A Grandmother by any other name

child grandma
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Guest post by Maureen Mackey

When the first grandchild arrives in a family, parents fret and deliberate over what to name the baby. But there’s another question on the table, too – what shall we call the grandparents?

I’m a recent recruit to the grandparent corps, and I love my new role. But there’s one thing bothering me. You see, “Grandma,” the default name for someone in my position, doesn’t seem like a good fit for me. It reminds me too much of my own rather remote and austere grandmother.

I want a different kind of relationship with my grandchildren, and a name that reflects that difference. And I’ve discovered I’m not alone in my desire.

Unlike grandparents of the past, today’s grandparents can choose what to be called by the grandkids. Or so we’re told. Grandparents.com lists a raft of potential names, even sorting them into categories like “traditional” or “trendy.”

Here are some of the traditional monikers I’ve been mulling over:

Nana. I’ll give this one a pass. It was used by my mother, who, like her mother, didn’t exactly embrace the role of grandmother, either. I’d like to break that pattern, so a new name is important to me.

Nonni. This one is Scandinavian and off-limits for me, too, because my grandbaby’s other grandmother, who is of Swedish descent, has dibs on it.


MeeMaw. Cute, but it reminds me way too much of the old TV show “Hee-Haw.” Also, my husband’s definitely not a fan of the corresponding “PeePaw.”

Yaya. I got this name from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It sounds like a rallying cry, and gets points in my book for enthusiasm. But can I use it if I’m not technically Greek?

Granny. Makes me want to climb into a rocking chair on top of a pick-up truck and head for Beverly Hills.

Grams. Too terse, and it’s also a unit of weight. I’d rather not go there.

Mimsey. A bubbly, fun one that evokes champagne cocktails, which isn’t a bad thing. But Mimsey could also be character in a cheesy play about snooty upper-crusters – “I say, Mimsey, did you enjoy watching the polo match?”

G or G-Ma. Both of these are text-friendly and well-suited to  babies of Millennial parents. But, given my druthers, I’d prefer my grandchildren make the effort to pronounce a whole word when they want to get my attention.

Jamma. Better suited to a grandmother with hip-hop tendencies, of which sadly I have none.

Here are some names from the trendy column to consider:

Lovey. Sweet, but Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian clan, uses this one with her grandchildren. I just can’t bring myself to copy Kris Jenner.

Pitty-Pat. This name makes me want to flee Atlanta, like Scarlett O’Hara’s Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind.

Udder Mudder. I’m sorry, but I think it’s wrong to encourage children to mumble.

Twinkles or Tinkerbell. Either name could be potentially embarrassing in years to come on “Take Your Grandmother to Work” day.

Biggie Mom or More Momma. Does this name make me look fat?

Tootsie or Toots. Tootsie might be better suited to grandmas in drag, in honor of Dustin Hoffman’s movie role. And I’ll always think of all the old cartoons I watched with my boys where Donald Duck greets Daisy with “Hiya, Toots!”

Dooty. Seriously, does any grandmother yearn to be called Dooty? It sounds like something you’d reprimand your kids for saying.

In the long run, none of my deliberations may matter. You can try to pick your grandparent name, but sometimes it picks you. That’s how grandparents end up with names like Gee-Gaw.

And really,  it makes no difference what your grandchildren call you, as long as they call you.

Maureen Mackey raised her two sons in Beaverton and now she’s relishing one of parenthood’s greatest rewards – grandchildren. In addition to reliving the best parts of the baby years with her granddaughter, Maureen is a freelance writer and editor who especially enjoys writing on education, parenting and lifestyle topics. 

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