‘I can’t wait to be an auntie,’ Boo declared the other day, as we wait on tenterhooks for the arrival of Eve’s baby. ‘I’ll be an auntie and Noodles will be an uncle. What will you be?’
The truth is, I don’t know. Whilst Eve and her boyfriend become ever more indecisive about the name of their baby, I’m simultaneously having my own generational shift crisis. What will I be called?
It’s easy for parents. You automatically become Mummy and Daddy or variations on such a theme. You wait with excited glee for the first time you hear Dadada or Mumumu from the mouth of your child. It’s a no-brainer.
But it’s not so for grandparents. You get a choice. ‘What do you want to be called?’ Except the choice is loaded. It feels strange to ask to be called something (all other monikers from your proper name to nicknames tend to be bestowed upon you). Everything feels strange and unfitting.
Everyone seems to assume I’ll be Nana or Nanny. The consensus seems to be that Grandma and Granny is too old. MY grandmother is Grandma after all. I wouldn’t want us to get muddled up. But even Nana feels too old. I’m 39, a long way from drawing a pension. I don’t even have a pension plan!
I’ve taken to trawling the internet, but the alternatives don’t sound overly appealing either. I could sound like a character from kids’ TV (MeMom, Namma, Womba). Just let me grow fur and I’ll wobble around a magical land. Or worse, I could sound like a euphemism for female genitalia (LaLa, Minny, Noonie). Eeeeew! Or how about over-stepping the mark and going for OtherMother?!!! Seriously? Who chooses that?! No wonder some women have issues with their mother-in-law.
My own mum had similar issues when I had the twins. She felt too young for the traditional labels, so chose Coggy. My dad became Grandy, which I love and has stuck. Even my friends refer to him as Grandy.
And that’s another reason why it’s important to get it right, because I’m going to be stuck with it, no matter how many more rungs I progress up the generational ladder. No one in my family seems to progress any further than their grandparent name. Grandy will always be Grandy, my grandmothers were still Nan and Grandma to my own children (indeed Grandma will still be Grandma even though she’ll be a great-great one).
Although I don’t know if my great-grandmother, Big Nan, only became big on my arrival to differentiate her from new Nan. If she didn’t and was always Big Nan then I only wish I’d met her counterpart as Big Nan was already the tiniest grown-up I’d ever met. How small would a Little Nan have been?
But all the same, when I hear the word Nan I associate it with teeny tiny Big Nan and her strange smelling house and pictures of a stern bearded man on the side table. Or of my own Nan, who could never wait to take her girdle off, always had her hair set and who had a pantry, but not a fridge. I don’t associate it with me. And I can understand why my mum’s mum would never be referred to as Nanny. I’m not the hired help. I’m not paid enough.
My über-cool next-door neighbour is Nonna (she hopes her grandson will grow up to think of her as his Norfolk Nana, who drinks like a fish and makes fab quilts). I’m not sure I’m cool enough or drink enough to share her title. Similarly it’s fine for Goldie Hawn to be known as Glammy, but it’s not something I could pull off. I do love that Joan Rivers is happy to be known to her grandchildren as Nana New Face, but again it wouldn’t be appropriate for me.
Hopefully something will come organically when the baby starts to babble. But until then I might put my foot down, just like my sister did when she became an aunt. She’s never been called Auntie by any of her nieces or nephew, they just call her by her name, but the relationship is the same as if she was Auntie. So perhaps I’ll just be me for now and see what comes from there.