Grandson’s Name and Family Secrets

By Amy Dickinson | April 20th, 2024

The baby is to be named after a ‘monster’

Grandson’s Name and Family Secrets. Monkey Business Images

A grandmom-to-be is concerned about her grandson’s name. The expectant mom plans to name him for her father, but she doesn’t know how horrible the man really was. See what columnist Amy Dickinson advises.

Dear Amy:

My 24-year-old daughter is expecting a baby boy. She told me that she plans to use her biological dad’s name as her baby’s middle name.

Her dad, “Tobias,” and I divorced when she was 6 and her brother was 4. At the time, the literature advised divorced parents to never say anything unkind about one’s ex. Thus, I did not tell my daughter how horribly I was abused, both physically and verbally, his serial adultery, as well as his alcohol and cocaine use that drove us to near bankruptcy.

He mercilessly targeted me, but never harmed our children.

After lots of therapy I still cringe when I hear his name.

My daughter has a good relationship with her father. I’m happy about this, but I can hardly bear the thought that an innocent baby will have the name of a person I consider to be a monster.

On the one hand I want to tell my daughter about her dad so she can pick another middle name. On the other hand, I worry that I would selfishly evoke unwelcome turmoil and think I should remain quiet.

Your thoughts?

– K

Dear K:

Protecting a child’s regard for her father while she is young is the right thing to do – as long as you know that the child is safe.

Now that your daughter is an adult, you should be more forthcoming.

There are valid reasons to disclose your ex-husband’s history of addiction to your daughter. Drug and alcohol abuse might explain (but not excuse) some of his out-of-control behavior during your marriage. Addiction might answer some unanswered questions your daughter has held from her own experiences with her father.

And addiction does seem to run in some families, so your daughter should be told about it.

You should answer any question honestly, but in my opinion you should keep in mind that a child benefits from an attachment to a parent (even a deeply flawed one), while an adult has the duty and responsibility to make their own decisions about their own relationships.

So no – don’t describe her father as a “monster,” even though his behavior was monstrous.

This would not necessarily lead to her picking another middle name for her child, and would box both of you into a corner.

You should completely separate the conversation about your past from your grandson’s name conversation, because when it comes to their child’s name, the parents get to choose, and if you don’t like the name they choose, then … too bad.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a grandson’s name to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2024 by Amy Dickinson

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