If Your Kid Is Calling Grandma By Her First Name, It’s Probably Because She Wants Him To

81849142I think what your kid calls Grandma is her business. If she wants to be called “grandma,” cool. If she wants to be called “Beth,” cool. She can even be called Beth if her name isn’t Beth as far as I’m concerned. Whatever works for different families is totally fine by me. I don’t find it odd at all when a child doesn’t call his grandma, “Grandma” – because I realize that whatever he calls the members of his family, he’s been taught to call them.


I mean, I know kids may veer off the path a little. My child called me “mom” when he was younger, which I always thought was weird because I always referred to myself as “mommy.” He calls his grandma “YaYa,” because we are Greek and that translates to Grandma.

I’m thinking about this because of a Babycenter poll that said almost half of parents want their children to refer to their grandparents as either “grandma” or “grandpa.” Some mentioned that it signified a special bond; there are tons of people you interact with, but only a very select few you can call Grandma or Grandpa. Some felt that calling a grandparent by anything but that label was disrespectful. To me, respect comes from how you treat someone – not by the name you call them.

Whatever Grandma wants to be called is okay by me. The same goes for moms and dads. My editor Eve Vawter says that when she has grandchildren, she will expect them to call her “Duchess.” I can totally get behind that. I never had grandparents I was close to. There is something about having different nicknames for grandparents, or even calling them by their first names that I think is touching. See, I’m touched by any kind of relationship at all – because I never had one. If I had a cool Grandma that wanted my to refer to her as “Queen,” I would have gladly done that.

If you have a kid that’s going rogue and calling Grandpa by his first name even though he hates it, that’s one thing. But if everyone agrees on a label, who cares what that label is? As long as there is a loving bond there – I wouldn’t care if my mom wanted to be called “Princess Sugarplum.” I would think it was totally weird, don’t get me wrong – but I would indulge her.

I think.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • Jessica

    I was really close to my high school bf’s family. One of his aunts was called, “Mam” by her grandchildren. It was pretty adorable. I think it started with one of the oldest grand kids mispronouncing “gram” or grandma. However it came about, it stuck & all of her grand kids call her that now.
    If I projected my feelings toward my mil, I’d be pretty grumpy if she wanted my kids to call her something weird. But that’s mostly because she’s been actively mean towards me since I married her son. Otherwise, I’m all for grandparents being called anything they want :)

  • aCongaLine

    I agree with you, with the exception of grandparents wanting to be called “Mom” and “Dad” of course :)

    When we told my parents that our oldest daughter (first grandchild) was on her way, my father, without missing a beat, replied “I will be Pepere.” (French for Grandfather.. I’m French Canadian.) He was so. Excited. to be Pepere- it was insane. No way was I going to dictate what he was going to be called.

    My mother wanted to be Grammy. Until she came to visit one day, and my then-10-month-old oldest daughter excitedly exclaimed “Mimi!” She’s been Mimi ever since, and she thinks it’s adorbs.

    MIL wanted to be called “Grandma FirstName.” No problem- she just had to wait for our toddler to spit out all those syllables, while calling her other things in the meantime.

    I’m happy to let my kiddos’ grandparents make their preferences known, and do my best to honor that. But, my kid has a say, too.

    • Andrea

      I had abuelas and abuelos and now my kids have one abuelo and one abuela. I will totally expect my grandchildren to call me abuela. Not many kids in this countries have an abuela!

    • aCongaLine


  • igottagetoutmore

    What bugs me being greek is when the expectation is all other older adults are referred to as GiaGia or Papou whatever their names are…Sorry my kid actually only has 2 grandparents (DH’s) and everyone is going to be Theia or Theo (Aunt/Uncle)…pet peeve but drives me freaking batty. I hate it!!!

  • Lee

    I had a grandma that I referred to as Old Grandma. No one ever stopped me and my older cousins even started calling her that.

  • Guest

    I think what they end up being called just kind of happens. I call mine Grandma Linda and my cousin’s kids call her GG (Great-Grandma). I have a hard time picturing my parent’s names behind Gpa/Gma but I imagine that will change down the line.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    My kid has 3 grandmas and 3 grandpas. Thankfully my stepmom prefers going by Grammy and my stepdad prefers going by Grandad so there’s a little bit of differentiation. I go with whatever they want to be called.

  • Ginny

    We called my Great-Grandma “Grandma” and my actual Grandma by her first name. Don’t know why it was that way, just was.

  • Kay_Sue

    My mom wanted to be called “nana”. She oscillated back and forth over that decision throughout my first pregnancy, mulling over different names. He decided to call her “Nanny”.

