- Katherine Dudley Hoehn
When I was with a group of women who were all about my age, one of them (the youngest and not yet a grandparent) asked what our grandchildren call us. “Grandmother,” I said. The questioner laughed. “Really? That’s so old fashioned.”
“It’s traditional and very Southern, especially in Kentucky,” I responded. “My children called my mother Grandmother, and I called her mother Grandmother, and probably the generations before them called their grandmothers, Grandmother. It just works like that.” I guess I came across as a bit sensitive, but don’t mess with my roots.
I realized I was the only southerner in the group. That is often the case where I live; we have an influx of people from the northeast that confuse southern traditions.
Then someone brought up Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH), where the grandmother was eaten by the wolf. I thought it strengthened my case; even in a children’s book, they used my name. Not all grandmothers encounter wolves, and wolves don’t usually eat people, anyway. Also, LRRH’s grandmother was old and decrepit.
I’m part of a new generation of grandmothers. We keep ourselves fit and healthy and don’t get eaten by wolves. That’s true, right?
We don’t bake as many cookies (or eat them) because we know that too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. We’re cool. We don’t dress like old ladies. We do fun things with our grandchildren. We follow them and their parents on Instagram and Facebook without embarrassing them with attention-seeking comments. We know how to use a computer, create an excel spreadsheet, and read our newspapers online. We start 529 accounts for our grandchildren to help pay for college, and teach them to plan ahead for expenses and that responsible people don't expect the taxpayers to foot their bills. But I digress.
We also still have snuggly laps, read bedtime stories with gusto, and have closets full of toys for them to play with. That’s what grandmothers do.
I have since talked to other grandmothers about what they are called by their grandchildren. I hadn't any idea there were so many names for grandmother.
Have you noticed that many of these names end in “y,” “i,” "a," or “ie,” like nicknames. But some are traditions in other families, as mine is in ours. Or maybe these hip young grandmothers started new traditions with alternatives. It’s not my place to be critical. I just want my name to be respected, too. Grandmother.
It's every grandmother’s right to choose what her grandchildren call her and everyone else’s responsibility to understand that is the way it works.
Some grandmothers say they let their grandchildren choose their names. I don’t get that at all. I understand letting them name a dog, cat, or hamster, but do they get to choose what they call their parents? Their siblings? Their teachers? This world could use a little more formality, boundaries, and attention to traditions that have worked for a mighty long time. Adults make the rules (except maybe in Washington where there are some wolves in adult clothing). Grandchildren will get a chance to make new rules when we’re gone.
When I became a grandmother, my daughter-in-law asked what my granddaughter should call me. I quickly answered, “grandmother.” She thought that was quite a mouthful for a little person to say but accepted my preference; she’s like that and I love her for it. It was never an issue. Granddaughter #1 was able to pronounce Grandmother and so could most of the subsequent four grandchildren (one is too young yet to say anything).
I appreciate it that my children, their wives, and my grandchildren use the name I prefer, Grandmother. You can be sure I would battle a wolf to protect any one of them.