Susan Felt in THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC had a piece about grandparents. I don’t know the original date or title of her article, but the article made it into the Idaho Statesman this morning with the title "Don’t Call Me Grandpa: Boomers adopt new monikers." A large photo of a rocking Mick Jagger accompanied it. I googled to see if I could find the original and discovered this piece has been reprinted all over the net.
Naturally, I find it interesting because I am a young grandmother of six (ages 1 to 14). I became a first time grandma at the age of 41. My only surviving grandparent was 70 when I was born and just shy of 82 when she died. The person I remember as Grandma was an elderly, mostly inactive, very wrinkled woman who told amazing stories. Me, I’m riding roller coasters with my grandkids.
But unlike some of the boomers in this story, I don’t mind being called Grandma or Grandma Robin. Although I admit that I rather like it when I’m out with my oldest granddaughter and people think I’m her mom. My 93-year-old mother Lucille chose to be called GG Cille by her great-grandkids to minimize the confusion of more than one grandma in the house.
So, after you read the article, tell me how you other Boomer Grandparents out there feel about this. What do you like to be called? And if you aren’t a grandparent yet but that reality is zipping toward you in the foreseeable future, what do you want to be called when the time comes?
Baby boomers may be besotted with being grandparents, but they’re not embossing "Grandma" or "Grandpa" on their T-shirts. The generation that redefined parenthood is looking for a cooler title than "Granny."
The image of grandma and grandpa
has moved from actor Will Geer, who played Grandpa on "The Waltons," to
rocker Mick Jagger and actress Goldie Hawn, who anointed herself
"Glamma" when her grandson was born.
This is the generation that says middle age
begins at 48 and old age doesn’t start until 75 or later, according to
Matt Thornhill, founder and president of The Boomer Project, a
marketing, consulting and research firm in Richmond, Va.
"Boomers are going to change what it means to be a grandparent," he says. And they want names that reflect that relationship.
But it’s not just boomers’ drive to feel
forever youthful and relevant that has many scouring Web sites such as
grandboomers.com and name nerds.com for names their grandchildren can
Only 12 percent of boomer grandparents — 27.2
million — are retired, Thornhill says, quoting from a survey the
Boomer Project conducted in February.
They generally are healthier, more active and wealthier than previous generations.
When Julia Sohn’s 3-month-old granddaughter, Shobi, is old enough to talk, Sohn does not want to hear, "Hello, Grandmother."
" ‘Grandma’ just didn’t fit," says Julia, a 47-year-old human-resources executive in Phoenix.
"Grandpa" suits her husband, Ed, just fine
although he indulged Julia in a search for alternatives before Shobi
was born — even toying with "Opa," the German word for grandfather.
But Julia will be called "GG," a name that morphed from "GJ," for Grandma Julia. At least, that’s what she hopes.
"I will bake cookies. I will do all the grandmotherly things, but I see being called something more silly and fun," she says.
Break with stereotypes
Rebecca Bond, 53-year-old step-grandmother of 3-year-old Bridget, agrees.
"I’m not a little old lady with white hair
sitting in a rocking chair and knitting," says Bond, who’s director of
Tempe, Ariz., Connections Cafe, a place designed for boomers like
Bridget calls her grandmother "Nina," a name the little girl devised on her own.
Boomers’ high divorce rate has added a twist
to the grand name game. Those in second or third marriages may have
grandkids as well as their own young children and want a jazzier name.
Consider boomer Donald Trump, who becomes a granddad this summer as he cuddles infant son Baron.
"You don’t want to be called ‘Daddy’ and
‘Grandpa’ at the same time," says Allan Zullo, who with wife Kathryn,
wrote "The Boomer’s Guide to Grandparenting," (Andrews McNeel
Publishing, 2004, $12.95, paperback).
A blended family triggered the
what-are-the-grandchildren-going-to-call-us conversation for Martha
Christiansen, associate vice president of student initiatives at
Arizona State University in Tempe: What is her stepson’s child going to
call Dad’s second wife?
"We asked the kids what they (the
grandchildren) wanted to call us," Christiansen says. It was "Nana" and
"Poppy" in keeping with a family tradition.
"I don’t see myself as a grandma or grammy," says Christiansen, 59. "I wanted something perkier."
Generations specialist Chuck Underwood,
president of Generational Imperatives, a Cincinnati-based research and
marketing consulting firm, argues that boomers don’t mind being called
"Grandma" and "Grandpa" as long as they’re not marketed to as
stereotypical white-haired, rocking-chair types.
"If there can be an alternative name that
doesn’t attach aging to that life stage of grandparenthood, boomers are
certainly the generation that will embrace that name change," Underwood
Fixing a gap
Those who were divorced and perhaps distracted
by careers as their kids grew up now want to strengthen the family unit
they feel they damaged.
"They are coming into grandparenthood with a desire to connect with their grandchildren," Underwood says.
If boomers are reluctant to embrace
traditional titles, it’s because they see their roles as more involved,
Zullo says. Their children may be single parents, struggling to raise
their own kids ,who depend on Mom and Dad.
Bruce Thomas, a 57-year-old grandfather of
three, has a standing date with his son’s children every fourth
weekend. Like Thomas, his son is a single dad, and Thomas knows he can
use the break.
But Thomas, who teaches at Glendale Community
College in Arizona, also relishes his role as grandfather. Although he
has no problems with being called "Grandpa," his grandchildren chose
"Papa is a badge of distinction to me," he says.
Let the comments begin.