Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just call me Grammy?

Times they are a-changin'. One of my children is having a child. I'm going to be a grandparent. I'm not sure where all the time has gone to get me to this point, but life is sweet.

Being a grandparent is a time to cherish. Everyone tells tales about how great it is. For most, having a grandchild is the first opportunity to enjoy little ones without all the day-to-day responsibilities of raising your own children. The saying goes, "With grandchildren, you get to have all the fun and then send them home to mom and dad for all the work."

Lois Wyse wisely wrote, "If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I'd have had them first."

I'm looking forward to being a grandparent. As early as when my daughter was contemplating conception she asked me, "So what do you want to be called?"

"What do you mean?"

"You need to pick a name. Everyone's doing it. And ideally each grandparent should have a unique name."

Hmm. My mom's mother was my "grandmom." My dad's mom lived in Italy and I only met her once for an extended visit as a child. I referred to her as "nonna," Italian for grandma, when I visited, but in my child's mind every day of my life she was simply my dad's mom, my other grandmom.

That's not how it goes today. Today, grandmoms are encouraged to think about and decide what they want to be called. It's deemed important, I hear, to claim your name early on, especially in families with remarriage and multiple sets of grandparents.

Okay, I thought, what do I want to be called? Some grandmothers don't like "grandmotherly" names because they don't want others to perceive them as old enough to be a grandparent.

That's not me. I don't care what others think. I'm happy being young at heart.

And besides, it makes no sense to waste time worrying about growing older when:
  1. It's better than the alternative, dying.
  2. It's smarter to be grateful for the honor to be a grandparent on this good earth.
I certainly wouldn't consider shirking the esteemed title of grandparent, but which specific grandmother name is right for me if I have to claim one?

Some families make it easy by picking one grandmother name for everyone and just appending the family name after that. Simple.

Grandmom Smith. Grandmom Wilson. Grandmom Brooks.

But I don't want to be Grandmom Brooks. That was my mother-in-law.

Then there are all those who want to influence the grandmother name choice with their own preferences.

A security guard at work thinks I should be a nana. She said that word with love in her eyes and I knew that name elicited special memories, respect, and admiration. Awww.

I explained, though, that I can't be a nana. Besides the fact that I don't feel like a nana, that name is taken on both sides of the family for many years now by great and great-great grandparents.

One of my aunts said I should be called "mom mom" like her. Nice for you, auntie, but it doesn't feel right for me, although I just can't put my finger on why not.

It's a gut feeling and one based on my previous grandmotherly experience. You assumed this post is about my first grandbaby, so what experience, you're asking, right? This is my first human grandbaby. I do already have what I call grandpuppies, though.

As most young couples, our children started with dogs, you know, to try out the parenting thing.

Good for all because we can see they'll be great parents! The puppies are thriving and well-cared for.

We are a family of dog lovers, and as most Americans, we've personified our canine babies and tell them that "mommy and daddy" love them every day.

So it was natural to chat it up with our grandpuppies and let them know that "grammy and pop pop" love them, too.

Hmmm. Grammy. Where did that come from? I dunno. It just came out without thinking. But it sounded right to me. Grammy. Like a grand mommy.

Actually, I have a friend who wanted to be called grandmommy. Many discouraged her, advising that it would be too much of a mouthful for a little one. She stood her ground. Lo and behold, the little one articulates the name she loved. Kids are smart.

But let's be realistic. Any of us may finally settle on our special chosen name, all to receive a special moniker that your lovely grandbaby decides to assign you.

We saw this with our first child. Hubby and I referred to our moms as "grandmoms" to our son from day one, but what eventually came out of the little guy's mouth was a "ba-da" (pronounced like the "ba" in bat, with the quick add-on of the "da" in dad).

Ha! This little one, who could string together a two-word sentence, noun and verb, at nine months, couldn't say "grandmom"! Maybe he could, but they just didn't look like grandmoms to him? Maybe they looked like ba-das. After all, my little one actually figured out how to distinguish his great grandmoms from his grandmoms, calling them great ba-da! Kids are amazing.

So, with our second child, a daughter, we thought she'd pick up on "ba-da" from her brother who was still using that name or maybe even "grandmom" from us. But no. She called her grandmoms "mimi."

With our third child, another daughter, with all these choices in front of her, we didn't know early on what she would call her grandmoms. And we wondered awhile because this one didn't choose to talk much until she was two plus. The doctor assured us she was fine.

Why would our youngest need to talk when she had a brother and a sister who said everything for her and got her everything she needed before she had to ask? By the time the last little one was talking, she clearly called our moms "grandmom" as we referred to them. At that point, all the kids said "grandmom."

Based on experience then, I'm aware that the little one may name me, but I don't think it's a bad idea to go through the exercise anyway to think about how I would like to be addressed by the precious offshoot of my own offspring.

As I've written about previously, we don't get to name ourselves the first time, and whether you may or may not like your given name, I say, if you have an opportunity to choose your own in a later round, take the time to choose one that ideally reflects how you see yourself.

In choosing a name, it can be easier to cross names off the list than to decide on the right one, however, since we all bring our own context into the equation, especially when we know someone else with the name under consideration.

Starting this exercise I had enough input from others, so I decided it was time to do some random googling. There are lots of suggestions out there, for sure, so I worked through some lists to see if any names fit.

