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Long IslandLI Life

LI KIDS: What will your grandchild call you

Kerry Patten's son, Connor, is only 5 months old. So Patten

still has time to solve her family's dilemma: What should Connor call his

maternal grandmother?

Nancy Adler is 53, and, like many baby boomers, she isn't sure she likes

the title of Grandma because it sounds so, well, old. "She said, 'I don't know

about that,'" says Patten, who lives in Bellmore.

Even little Connor's great-grandmother - age 79 - doesn't know yet what she

wants to be called. "She's thinking about 'Gigi,' for 'Great-Grandma,'" Patten


In the pre-baby boomer days, most new grandparents readily took on the

titles of Grandma and Grandpa or Nanny and Poppy. But baby boomers have refused

to blindly accept the old-fashioned names, says Lauren Charpio, author of the

new self-published book of alternative grandparent names called "You Can Call

Me HOPPA!" ($24.95).

"They're not interested in the status quo, in doing things the way they've

been done before," Charpio says.

And with so many babies now having step-grandparents in the picture as

well, the older generation wants to come up with something more than Grandma A,

B and C. "Blended families struggle even more than families that aren't

blended because there could be six grandparents or eight grandparents," Charpio


Charpio's book suggests nearly 400 alternative names for grandparents,

including variations on the traditional, cultural monikers and personal


"If you are a first-time grandparent, our wish is to provide you with the

inspiration to find a name that really fits," Charpio wrote. The book includes

short stories about how some grandparents' names came to be. One grandma took

the name Apple because her last name is Smith so technically she's a Granny

Smith. A set of avid golfers took the names Birdie and Bogey.

Frequently it's the first grandchild who creates a name that sticks, says

Charpio, who lives in Phoenix. That was the case with her children and their

maternal grandfather. Charpio's first child couldn't say Grandpa; it kept

coming out "Hoppa." At first, the family tried to correct her, but then decided

it was so cute that Grandpa should just keep Hoppa.

Some families adopt cultural names - for instance, 17-month-old Matthew

Lycoyannis of Wantagh has four grandparents but doesn't call any of them

Grandma or Grandpa. His mom is Chinese, so his maternal grandparents are Poopau

and Gon-gon, says Matthew's mom, Kim. His paternal grandparents are Greek, so

they are Yia Yia and Papoo.

The cultural grandparent names also get recreated by family members.

Andrea Rolden of Hicksville says her children, Jasmine, 3, and Isabella, 15

months, call their paternal grandmother Buela because they initially weren't

able to pronounce the Spanish Abuela.

Alison Giese of Amityville became a grandmother for the first time last

month, when her granddaughter, Taylor Elizabeth, was born. She's toying with

being called Meema. She heard another little girl call her grandmother that

once when she was in a local pizza parlor and thought it sounded cute.

"When you picture a grandmother, you picture gray hair in a bun. I'm not

that," says Giese, who is 54.

But some people still stick with the original.

"I just wanted to be Grandma," says Ilene Yarkon, 59, of Old Bethpage, as

she held her granddaughter, Tali, in her arms at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford

one recent morning. "It just sounds good. It doesn't make me feel old. I love

being called Grandma. It's the best."

Getting to know you

Grandmothers and grandfathers are two generations removed from their

grandchildren, so sometimes talking to each other doesn't come that easily. But

a new book called "Questions to Bring You Closer to Grandma & Grandpa" (Adams

Media, $9.95), can help get the conversational ball rolling.

"My favorite question is to find out what kind of car they drove and how

they started driving," says co-author Stuart Gustafson. Grandparents probably

started driving in cars that are today considered vintage. "Most kids today

would say, 'Oh, awesome, that's a classic.'"

The book is the third in the series called "Questions to Bring You Closer

... " by Gustafson of Bosie, Idaho, and Robyn Freedman Spizman of Atlanta.

Other questions for the grand-parents delve into family history.

Gustafson came up with the idea for the books because his dad and

grandfather were killed together when their car was hit by a drunken driver

when Gustafson was 16.

"A lot of information I didn't know," he says. "I started writing down

questions I wished I'd been able to ask my dad."


Choosing alternative names

Recognize that name will be with you for quite a long time and that all your

subsequent grandchildren will probably call you by the same name. You might

want to consult with your other grown children who haven't yet had children to

see if everyone would be on board with your selection.

Consider your hobbies, your other nicknames and your culture when trying to

pinpoint a name.

Remember that when your first grandchild tries to pronounce your chosen

name, it may come out differently. "Your heart might melt, and you might latch

on to the name that child has given you in his own words," says Lauren Charpio,

who wrote a new book on alternative grandparent names.


Some unusual

grandparent names
















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