Parenting Traps

A Grand Plan

Boomer grandparents are doing it differently.

By Zine Magubane
May 17, 2009
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The other day as we were driving home from preschool, my 4-year-old turned to me and asked, "What is Grandpa's real name?"

"Bernard," I replied. My father is somewhat of a stickler for manners, so I hastened to add, "But you shouldn't call him that -- only his friends do."

"No, not that name," he insisted. "I mean his other name, like Noni or Gigi or Tom Tom has."

Suddenly I got it. Welcome to the world of boomer grandparents -- where there are plenty of Glammas and Grandudes and Grampsters but hardly a Grandma or Grandpa or Gran to be found. My children have four living grandparents, but only one is called Grandpa. The other three have come up with cooler and hipper-sounding names for themselves. My sister's oldest christened my mother Noni, while my in-laws themselves came up with creative versions of their first names.

According to the AARP, baby boomers who have become grandparents are abandoning names like Poppa and Granny, which they say make them feel old. They plan to grandparent differently than their own parents did and want names that mirror a more active approach. For those who need a little help, a Google search for "grandparent nicknames" yields more than 100,000 results; there is even a book out -- You Can Call Me Hoppa!: The Grandparents' Guide to Choosing a Name That Fits.

While it took me a little while to get used to it, I've come to appreciate the idea that rejecting the label Grandma or Grandpa is not akin to rejecting the idea of grandparenting itself. Rather, it is a refusal to equate getting older with giving up having fun and being original.

The process of naming in our family has always been shared across generations. And although my father always went by Ben, the names he gave his grandchildren reflect our African heritage -- Zazi, Zamo, and Zanele among them. Brendan, my 4-year-old, is right. His grandfather gave him the African name Andile; now a new name for Grandpa is in order. I'm thinking Afro-Pop just might do the trick.

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Question of the week: Are boomer grandparents that different from other generations?

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