It’s a Grand Life – A Grandmother by Any Other Name…



Your child has told you, in a matter of months you will be a grandmother. You are beyond thrilled with the news and have hundreds of questions running through your mind. Girl or boy? Both? Nursery colors? Furniture? What can I do to help? What advice without overstepping? Will I have a role in his or her life? The list keeps going. One question that you may ponder early on—what will my grandchildren call me?

This is not a frivolous thing to consider. It will be your identity for many, many years to come. When my sister and I announced our blessed events to our parents, our mom immediately started going through possible grandmother names she would like to be called, and many she wouldn’t. It didn’t matter that it would be a long time before she would hear it coming from her granddaughters’ mouths. Maybe it made finally becoming a grandparent a reality instead of just a wish. Whatever the reason, my sister and I heard several options.

As my grandparents lived a long way from us and we did not see them often, I am pleased that we had a loving, bonded relationship with them. I credit my parents with that. As my cousins each lived near our grandparents, they had special names for them. To my sister and me, they were always simply Grandmother and Granddad. Back then, that was more the norm than the exception. Today, it seems there are myriad names I hear grands calling their grandparents.

Even if you choose a name for yourself, it may not make a difference. My mom had narrowed her name choices down, but it did her no good. Our daughter, Erin, had heard my dad calling my mom “Honey” numerous times. One day, she called her that, too. It was the perfect name and thrilled her to pieces. She was “Honey” to all her granddaughters from that day on. As a matter of fact, we all started calling her that.

In researching what grandmothers are called in different countries, I came across some interesting ones. There are some we have all heard, such as Babushka (bah-boosh-kah) in Russia, Abuela (ah-bway-la) in Peru and Granmere (gran-mare) in France. And some we may not have heard. In Ireland, Maimeo (mam-o); South Korea, Halmoni (hal-muh-knee); Romania, Bunica (boo-née-ka); and in India, Awa (ah-wah). There are a few that are different without being too different, such as Italy, Nonna (non-na); Philippines, Lola (low-lah); Hawaii, Tutu (too-too), although I’m not so sure about their other name, Kuku; Kenya, Bibi (bee-bee); Greece, Yaya (yah-yah); and Cambodia, Yeay (yay). How great would it be to have your grandchildren come running to you shouting “yay”?

Although all my grands call me “GiGi”—the first “G” standing for “glorious,” “glamorous,” “gifted,” “generous,” or any other uplifting adjective you want it to be, the second “G” is obviously “grandmother.” Hopefully, as time goes by, the first “G” will remain complimentary and our relationship one of love, trust, friendship and an unbreakable bond. I hope we will learn from, and continue to grow in, our knowledge of each other and have many wonderful memories to look back on, and new adventures to look forward to.

In the end, it’s not the name you choose or the name you’re given, it is all about the faces that light up when they see you, the hugs and their excitement in sharing everything they deem important to them at any given moment. Sometimes, as in my mom’s case, the name chosen for you means more than any name you could choose for yourself. My husband can attest to this, as our first grandchild dubbed him “Pabo”—a name he cherishes.


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