Don't call me grandma

Young at heart picking out hipper labels

By LaReeca Rucker

Envision the traditional grandma, and you may see a demure gray-haired lady with spectacles and ball-pinned hair who bakes cookies from scratch and knits in an antique rocker.

She was probably called Grandmother, Granny or maybe even Mamaw, a moniker 51-year-old Molly Chandler of Jackson just couldn't imagine adopting.

"They say 50 is the new 30, so who would want to be Mamaw at 30," said Chandler, who, like many her age, prefer something a little more hip.

She hopes that when her 15-month-old granddaughter, Bonnie, begins talking, she'll call her Shug.

"I thought that would be such a cute grandmother name," she said. "It's a name for a hot grandma."

Sunday is G andparents Day, and many, who are baby boomers or younger, are rejecting traditional grandparent names that some believe sound too antiquated.

Jackson residents Barry and Val Vickery, 65 and 62 respectively, are awaiting the birth of their ninth grandchild, and neither wanted to be called a traditional name.

"When I became a grandmother, I didn't think of myself as old," said Val, whose husband is known as Papa Bear, a play on his first name. "I thought, I can't be Mama Bear - they are big, fat and old."

But bears like "Honey," and so did Val, who chose it as her name.

"So far, the grands think we're hip grandparents," she said. "I'm in a luncheon club with friends that I've known since they were in their 20s. None of them look like what our perception of grandparents was when I was a child. A lot of us are still playing tennis and very active in life."

The AARP calls the baby boom generation of grandparents "grandboomers," and Jo Ann O'Quin, a University of Mississippi professor, said they shun traditional grandparent names because times have changed.

"I think it has something to do with their self-concept," said O'Quin, a clinical psychologist and gerontologist. "People in their 50s and 60s are still very young at heart and very active. It's not so much that they want to preserve their youth. They are younger because we have a healthier older population."

Madison resident Joni Shaw, 52, was exercising Wednesday afternoon, when she spoke about her grandson, Walker Shaw, 2.

"I feel like a very young grandmother," Shaw said, "so when my grandson was born, I knew Grandma, Granny and such were not going to work. I think a lot of grandparents feel young, and we try to stay young."

Instead of Granny, Walker calls Joni "Noni," a name derived from Nonna, the Italian word for grandmother.

"My grandmother and grandfather were from Sicily," she said. "Noni was one letter off from my name."

Clinton resident Jeri D. Knapp, 46, and her husband, Eric, 47, are known as GP (short for Grandpa) and G-Mommy to their granddaughter, Jada Gabrielle, 19 months.

"She was born on our anniversary, Jan. 15," Knapp said. "My husband didn't want to be called Grandpa because it's an old-fashioned name, and I wanted to have a little sassy name too, something that wasn't common. So when we talk to her now, we say 'G-Mommy' so she'll know exactly who we are talking about it."

Adopting new names seems to be a widespread trend, Knapp said. "Grandparents these days are not like grandparents back then."

Brandon resident Anita Wilson, 57, agrees. She opted to be called Mimi. "We know our years, but we just don't feel our years like my mother's generation did."

Clinton resident Mary McCartney Nederhoed, 60, was planning a rafting trip when she learned she was going to become a grandparent at age 50.

"I tested out various names Julia (her granddaughter) could call me by inserting them in, '________ is rafting down the Colorado River.' Somehow, Granny or Grandma didn't make the cut. Mimi fit perfectly, and Mimi I've been ever since."

In a couple of months, Mimi will welcome her sixth grandchild.

Tupelo resident Judy Jones, 56, knows there's at least one person on the planet who thinks she's a "Goddess." That's what grandson, Kesler Rodgers, 4, calls her. Grandpa Gus, also 56, is known as G-Daddy.

"I did it as a joke, but it just kind of stuck," Jones said. "When he ages and realizes what he's saying, that could change, but right now I'm Goddess.

"I've had a lot of fun with it, because those who have heard it ask, 'What did he call you?' You wouldn't believe the items I've been been handed that say Goddess."

At 44, Brookhaven native Robin Borrows felt too young to be called Granny, so she's called La-la, a name her 2-year-old granddaughter Addie Davis created.

"Right now, she's calling me 'Ooo-la-la,' " she said.

Meridian native Cindy Baugh, 56, wanted her grandchildren to address her as "Her Royal Highness," but their parents wouldn't cooperate. "I settled for Nana," she said. "But I still believe that the grandkids are princes and princesses. "It's great being a grandmother, whatever they call you."

Chandler thinks so too, but she's willing to use a few tactics to keep the name Shug.

Chandler, who cares for children at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church's Early Childhood Development Center, keeps an eye on Bonnie, who is enrolled in the program.

"I can take her home with me and bring her back the next morning," she said. "I always say 'You're going to Shug's house,' and I ask her if she wants to spend the night with her Shug."