What's wrong with Grandma and Grandpa?
Actually, they're just fine, thanks, probably spinning at the gym, tweeting at the office, scaling Mount Everest or discovering their inner artist.
It's just that those geriatric honorifics — Grandma and Grandpa — rub many baby boomers the wrong way and they're coming up with all sorts of ways to avoid them.
Photo by Mango Productions/Corbis
The crotchety images they conjur up — the doddering Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies, the centenarian Grandma Moses — complete with specs halfway down their noses and gray hair pulled back in buns — simply don't match up with the vibrant ones they see reflected in their mirrors.
So even though baby boomers can't wait for the grandkids to arrive, looking forward to future hours spent museum-going and river-rafting, many grandparents are going to extraordinary lengths to escape those wrinkly old terms.
Goldie Hawn inadvertently hit on the perfect compromise when her first grandchild, Kate Hudson's son Ryder, began calling her Glam-Ma, instantly transforming her from dowdy Gramma to glamorous Glam-ma, a term that's been widely adopted by other age-defiers. Gwyneth Paltrow, whose actress mother Blythe Danner is called Lalo by her kids, said in an interview, "My mom's hot and she didn't want to be called Grandma."
Other celebs are not so sensitive. The ageless Sophia Loren, whose grandkids all live in the U.S., is more than happy to be called the traditional Italian Nonna. Jacqueline Onassis was always called Grand Jackie by daughter Caroline's three kids.
Baby-talk versions of designations difficult for little ones to pronounce have proven to be the most common Grandma-avoidance strategies. California mom Marla Black's son Quincy, for example, mispronounced Grandma and Grandpa as Mema and Beepa, which stuck. When Brooklyn artist Carol Quint's granddaughter Kalea was learning to talk, she would always repeat the last sound of a word twice; thus, Grandy became DeeDee and, according to Quint, Kalea, now almost 13, "is proud to this day that she named me."
There's no end to the possibilities. Little Gideon can go fishing with his Poppy, G-Pa, Grumpy or Grampcracker, while Baby Beatrice can snuggle with a Bampy, a Beeba, a Boosh, or a Boompa. (Grandparents who've opted for Gaga suddenly have a lot more to live up to than they bargained for.)
The internet is brimming with websites offering lists of such babyish options, the most expansive of which is www.banananana.com, which includes other "fun stuff for the groovy grandma, " and there's also a whole book devoted to the mission, The New Grandparents Name Book, a Lighthearted Guide to Picking the Perfect Grandparent Name, offering 700 suggestions, from Babaloo to Grandoody to Granola.
Some new Grands opt, like La Loren, for following the foreign route. For just as the Spanish word flacido sounds less flabby than the English 'flabby', names like Yaya (Greek) sound younger and peppier than the G-word. The German Oma has become commonplace even in non-German families.
Another complicating factor these days is that with life spans longer and marriage spans shorter, many kids have more than four grandparents. So what's a poor toddler to do, when he has to identify each of them with a different moniker? The simplest solution here might be going with Grandma Jan, Grandma Fran, Grandpa Dan. Yes, even if it does include that dreaded word.
Because in the end, whether you're Bubby or Bappa, Glam-ma or even Grandma, we all know it's not about the coolness of the name. It's all about relishing your special role in the life of a precious little one — and that doesn't change no matter what you call it.