 years old and am a little uncomfortable when children call me by my first name.
The girl has adoptive grandparents that she will be calling Grandma and Grandpa. I don't want her to be confused, nor do I want to seem like I am impinging on the adoptive family. I'm not an "aunt," but calling me "Mrs. P" seems much too formal for this relationship. Is there a standard address for biological grandparents in an open adoption?
GENTLE READER: There is not even a standard address for grandparents in what used to be standard families, where a child with any luck would have two sets of them.
Your granddaughter could easily acquire an entire club of grandparents: not only two sets each from her adoptive parents and her biological parents, but the parents of anyone else the latter ones might marry. She needs to be able to distinguish among them.
The traditional system is to let the grandparents choose variants of the title ("Granny" and "Grandma," for example, or "Grandmother" and "Bubbles"), adding their proper names if the choice happens to be the same ("Grandpa Jim" or "Grandfather Stonewall").
This will work best, in your case, if you remember that you are dependent on the good will of people who are not related to you. Miss Manners strongly advises you to ascertain the consent of the adoptive parents and not pre-empt the choices of their parents.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a good name for online friends, or, perhaps I should say, a better name for online friends?
I am an avid birder, and participate in several online forums across the nation. Through these groups, I have come to know several people quite well via off-list correspondence.
On rare occasions, our travels may lead us to cross paths, but for the most part our friendships are entirely e-mail based. When mentioning these people in conversation with others, I usually refer to them as "my friend," but that feels a little strange given that I've never actually met them. Yet I don't like to distance them by referring to them as acquaintances or online friends. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: These are your pen pals. Be sure and let Miss Manners know if you want her to explain what a pen is.