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
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."
- BETH WHITEHOUSE
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.
- BETH WHITEHOUSE
SOURCE: "YOU CAN CALL ME HOPPA!"