Did You Just Call Me Grandma?

My son and daughter in law are surely busy pondering all those things that new parents-to be ponder, among them what name to choose for their baby.  With my daughter in law’s Asian heritage, an entire new world of possible names opens up to them.  In Thailand, the custom is to give children easy to pronounce nicknames, since their given names are often long and complicated.  For instance, my daughter in law’s nickname is Apple (yes, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter), or even just Ple. She has a sister nicknamed Cherry, and a little niece who answers to Idea.

Meanwhile, here at home, we’ve been giving a little thought to what we’d like the child to call us.  I’ve never really liked “Grandma” or even “Grandmother,” and it’s rarely been used in our family.  My own grandmother referred to herself as “Mammy,” a good old southern name that originated in slave days – perhaps that’s what she felt like sometimes, because she did a lot of cooking and cleaning up.  I called my grandfather Granddad, which fit well because he performed lots of dad-like functions for me all through my childhood.  When Brian was born, I started out calling my mother Grammy, but sometime around the age of 3 or 4, he began calling her Mamoo.  I never knew where that came from, but it stuck, and that’s what he calls her to this day.  My dad was always Papa, although I can’t recall how that originated either.  Jim’s parents were Grandma and Grandpa to Brian, and these traditional monikers seemed to fit their function in his life quite well.

I was intrigued by this article in the New York Times last week. Apparently, the issue of how to name ourselves as grandparents is a big one on baby boomer’s minds.  “Resistant to being called anything that makes them sound old, baby-boomer grandparents have taken to accepting toddlers’ neologisms and ethnic variations or, better yet, naming themselves.”  There are actually books about it. “The New Grandparents Name Book, a Lighthearted Guide to Picking the Perfect Grandparent Name” (ArtStone Press), offers 700 (yes, 700!) unstodgy alternatives to “Gram” and “Gramps.”

So what are some of these new grandparent names?  G-Mom, DooDad, BuyaBuya (I certainly get that!), Nonna, Mimi, Popsi, PawPaw, Papa John (or Jim in our case).  For the sophisticated wine tasting set, there’s Sonoma and Napa.  (I’m not making this up.)  Goldie Hawn’s grandchildren call her GlamMa.  Blythe Danner requested Woof (!) but accepted Lalo as the children’s choice.

I suspect that our final choices might end up being a bit more pedestrian.  Luckily, we’re spared the need to come up with two sets of names, because of course the child can call his/her Thai grandparents by whatever Thai variations they choose.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the child will eschew whatever  names we pick and come up with something totally original.  That wouldn’t surprise me in the least, given the independent and creative streaks brewing in those genes.

I just hope it’s not Woof.  I’ll happily surrender that one to Ms. Danner.

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14 thoughts on “Did You Just Call Me Grandma?

  1. When I became a grandmother I worried about being grandma or some other name that made me feel ancient. But when Zoe began to talk she called me “Batty” and I was and still am delighted! I felt that she truly understood who I am!!

  2. I find this posting so relevant as my parents went through the same thing while I was expecting Maddy…especially Dad…he just didn’t feel “Grandpa” suited him…and Mom didn’t want to go by Nana but didn’t want the kids to be confused by having two Grandmas to call “Grandma”…So we came up with Gigi (GG for Grandma Ginna) and Danny came up with Dad’s “G-Pops da Funk Daddy”…he settled for “Papa” for short, as well as a homage to my Papa John…though we all still call him G-Pops and it eventually was his license plate. Lastly, it seems my own Grandparents had the same issue, and as Brian had his own name for your mother, I had one for my Jampa…apparently it came about because that’s how 3 year old Eve said “Grandpa”…and it stuck 🙂 No one else had a Jampa. Congratulations to all of you and I look forward to more blogs!

    • I like “Jampa..” that’s very original 🙂
      One of my aunts uses GiGi for her great-grandhildren (for Great Grandma).
      I guess we’ll come up with the right thing..or wait for the kid to do it!

  3. Such a fun post. I always thought “Grandma” was kind of formal and more appropriate for great-grandmothers. My mom is MiMi. I called her mom MeMa (I made it up). Mom’s dad was Pa Pa. (short a). I call my dad’s mom Gi Gi (with a hard g, my cousin picked that one). My paternal grandfather was Da Da (blame the cousin again.)

    My kids call my stepdad Grand P. Like a rapper.

    Maybe you should be Be Be. Or Bee Bee. I’m on a roll now. If you need help, lemme know. 🙂

  4. I keep hoping I’ll get the chance to get called something — although both our guys are far away from wedlock, much less babies, not that the two are mutually exclusive. I was a Grandpa and Grandma kid, but I confess, it conjures an odd image to me — and I wonder if that’s not consistent with the baby thing. My grandparents were old when my dad was born and my mom was the youngest of many, so they weren’t so young then. Even when I was BORN they looked old by comparison to today’s folks of the same age, and by the time I was old enough to have a relationship with them, they WERE. Well, I suspect the kid will figure it out, maybe with guidance from your son and daughter-in-law. And you know what — no matter what it is, you’re going to love it. (Well, maybe not Woof.)

    • I suspect you’re right – the kid will figure it out! If he/she is anything like my son, he/she will definitely have a very independent mind!

  5. both sets of grandparents ended up with Nana & Papa as their titles, followed by their first names. Seems to have worked for them… as Jeanie said, though, I bet you’ll love whatever you all come up with!

  6. I am old. Clearly. In fact, I might be very, very old, because “grandma and grandpa”, “mawmaw and pawpaw”, “big momma”, “gamma” and so on seem not only ok, but important. The titles are just that – titles that help to explain family ties, and generational progression.

    See? I told you. Old.

    But when I read something like this, I can’t help being just the tiniest bit distressed: ”Resistant to being called anything that makes them sound old, baby-boomer grandparents have taken to accepting toddlers’ neologisms and ethnic variations or, better yet, naming themselves.” </i.

    It's the "it's all about me" dynamic come to grandparenting….

    Not meaning to be snarky at all – just an observation. Things change and time flows on, and some of us just enjoy paddling around in the backwater. 😉

    • That’s a very astute observation regarding that quote..as part of the Baby Boomer generation, I have go admit many of us do have a sense of entitlement that our parents did not have. Everything does tend to become about what “we” want – even what our grandchildren should call us!

      As usual, you make me think about things in a different way, and that’s a good thing!

  7. Well, I have been gramma for a year now. Sounds good to me! My mother is a great grandmother to my sister’s grandchildren, and they call her g-gummer. Whatever! My kids call her Oma – there has always been an Oma in the family since they came over on the boat in 1910.

    Congratulations on the new role!! I know how excited you must be and I know the pleasure it will bring you. I have tt for a gramma/jammie party every Friday night. What more could I ask for !?

    So sorry you have to sell the Florida house, though. Sigh. One door closes…….

  8. Hi Kerrylee – nice to see you here:) I’m leaning toward Grammy for myself. My son didn’t use it for my mother (although my dogs call her that now!), so I’ll just appropriate it for myself.

    My great-gradmother’s given name was Oma, and the family all called her Miss Oma.

    That Friday night jammie party sounds like a blast!

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