Don't Call Me Grandma

Filed under: Relatives

boy and grandmother

Too cool for Grandma and Grandpa? Image: sxc.hu

Baby boomers, those born between the years 1946 and 1964, have never been known for maintaining the status quo. Born into the optimistic times after World War II, they rejected the staid, traditional values of their parents and went about busily trying to change their world. They embraced their individualism, fought for social change and, due to the sheer numbers of them, continue to impact the landscape of America.

These days, many of that generation are nearing retirement age and looking to enjoy their senior years in ways their parents never dreamed. Young at heart and still raring to go, they have no intention of rocking their golden years away on the front porch.

But even as they resist going quietly into the night, their own children are leading them into the next phase of their lives by having children of their own. And while they may love playing an active role in the lives of their children's children, many boomers are reluctant to embrace the very words that define them: Grandma and Grandpa.
"I didn't like any of the names I heard people calling grandmothers," say 63-year-old Margot de Ferranti. "I'd rather hear someone calling me 'Margot' than 'Grandma' in public."

She's not alone in her resistance to tradition. A recent survey of students at a preschool in Newton, Massachusetts found that only five out of forty children referred to their grandmothers as "Gramma," "Gram," or "Granny." While some used names that are traditional in their culture (Yiddish "Bubbe" and Swedish "MorMor" for example), many more used whimsical made-up names or variations that incorporated their grandmother's first names.

Surely some boomers are resisting the "grand" label because it makes them feel old, but others do so because a non-traditional name better reflects the non-traditional relationship they have with their grandchildren. "Our more distinctive names reflect the fact that we are more involved and hold a more distinctive place in our grandchildren's lives -- or think we do," says Simone Bloom Nathan, co-founder of a website dedicated to female boomers.

With their history of shaking things up, it is no surprise that boomers are now redefining -- and renaming -- the role of grandparent. But some believe that if the comfortable old shoe fits, you should go ahead and wear it. "It's a role in life," says 66-year-old Phyllis Nobel. "As far as I'm concerned, no matter how old I am or how old I was when they were born, they're my grandchildren and I'm their grandmother. It's a fact. Why mess around with it?"

Do your children use traditional names to refer to their grandparents? What would you want your own grandchildren to call you?

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