Grandparent’s quandary: what’s my name?
We’re about to become grandparents! And to be honest, since we are the last of our friends to have that honor, I’ve heard some unique stories about choosing a name.
Not the baby’s name. Thank goodness that’s not our problem. My husband and I are trying to figure out what we will be called by the grandkids.
It seems that whenever I get together with my peers, this topic always comes up. Maybe it’s because as baby boomers “Grandma” — or even worse, “Bubbe” — just doesn’t seem to fit.
After all, our generation does everything to stay young and active. We practice yoga, do Pilates and lift weights. We wear skinny jeans, never housecoats. We try not to let our gray or our wrinkles show. (Yes, it’s hair dye and Botox.) So, with all of our efforts to stay young, we certainly don’t want an old-fashioned name.
I can’t imagine my mother’s generation sitting around discussing what to be called. It was just assumed it would be “Grandma” or its ethnic equivalent.
I never thought of my grandma as young. She wore the same black-laced shoes and the dowdy dresses at age 60 as she did at 80. “Young” and “active” are not the two words I would use to describe her.
So what are some of the names my generation are adopting? My hair colorist proclaimed, “I’m too young to be ‘Grandma.’ From this day on, I’m going to be known as ‘Goddess.’”
Similar sentiments were echoed by my friend Andrea. “My nickname used to be ‘Andee;’ hence my new name, ‘Grandee.’”
Gail took a different route. “I was listed in my sons’ phone books under ICE (standing for “in case of emergency”). So, when I would call the boys, their wives would say, ‘Ice is on the phone.’”
When she became a grandmother, Gail decided to stick with Ice — until her oldest grandchild changed it to Icey. She likes it, she said, “and I’ve never met another one.”
Robin searched the Internet for grandmother names that were either unusual or in a different language. “I wasn’t coming up with something that I could relate to,” she said.
“Then, I remembered when my youngest son put a big ‘Yo’ in front of all of his friends’ names. And then I found he had put ‘Yoma’ on my phone. It was there the whole time. I was truly meant to have that name!”
If my friends are thinking out of the box, you can be sure that celebrities do, too, including Goldie Hawn (“Gogo”), Naomi Judd (“Mawmaw”), Suzanne Somers (“Zannie”), Blythe Danner (“Lalo”), Kris Jenner (“Lovey”) and Susan Sarandon (“Honey”).
Trendy names run the gamut: “Coco,” “Cici,” “Fancy,” “Babo,” “Bamba,” “Birdie,” “Gaga,” “Geema,” “Grandy,” “Memom,” “Foxy,” and so on.
And there are some names that come from the mouths of babes. Yes, baby talk. Funny, but many of them actually stick.
My friend Laurie found her first grandchild saying “Yahyah.” Now she is “Yahyah” to all four. Eileen wanted “Gramsy,” but her grandson named her “Mimi.”
I’ve heard little ones calling out “Dede” and “Roro,” and for one grandfather, “Bumpa,” when the baby couldn’t say “Grandpa.”
Then of course there are the religious and ethnic names. Want an Italian flair? Try “Nonna.” For Hebrew, it’s “Savta,” and German, “Oma.”
Sometimes choosing a name can cause conflict. Take my friend’s husband. When his grandson was born, the only name he wanted to be called was “Zayde.” But that name was already in use by his daughter-in-law’s parents.
After negotiation and tensions, his son realized how important it was to his father, and the family agreed both could have that name. Crisis averted.
Some grandfathers have gone rogue, demanding to be called “Maestro” due to their musical career, “Captain” (or other rank) for ex-military, or even “Grand-Dude” for no reason at all.
As for my family, my son-in-law’s father is going with “Zazu,” the quirky bird and trusted advisor in Disney’s The Lion King. Because his two sons already call him that, he even has a hat with the name on it.
I have to admit, though, “Zazu” has me worried. What if his wife comes up with a more clever name than I do? What if we both want the same one? Should I declare a name now? (With two sets of grandparents, you have to lay claim early.)
If I don’t move fast, maybe the baby will choose a name for me. I’ve heard that one baby’s first word for grandma was “Dodo.” Even worse: the name stuck.
Alice Shapin writes about boomer lifestyle, travel, golf and beauty for Washingtonian, Baltimore magazine, The Washington Post, Washington Golf, DCRefined and other publications.