My youngest granddaughter just left us for her home in Denver after an all too brief visit. “Abba G”, as she pronounces “Abigail,” is 20 months old, which means she has a large one-word vocabulary and is just beginning to pick up two-word phrases (see “Mama Teached Me Talk” on our Reference Shelf).
An interesting aspect of the child-grandparent relationship that has developed fairly recently is the phenomena of children getting to pick their grandparents’ names. I know three Mimis now, a Booby, a few Pa-pahs (both syllables accented) and a Pappy. Of course, this is the origin of more widely used Granny, Grams, and Gramps, too.
Well, my younger son’s daughter seems to have confirmed the name chosen for me by my older son’s daughter, Laurel, who is now three. When her age was somewhere under two, I spent a couple of afternoons helping her learn how to count: “No, not 7-3-2-8-5,” I would prompt, “1-2-3,” thinking, “Let’s get that far first.” I would repeat this number sequence several times in a row until she would get them in order, only to forget an hour later.
At that point she would occasionally call me “Grandpa” but not with any confidence. I live in Pennsylvania and manage to fly out to her home in Boulder, Colorado about twice a year; they come to Pennsylvania once. At a year and a half old, we had not had much contact of which she was conscious.
A day went by in which she did not call me anything. The next day her dad noticed that she was avoiding any form of address and asked, “Laurel, who is that man?” pointing at me. She looked for several seconds and finally said, “Two-pa”, walking away confidently. (She could have made it “three-pa” but I guess two-pa is better than one-pa.)
Now Abigail has picked up the habit from her cousins and parents, who think the name is cute, so I guess I will have to live with it. She is also calling her Grandma “G-ma”, since all words or parts thereof beginning on G are reduced to the name of the letter itself in her toddling vocabulary. Her grandmother is still uncomfortable with this appellation, which reminds her of “G-string” (of a guitar, I presume).
Anyway, the desire by children to have their children refer to their parents (the children’s grandparents) with a unique name I take to be the flattering reflection of the first generation’s sense of their parents’ uniqueness. This is better than the alternative explanation—that it is payback for the names we gave them.