I sympathize with the grandmotherly concerns of Blythe and Goldie who, according to a story in the New York Times, do not want to be called Grandma. Blythe Danner, mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, wanted to be called Woof. Her granddaughter has since changed that to Lalo. Goldie Hawn, mother of Kate Hudson, likes being called “Glam-Ma.”
I cannot pretend to know how it is to be a celebrity, particularly a movie star with a movie star daughter. Having your child follow in your footsteps would surely be gratifying but it might make you feel like you’re on the slippery side of your own career. And then in walks some little kid calling you grandma for all the world to hear.
However, many of us in the grandmother galaxy understand. As Goldie Hawn put it, grandma is a word with “many connotations of old age and decrepitude.” It’s like so many words that imply “creeping up there,” like retired, senior, elder. The words are correct but the images are all wrong – so last generation. At least we like to say.
I, too am a grandmother with a non-traditional moniker. I am Mutti which I became five years ago when our expectant daughter asked her father and me what we would like to be called. My husband said he didn’t care, so our daughter came up with grand-daddy. She has always called him “daddy” and her now two children would therefore call him “grand-daddy.” It has stuck.
I chose Mutti which is a German term for Mommy but can be used for grandmother. And that was it.
I also chose it to be different from the other grandmothers. Because we are a blended family with a number of divorces, there are lots of grandparents in this part of the family. The four grandmothers are Grammy, Mimmie, Grandma Jan and me, Mutti. The four grandfathers are Pops, Papa, Grandpa Mickey and Grand-daddy.
Now we are doing it again and looking forward to another grand-baby by another daughter. This daughter is a stepmother and her stepsons, who I didn’t know until they were in middle school, call me Susan. That’s easy. But now there’ll be another baby to call me Mutti. Again there won’t be any name confusion because the other grandmothers of this baby – there will be three of us – are already established as Grand-Mom and Momo.
As the New York Times reported, today’s grandparents don’t like being called the old terms because they don’t look or act like grandparents used to. I relate more to the hip grandmother on the Sid the Science Kid PBS cartoon than my wonderful grandmother who wore full aprons and brown stockings. But while we may not look like old fashioned grandmas, our body knows the truth.
You might be lucky to look like Blythe and Goldie. You can call yourself anything you want. But sometimes your bones and lower back feel very grandma-like. One day after nine hours of taking care of two little kids I showed up for a meeting with peanut butter on my shirt and blood on my neck. The peanut butter was from snack time and the blood came from my grandson who had taken a header into the patio table. I wanted a nap.
The kids aren’t fooled anymore than your body. Sometimes my granddaughter will holler out for me and say “Grammy. No, I mean Mimmie. No, I mean Mutti” and I’ll think, poor little kid.
But she knows. She made me a drawing for the refrigerator that says, “Mutti is my grandma.”