I pondered some choices and instinctively knew right up front names that may affectionately work for others, but that just aren't right for this girl:
  • Big Mom - NOOO! Why would I voluntarily ask to be called "big." :)
  • G-mom - This just seemed a bit too utilitarian.
  • Gram - I'll always wonder if the grandbaby wants a cracker.
  • Gramma - Did we just not know how to spell "Grandma"?
  • Grams - It will be maybe twenty years before the grandbaby is a hepcat.
  • Grandmama - Pretentious. Not working for me.
  • Grannie, Granny - I don't sit in a rocker all day on the front porch.
  • Grandmother - Too formal. I can't be that rich Dynasty bitch.  
  • Ma, Maw, Memaw, MawMaw - I don't live in the South.
  • Nanny - I'm not paid help.
  • Mamo - I don't live in SeaWorld®.
You get how this exercise works. 

Although it sounded fun, I also couldn't see myself as a "GiGi" because even though I like to dress up here and there, the name seemed somewhat frou-frou for who I am every day.

Besides, I'd already have an awkward acquaintance with a GiGi-like name. Years ago, when my first niece was born I wondered if she could say "Aunt Therese." I thought until she could, maybe she might start by calling me "TT" for Therese. That would be easy enough for a toddler.

Only problem was that I didn't  know how I should spell that. Neither did anyone else.

TT? Tee-Tee? TeeTee? Aunt TT? Ti-Ti? Ti Ti? TiTi? Okay, if I'm not strict about the capitalization and spacing I could envision being an aunt titty. And that just didn't sit well.

It all worked out, though. Funny thing was that my niece could say Aunt Therese before we could all decide on the spelling of my auntie nickname. Smart kid. Adults, maybe not so much. It was all too much work.

Based on that experience, I'm now going nowhere near any of the cool, trendy, hip (a.k.a. masquerading) grandmom names I'm hearing. I'm never going to be a:
  • BeBe - Trauma from the TiTi incident.
  • Bella - I have a dog with that name.
  • GiGi - See BeBe.
  • G-Ma - Maybe if I were married to G-Man.
  • Honey - My last name isn't Boo Boo.
  • Lovey - I'm not shipwrecked.
  • MayMay - Urban dictionary definition: A dumbass. A loser.
  • Mia - Sadly brings back memories of my POW/MIA bracelet from the Vietnam era.
"Glamma" came up, but it's also not me. Although I may wear the occasional suit and heels to work or clean up well for a special event, I'm most comfortable in my jeans, Life is Good® t-shirts, and Keens®. "Glamma" is not quite the right accessory for this nature-loving hiker chick.  

A good friend Kathy goes by the name "Greka." I always assumed the origin was ethnic, but couldn't place from where. Recently we chatted about this and Kathy explained that she took the "Gre" from her husband Greg's name and the "Ka" from her own name to add up to "Greka."

This solution was especially touching since Greg passed away and Kathy mourned that he wouldn't know his grandchildren. That name to her signifies that Greg is always with her and their grandchildren.

At this point in my quest I realized there are so many ways to go and things to consider. This online quiz piqued my interest: Which Grandmother Name Suits You Best?

An easy and fun quiz to take, I answered twenty questions to receive results with advice and direction on the category of name and why it fits you best.

Here are my results. I'd say they are on to something about me.

You're Oma!
So maybe I should go ethnic. I could easily be an Italian Nonna or a German Oma since both cultures are part of my ancestral heritage. And although I'm also of French descent and my name Therese is French, I couldn't be a Grandmere. Again, this sounds too grand for me. Although I'm not Hawaiian, Tutu is appealing since my name begins with "T" until I remember the TiTi naming incident.

As I continue this naming journey, the pragmatic side of me will surely consider how my chosen name goes with my partner's grandparent name. Although, men don't think too hard about this stuff, it seems.

When asked, hubby quickly and confidently stated his preference to be called Pop Pop because that's what he called his grandfather and what our children called our fathers. Preggy daughter wants a change with "Poppy" for her dad, though, so this will be interesting. I have a feeling he'll say Pop Pop and she'll follow with her assigned diminutive as his nickname.

I'm at the end of this naming exercise, but I'll be honest. I'm still not sure who I'll be to this new child.

I may still pick Grammy, where I started with the grandpups, but who knows? Grandbaby with his/her lack of articulation may call me Gammy, Gummy, Grummy, or Gumby. And that's okay.

At the end of the day, I'm happy to know that I'll take what I get and answer to any or all of these names that may come from this precious little one.

If I may take some liberty and do a hatchet job to William Shakespeare's eloquent words as written in Romeo and Juliet:

"That which we call a grandma. By any other name would smell as sweet."

So true. But, no, it's not fair to botch up the master's words.

Shakespeare actually referenced the rose in those lines. 

But Shakespeare did write this about a grandma, for real:

"A grandma's name is little less in love than is the doting title of a mother."

Ah, yes. That's it. Whatever grandmother name is chosen by me or grandbaby, it will stand for love and baby will know it.

Grammy. Nonna. Oma. Maybe I'm a Baba. Grandbaby will confirm when s/he is ready.

I'll keep you posted.

Until next time, yours in fun and family...Therese (or Grammy?)

P.S. In the meantime, tell me what you think. Share your family's grandmother names, your own chosen name, how you got it, or any ideas you have for me. I'd love to hear from you.


  1. Cool piece. I'm currently considering my pending grandmother name, as well. I found a name months ago, when I saw a friend's FB post with the above-referenced quiz and I said that was going to be my grandma name and i LOVED it! Problem is, I can't remember or find it! lol So I'm starting over with the grandma name quiz. Peace & love!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Cat! Six grandchildren later and I'm still Grammy to all, although recently I've been called Grandmom and even Mom by one of the younger ones! Good luck to you in your quest for your Grandmom name.