My husband and I were having lunch in Sonoma, CA beside a lovely couple from Holland. Their 18-month old son, Ate (pronounced ah-teh,) had a precious smile and found us a receptive audience. We exchanged several smiles and then he said the Dutch word for grandpa.
“What is the name for grandma?” I asked.
“Oma,” she replied. “But my mom is experimenting with a new name, Boomie, because she doesn’t want to be called Oma. (Some of us don’t mind being called grandma.)
I had to laugh—it’s a common complaint among today’s Boomer grandmas. In her essay “A Grandparent By Any Other Name,” Barbara Graham brilliantly and humorously discusses the moniker dilemma and why it causes such angst.
“Age is not something our contemporary culture celebrates,” she laments, “and grandmas don’t want to be called a name that makes them sound old.”
She can relate. She admits she’s as guilty as anyone of trying to hang on to the youthful aura she once believed was our generation’s birthright. Most boomers love the idea of becoming grandparents, but hate the conventional names.
She sites one hysterical example: Buya Buya, which she describes as the most spot-on name of all because it’s what grandparents actually do.
She goes on to quote the Bard and adds her own take on grandparenting, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” — and that which we call a grandparent by any other name is still a person who’s moving up a notch in the great food chain of life.
Graham reminds us that along with the rewards of watching our grandchildren grow, we must accept that we are aging. Holding these two opposing views may be paradoxical, but it helps her cope with the fact that she is aging.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin sums it up best:
“Only by growing older can we witness our grandchildren growing older. It’s an existential trade-off. We lose years, they gain them.”
Here’s to being called grandma and, as one wise grandma commented: “Like it or not we’re old enough to be a grandparent…and that is a blessing that certainly beats the alternative!”