The Farmer File: Grandparents by any other name

DON FARMER

Talking with friends who are grandparents in the aftermath of National Grandparents Day this year, I asked them what their grandchildren call them.

That produced a lot of smiles and a rush of great grand names — Gammies, Mammies, Maamaws and PaaPaws and dozens more.

Apparently there are as many different types of names as there are imaginative kids and diverse cultures around the world. We know and know of grandparents who are known to their kids’ kids by some delightful variations of grandmother and grandfather.

A favorite is a granddad friend of a friend whose grandkids call him “Honey.” Apparently the little ones heard their grandmother often referring to grandpa as in, “Honey, do this” or “Honey, do that.” Smart kid.

Another child who heard adults always calling his grammie by her first name, Mary, began calling her “Grandmary.”

One grandson always used the name Frankie for his G-pop. When asked why, he explained, “Everybody’s got a grandpa but I’m the only kid who’s got a Frankie.”

Other fun names we’ve collected are Bubbe, Zaydeh, Saba (Israeli), Mamie, Mimi, Poppy, Papa and Poopaw. Opa (German) also is popular.

Naming grandparents is the subject of several books that offer guidance and some funny stories. One is “The New Grandparents Name Book” by Lin Wellford.

The book reports that the age of grandparents in the U.S. is decreasing and that the average age of first-time grandparents is 47.

Many don’t want names that make them feel old. “I wanted a name that sounded as young as I feel,” says Wellford, 57, the book’s author.”

Her two grandkids call her Mimi. Ms. Wellford tells of a woman she met who is known to her four grandsons as “Gabadoo.”

A grandson had trouble saying grandma, pronouncing it Gaba.

Explained the lady, “One day we were cuddling and I asked him, ‘Who loves you?’ and he answered ‘Gaba do!’ So I became Gabadoo. I love it.”

The book also reports about two grandmothers of a little girl who called them Grandma Vegas and Grandma Texas, reflecting where they lived.

In another family, the child named Megan sometimes confused her two grannies. One Christmas, as Megan opened her gifts, she was told, “This gift is from your grandma with the curly hair,”

Hours later, when that grandma arrived, the child gave her a big hug and the greeting, “Hi Curly Grandma.”

So whatever the name, whatever its origin, grandparents deserve all the attention they get. Poets and prophets and maybe a psychologist or two have tried to capture the essence of grandparentness. And if that’s not a word, it should be.

Here are a couple of our favorite observations, courtesy of www.grandparents.com:

• Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting.

• Grandmothers are babysitters who watch the kids instead of the television.

• Grandmothers are just antique little girls.

• Grandmothers are the people who take delight in hearing babies breathing into the telephone.

• A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance.

We assume you have some names to share with the rest of us, names kids have given to their grandparents, perhaps including you. For example, our grandchildren, ages 8 to 17, call me “Dondaddy.”

I think that is the absolute coolest. I’d like to hear some of the names your grandchildren call you, or perhaps what your kids call your parents. Please share them via email at don@donfarmer.com.

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Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at don@donfarmer.com.

© 2011 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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