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The Grands

Grandma? Grandpa? Those names are passe for today's kids

Sometimes nature takes its course and things just happen. Sometimes there's a plan. Sometimes those plans go astray.

As a result, our children's children and grandchildren call us everything from Abba to Zip — at least according to several Web sites I found featuring grandparent nicknames.

Then there's the whole boomer thing.

According to a recent item in the Wall Street Journal, boomers tend to avoid the traditional names like Grandmother and Grandfather.

"Boomers,'' said the Journal, "want to pick what grandkids will call them: Meet Glamma and Papa Doc."

Well, none of the folks who responded to the request to share the nicknames their grandchildren call them in January's Grands column in LifeTimes have glamorous nicknames.

Frankly, the names their grands call them are far more appealing than those evoking a former Haitian dictator or a mink coat or a mail carrier's code or even the pop sensation of the 1970s and '80s.

So read on to meet Monkey and Pap, Boppa and Nee Nee, Doofus, Beema and more.

How kids come to anoint their grands with such delicious names has a logic all its own. Each choice is as unique as the kid, the grand and the circumstances.

Sometimes the name is prompted by family history. Sometimes by just plain chance. Occasionally, nicknames beget nicknames, which is what happened to Gene Wade of Spring Hill.

From the time he and wife Linda's now preschool-age grandchild Braden was born, Gene called the baby Bunky.

The couple thinks that when Braden began to talk, Bunky became Monkey because the letter M is easier to say than the letter B. And the little guy, mimicking Gene, didn't realize that Bunky was a nickname given to him.

So Gene remains Monkey. Linda is Pap. She wanted to be Grammy, she says, but whatever Braden calls the Wades is just fine with them.

Ditto with Barbara and David Driscoll of Treasure Island, Bubbie and Poppy to granddaughters, Emily and Ashley, 5 and 7.

Well, Dave was Poppy — because it was cute, says Barbara — until he became Doofus, the name of a made-up game he plays with the girls. The Doofus game is so much fun that the girls renamed him in its honor.

An extended family with a number of grands and great-grands and stepgrands and stepgreat-grands has necessitated a good bit of creativity in the nickname department, says Jeannie Wallace of Pinellas Park.

Her husband assumed the nickname of his grandfather, Boppa. She became Nee Nee as a play on her name.

"My stepgrandson helped me come up with it. My mother (their great-grandmother) is Gee Gee and great-grandpa is Pop Pop."

Terry Cullen, a "snowbird from Long Island" who winters in Spring Hill, says she has 11 grandchildren and five great-grands.

The grandchildren range in age from 18 to 35; the great-grands are 11 months to 14 years.

"I know all of their birthdays from memory," she says. "(Holiday gifts) are getting expensive, but I remember them all."

Her grandchildren call Cullen Gram, which evolved from Mam. Her great-grandchildren call her GG.

Similarly familiar nicknames were bestowed on Janet Smith and her husband by grandson Harold, now 13. He calls them Mema and Papa. Another grandson calls them Meems and Pops.

"Frankly, whatever the grandkids choose to call us is okay," says Janet, who revels in being close to children and being closely involved in their lives.

Judy Batson of Tampa feels the same way.

Batson, by the way, is called Beema by her four grandchildren, Eric, 9, Claire, 13, Tom, 15, and Sarah, 18.

They all live within a mile of Batson's South Tampa home and are together often.

They each also get one day of the week alone with Beema — their Beema Day.

Her hairdo is the Beema Bun, her car the Beema-mobile.

"When they leave to go home I honor them with a little Beema Dance from my front porch."

Batson says she has made a career of being a full-time, professional grandmother.

"The paycheck is tax-exempt, the benefits are glorious. . . . I used to say that I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now I know . . . a grandmother called Beema."

She takes her job "with a tremendous sense of responsibility and awe, always and ever so fearful that they will one day discover that I am not a super hero. . . . Dear God never let them find out that I am just a sap for little people."

How do you handle it?

Speaking of the complications of the modern extended family, with exes, steps and so forth, how do you deal with those bumps? Do you have large extended family gatherings at holidays or special events? Are gatherings exclusive to one specific wing of the family? Are you able to set aside differences for the sake of the children?

Let us know about this subject or any grandparenting issue for an upcoming Grands column.

We're also still interested in reading about traveling with your grandchildren.

Send an e-mail to or snail mail c/o Jan Brackett, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

on the web

Grand monikers

Sites that feature grandparent nicknames include:

. on the web

Grand monikers

Sites that feature grandparent nicknames include:

Grandma? Grandpa? Those names are passe for today's kids 02/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 23, 2009 9:55am]
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