    My younger son, despite everyone (including herself) referring to her as Nanny…calls her Nana. He has never heard her referred to as Nana anymore than my elder heard her referred to as Nanny, lol. Kids are weird. The important part is that everyone likes the name, I think. ;)

  • Robotic Arms Dealer

    “Eternal Gift Giver”?

  • AnastasiaMcNally

    I call my grandma granny, or granny Annie. Now that I have a baby she’s started referring to herself as “greaty” to the baby. I’m interested to see if it sticks, I think it’s quite cute really!

  • Alicia Kiner

    We (hubby and I) let his parents decide what they wanted to be called, since our son was their first grandchild. So they are Nanny and Pop-pop. My parents had five grandchildren by the time my son was born, the oldest 13 by that point… so their names were set in stone by that point ;) I think I want my grandkids to call me Gram. It’s easy, and it’s cute when little ones say it. Who knows. My kids are 8 and 9… I have time ;)

  • uptown

    My dad decided my son was going to call my mom meemaw like big bang
    He’s 17 months and laughs if he hears meemaw and calls her mawmaw and me mommy or mom. The name he has chosen for my dad? Geegee.

  • EMarie

    My parents wanted me to call my maternal grandparents “Nana” and “Grandfather.” Except when I learned to talk, “grandfather” was a little too much to wrap my mouth around. It came out sounding like “California,” which everyone thought was very funny, and they kept as a joke. It quickly got shortened to “Cal” and stuck like glue. 30-some years later, Cal is still Cal at age 93!

  • pixie

    For some reason when I was really young, like just talking young, I called my paternal grandma the welsh name for grandma. Nobody knows where I picked it up from, since nobody in my family speaks Welsh and my dad’s mother doesn’t have any Welsh in her (my mom’s mother was Welsh but she died before I was born) . One day I just switched to calling her grandma. When my paternal grandfather was alive he was dads-dad, because he was my dad’s dad. He passed away shortly after I turned 2, though, so his name never changed.

  • Sam Inoue

    My kids call my parents grandfather and grandmother (they are a bit stuffy if that was evident). My husband’s parents are Japanese so we obviously call them Oba-san and Oji-san (I don’t really know if that is correct Romanizing of those…). But they do call me and my husband our names sometimes, cause my niece does so they often just copy her.

    • Natasha B

      Ha! Our 4yo son has taken to calling me by my first name lately, maybe because he is aware of other people NOT calling me mommy now? It’s kinda cute, but I like mommy better :)

    • Sam Inoue

      Yeah I like being mom, but I don’t so much mind that she knows our names. I don’t think I knew my dad’s first name until I was in like 3rd grade.

  • thisshortenough

    In my family you are only allowed to call my granny, granny. My cousin once called her nana and she corrected him. It’s a strict rule

  • Lindsay

    We called both of my grandfathers “Papa” because my older brother couldn’t pronounce grandpa as a kid and it was something that was really special to us, and still is.
    Fast forward to my first nephew being born. My brothers and I insist my dad be called Papa for how special it is, my dad says he wants nephew to call him grandpa, because his dad was Papa and that was a title that was earned. We respected his wishes and referred to him as grandpa until nephew was old enough to talk, and totally of his own volition, started to call him Papa. Even he admitted he was meant to be Papa, just like his dad was.

  • arrow2010

    “Baba” is very common in Russian culture.

  • aheb

    My dad’s name is Dan, and he decided when I was expecting my first that he wanted to be GrandDan. I thought it was a bit silly at first, but it totally works and helps differentiate between Grandpa T (my stepfather) and ‘Uelo (my father in law, abbreviated form of Abuelo.) My mom is Grammy and my mother in law is ‘Uela.

  • Sara

    My great grandma was Humbug my grandma GranBeck my grandpa Popsy and my other grandmother Nono. So to each their own.

  • K.

    There are limits, though. My MIL wanted to be called “Ma.” I said no. Then she chose “Mamo.” And I was tired of fighting so I let it go, but am I nuts for thinking, “Really?? REALLY??”

    • ElleJai

      Definitely not nuts, I’d consider that weird too.

      But then I’ve also never understood the thing with “MawMaw” and “PawPaw” and variations on it, so maybe I’m just not awesome enough.

  • ElleJai

    My poor kid has Nana (my mum), Grandpa and Nana Jack (my dad and stepmom), and then Nana and Grandpa on the other side too!

