My mother-in-law wants us to have an affectionate nickname for her husband.

My mother-in-law divorced two years ago, met a man a year ago and married him a few months ago. When she first introduced him to our kids, she asked them to call him by his initials, as a somewhat affectionate name for him I guess. That was fine. Now, apparently, she wants them to call him Pops. How do I know this? Because she just sent Christmas gifts labeled “from Grammy and Pops.” I feel 1) like she should have asked first and 2) like it will be confusing for the kids who have called him something else for a year and 3) like her ex-husband, their real grandfather, would keel over if he knew the kids were calling her new husband a name reserved generally for grandparents only. (Fortunately he won’t be there for Christmas.) Call her out on it? Just go with the flow and embrace the new name? What do you think?

I’ve said it before: the best way to deal with passive-aggressive behavior is to pretend it doesn’t exist. Ignore it! It’s possible she’s trying to make a slow, subtle switch over to Pops, or that Pops really desperately wants to be called Pops (for some reason I can’t get enough of the word Pops, and I’m a little puzzled as to why you’re not embracing this. Pops! Pops! Popspopspops!) and she’s trying to accommodate him. Whatever her reason, she didn’t come right out and say, “Please, can the kids call BJ, “Pops” from now on?” This means you and the kids can continue to call him BJ until she says something about it.

Now, when she inevitably says something about it, you have to be nice. She married the guy. She’s your mother-in-law. It’s not really up to you to decide who calls whom what. Their real grandfather’s feelings aren’t your responsibility, and if your husband doesn’t mind or care enough to make it an issue, then let it go. When I first got married, my mother-in-law didn’t want me to call her by her first name. Or her last name. Or any name other than “Minla.” Get it? It’s short for mother-in-law! Now, at first my husband and I were like, WHAT THE HELL? But as time went by, it felt less and less ridiculous to call her that, and now, it’s just her name. Let Grammy and Pops have their thing. A year from now it’ll seem like he’s always been Pops. Pops. Pops!

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