Meemaw and Pawpaw? Grandma and Grandpa? Grandpa Bubba and Betty? Joe and Sally? Or how about the beloved G-MAMA’ that the infamous McKenzie from Toddlers and Tiaras uses to address her maternal grandmother?
Suffice it to say that deciding ‘what to call the grandparents,’ can be almost as difficult as choosing a name for your child. And today’s modern family structure doesn’t make this choice any easier. Today, many kids grow up with several sets of grandparents due to marriage and divorce and obviously, calling ALL of them grandma and grandpa can be confusing for everyone involved. Combine that with the fact that many grandparents don’t want to be labeled as simply Grandma and Grandpa and have ideals of their own on what grandchild should call them, and you can find yourself in a quandary of grey area when deciding what your children should call their grandparents.
For many people Grandma and Grandpa are ‘named’ prior to your child’s birth. When you announce a pregnancy, you automatically turn the matriarchs and patriarchs in your family into grandparents. Then suddenly, your mother might explain that since she is ‘too young’ to be referred to as Grandma, that she will be called Aunt Laura. (Nice try mom!) Or your father might start talking to your belly referring to himself as Big Pop or Big Daddy. And suddenly, out of thin air you have a name. This same scenario will play out with all the people that will be involved in your child’s life.
So your child is born and they are automatically introduced to their grandparents. By name. As the child grows and first words are formed, a hysterical twist on what grandparents are called can come into play. And the beloved Big Pop, or Grandpa phrase can be quickly turned into something like Bubba, or Mimi, or MooMoo. Not because the child thinks their grandparent is a cow hence the label MooMoo, but because it is the only way that they can say the word.
According to sociologists and child development experts using specific names for grandparents is encouraged to foster relationships, especially when children are young and especially when children are introduced to numerous sets of grandparents. Around the age of 2 or 3, children will begin questioning these relationships and doing the math so to speak about which grandparent belongs to which parent. Establishing names early on in your child’s life can make this quest much less confusing, which is why it is encouraged to come up with individualized versions of the names used for grandparents.
One word of caution is to avoid referring to grandparents with names that resemble those of the parents. Even when young children refer to their grandmother or grandfather as mom or dad, experts advise that it should be corrected. Today, since so many children are being cared for on a regular basis by grandparents, it is very common for young children to confuse their grandparents with their parents. Establishing labels that help children to make the familial relationships make sense is important. And for numerous reasons, grandparents should never encourage children to call grandchildren to call them mommy or daddy.
Perhaps one of the cutest things about grandparent names is that the children involved will often decide for themselves what to call their grandparents. As mentioned above, it may stem from an inability to formulate certain words that translates into a blooper for a grandparent name. Or, a child might simply start calling one of their grandparents a funny or cute name that sticks as they grow. Often, the grandparents are named by the first grandchildren that were born and subsequent children simply follow suit.
If you have a lot of grandparents in your child’s life, count your blessings. And if you are running out of ideas of what to call them all use some of these ideas. The first idea to distinguish grandparents is to celebrate family heritage. If your side of the family has German roots, then refer to the grandmother as Oma. Or if you have Spanish roots, call her Abulea. Grandfathers could be called Opa or Abuelo. Another idea is to use variations of the first names, for instance, Grandpa Jo. You could also use the same names for your children’s grandparents as you used for your own grandparents, which is an often-endearing tribute.
Obviously, what to call the grandparents is a big enough issue in life that a book has been written to help. If you are completely stumped for a name then check out some of these ideas lifted from in Wellford and Skye Pifer’s new book, The New Grandparents Name List, a Lighthearted Guide to Picking the Perfect Name available at Amazon Books.
This first list shows the most common and traditional grandmother names.
Dama , Dammaw
Eema, Eemaw, Ema
Gammi, Gammy, Gami
Ganni, Ganny, Gani
MeeMee, MeMe MiMi
MoMa, MoMaw MoMo
Noni, NoNi, NoNee
And this second list, shows some of the more traditional, grandfather names that you could choose.
The bottom line! It probably doesn’t matter what you call the grandparents as long as you CALL them! In the long run, no matter what word your child uses to address his or her grandparents, it will translate into love!