Grandma's View: So Whats in a Name?

By Bettie Bradley on March 22, 2007

I've noticed that it isn't women who fight the grandparent image. Its guys. Men in their forties and fifties have a hard time coming to terms with this new reality. They think it spells the start of old age how can they be a grandfather and still be a hot? They can, of course, but its a hurdle.

A psychologist once said, A woman looks in a mirror and sees all her flaws. A man looks in the mirror and sees Brad Pitt. Thats a healthy attitude, I suppose, and it explains why becoming a grandfather doesn't fit the image many men have of themselves.

Women are harder on themselves. The evidence is in the huge sales in wrinkle-fighters and cosmetic surgeries as women fight the good fight to stave off all those signs of aging.

But appearance and aging aren't factors when you look at whether women embrace or distance themselves from grandparenthood. The truth is that women don't object to being a grandmother. Women get hung up on the name.

I was surprised when I heard from an old school friend who had married, moved to a small community in northern Ontario, and lived a home-baked-cookies-and-pot-roast life. She had been a full-time mom who often headed up the PTA, was active in volunteer work and played in a local moms hockey team.

Hey, I'm going to be a grandmother. I remember her phone call so well, although it was several years ago. She couldn't stop talking about how she wanted to be present at the baby's birth, be involved with every stage of the child's life and had already offered daily child care when the young mother had to return to work.

Then she paused. I'm having a bit of a problem with a name. I really hate all the usual variations of grandmother. Would it be too awful to have the baby call me Vera? What a surprise! It seemed so out of character for this down-to-earth woman.

Her daughter-in-law wisely didn't fight her on this she knows what a strong woman Vera is. And after all, this was a woman who had offered free daycare. You don't mess with that.

Seven years ago, a friend announced the impending birth of a first grandchild and said, I want the baby to call me grandmre.

You're not French. You don't even speak decent French.

I guess I'm trying to escape all the traditional names, and I just love the sound of it when it rolls off my tongue.

Seven years later, and now a grandmother three times, grandmre it is. It has become her taken-for-granted title.

There have been other surprises. A high-profile accomplished woman I had long admired sat in her Chanel suit sipping a vodka martini when she announced to the group of us around the table: I'm going to be a grandmother and I want to be called Granny. Ive dreamed of this for years and just saying Granny is like a warm hug. Its such a homey and loving name. Who knew?

There is sometimes a competition for the right name. I'm currently being competitive, myself. The other grandmother said to me, after the birth of my latest grandchild, I'm Granny to my other grandchildren, so you can be called Nana.

Hold on. I'm Gammy to all my other grandchildren, so Ill have to be Gammy to this one, too.

But you cant be! Gammy is too close to Granny. I have no ending to this little contretemp yet. I can only report that every time I see my darling grandchild, now more than a year old, I whisper in his ear, Its Gammy, sweetheart. Can you say Gammy?


By Bettie Bradley| March 22, 2007

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