'Hello, grandma and grandpa' — or 'Dumpy,' or 'Nana'
My husband and I have seven grandchildren, ages 1 to 21. The youngest is just beginning to find his words and has begun to call his grandpa "Bampup."
That name, of course, will send the 9- and 12-year-old granddaughters into gales of laughter. They call him "Papa Howard." Whenever they did it in times past, their oldest cousin would smile and laugh and try to correct them by encouraging something more traditional. She is the same grandchild who did not call me "grandma" until she was approaching age 3. Before that she called me "Dumpy." That, of course, made the whole family laugh.
There are a variety of websites to advise grandparents. My new favorite is www.grandparents.com. When you log on, the first thing you see is a row of smiling older adults of different sizes, shapes and colors.
The phrase that pops forward is, "It's great to be grand."
A recent posting had an article titled " The Ultimate Guide to Grandparent Names." They had a separate list of names for grandmothers and grandfathers categorized by traditional, trendy, playful, international and celebrity. The usual suspects are there: "nana" for example. Under the heading "Trendy," there was an anecdote from a grandmother who called herself "Fluffy Gold." Her story was that her oldest grandson started calling her "Sugah" because when she left at the end of a visit, she would bend down for a kiss and say, "Give me some sugah." Personally, I prefer Fluffy Gold. Better than Dumpy.
Our 7-year-old grandson has always stayed with the traditional approach, preferring to call us "Grandpa" and "Grandma," stated in a loud, proud voice. He lives the farthest from us, and when we talk on the phone and he says, " Hi Grandma!!!" I know exactly who I am. It's very affirming.
The origin of the term grandparents is reportedly French (grand peer/mere) and dates back to the 13th century. Experts indicate there are varying types of grandparents. These are not naming categories — it's more about their influence. "Transformative or "formative" is one way to think about some grandparents, who are so involved in the upbringing of grandchildren they become "super" parents. And a vast number of grandparents (more than 2 million nationwide in the last census) are the only parent figures for their grandchildren because the parents have not (or cannot) assume responsibility. They are indeed super. The actual term for that is surrogate, I guess, but super works for me.
Like many of our age peers, my husband and I will be doing a lot of in-residence grandparenting this summer. Almost all of our grandchildren will be with us for extended visits.
And we have two new additions to our entourage. Our daughter's marriage means her husband's teenage daughters from his previous marriage become our step-granddaughters. New opportunities to indulge and enjoy. I was told that some step-grandmothers are referred to as "Coolma." Now that would really be affirming.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@hmj.com.