    I had Nana and Grandma, which was less confusing but meh. He’ll work something out;)

    • Gangle

      He will. My sisters nephew and niece have two Nans – at one point three when our grandmother was still alive. They figured out pretty quick what was what and it never created confusion for them. Sometimes they will tell a story about nan.. usually by the story we can tell which is which, but if not you just have to ask which nan they mean. Simple!

  • Gangle

    My adorable late grandfather was known to everyone as ‘Ted’. He didn’t like ‘Mr —’ or anything, not off of bank managers, not off of other peoples kids. He was known his whole life as ‘Ted’ by everyone, except for his children who called him dad. My aunt is called her first name by her grandkids because ‘nan’ etc make her feel old. And who wants to feel old?

  • Natasha B

    My parents are Grandma & Poppa….just what the kids started calling them. Hubs are BaNoi and AmNoi (not sure that’s the correct spelling). It works :) My sister (the kiddos hands down fav person) is actually Nana, because they couldn’t say Amanda at first.
    I would like to be referred to as The Dowager Countess, future grandkids. Thanks.

  • Itpainsmetosay

    My aunt wanted to be called CC and most of the time we (my sister and other cousins) can’t remember why. She got her wish and now one of the only words the almost 4 year old knows is CC (if that’s even a word). On the flip side we (just me and my sister this time) really want my other aunt to be called Jeanie because her middle name is Jean and because she is so not grandma ever.

  • MerlePerle

    My daughter calls both her grandmas and her great-grandma Oma and grandpa is Opa. That’s pretty much the norm here in Germany. When we talk about them it’s Oma Sabine, Marlis etc. But she rarely calls them that when speaking with them. I called my parents by their first names when I was younger and most kids found that to be so strange, I had to explain that a lot. It was just what my parents referred to themselves as. My kids call us Mama and Papa, which also is pretty typical here.

  • tSubh Dearg

    My Danish grandparents (my dad’s side) were Bedste and Granny and my Irish grandparents were PopPop and GranGran. I don’t know how either of them got started, I really must ask my parents…

    • Geliaebrina

      Bedste comes from “Bestemor” which means grandmother in Danish (and Norwegian)

    • tSubh Dearg

      Oh I know where Bedste comes from etymologically, but not why only my grandfather got the Danish based name but my grandmother didn’t and I have no idea about the whys behind my Irish grandparents’ names :)

  • Geliaebrina

    My grandparents are Momma and Motta (my mom’s parents) and Bestemor and Bestefar. Momma and Motta was what my brother ended up with when trying to say Mormor and Morfar (maternal grandparents). The last two is just grandmother and father in Norwegian.

    Norwegain also have Farmor and Farfar for paternal grandparents.

  • http://lawleramericanadventure.wordpress.com/ Nicole

    My grandmother wanted to be called ‘Grandma’ but I wasn’t able to say it, so she got Mama (which suits her to a t! Her husband, my grandfather, is called Pa which is perfect for him). When her sister’s first grandchild was born, she wanted to be grandma as well but again, the babe couldn’t pronounce it, so she’s Gaia. But said in a very country Australian way, like Gay-Uh. I love it when kids come up with names to call their grandparents,

  • dresdenfae

    I live in a different country from my mom. My mom also has MS and is in a wheel chair because of it. She has told me that she wants any future grand kids to call her either skypie or gimpy. I think both are really very weird. My mom had a difficult relationship with my grandmother and taught my sister and I to call our grandmother nanny. My grandmother hated it as she thought it sounded like a goat.

    I do have a good relationship with my mom. However, despite the 3 years that have passed I’m still not over her poor behavior in the run up to my wedding. (Long story, but she told me no one would come unless I did it her way, that my food choices were awful and so on. My wedding was then cancelled and totally rearranged in less than 20 hours due to a hurricane.) My mom doesn’t want to be called nanny, but she will be, I’ll make sure of it.

  • LadyGwyn12

    My aunt and uncle have their grandchildren call them-I shit you not-Grand-Moo-Moo and Grand-Poo-Poo, or Moo-Moo and Poo-Poo for short. Why they wanted to be named after excrement and the sound a cow makes, I have no idea. My parents have decided they want to be Nana and Papa G (our last name begins with a G). I call my maternal grandparents Grandma and Papa. My paternal grandmother was just Grandma Kay, and my paternal grandfather is Granddad Larry. I call his second wife (my dad’s parents split when he was in junior high) Gramma Celie.

  • SuperSimoholic

    My grandfather on my father’s side (my father’s step-father) told me to call him “Pappy”… Until I was like 13 I believed that was calling him by his first name. His name is Robert. Not Pappy. Robert. It really weirded me out.