Many of us have been proactive when it comes to our handles as grandparents. We feel free to tell our kids--the parents of our grandbabies--what we would like to be called. Whether it's PopPop or Nana or something we make up--I've chosen PenPen--it doesn't feel intrusive or controlling to choose our name.
But the naming ends there. Where we need to tread more cautiously is when it comes to choosing the baby's name. We can make suggestions; perhaps, pass on to our children reminders of family traditions. But we are at our peril if we persist in trying to sway our children in their choice.
“Names are all about identity. The name the parents choose is central to who the child is and will be, and grandparents feel very invested in that,” said Pamela Redmond, chief executive of Nameberry and co-author of books on baby names. Although we may hope to see a family name carried on, or would like one that reaches into our family's culture, our children may have other ideas. When they act on those ideas, we may feel that “the link to their ancestry is broken,” Redmond said, in an article by Paula Span in the NYTimes.
Some of the points covered in Span's article:
Discomfort with the "new" names:
We have our own notions of appropriateness and a probably misguided sense that our grandchildren’s names reflect on us. So when our children creatively come up with Nevaeh (it’s “heaven,” backward) or use the city where the baby was conceived (like Nashua), we bridle.
“If you’re the conservative who named your kids Tom and Emily, and they’re naming their daughter Miles and their son Freedom, it’s like showing up at the country club with blue hair and tattoos,” Ms. Redmond said.
The new normal:
Young parents face a vastly wider assortment of choices than older generations ever considered. New parents may gravitate toward gender-neutral names, for instance. Older generations’ notions about playground taunts have become outdated when kids have such diverse names that a plain vanilla Linda or a mundane Mike may yearn for something more distinctive.
“This is the first stage in grandparents’ realizing that this is not their kid and they don’t have control. They have to step back, and some are good at that and some are terrible.”--Sally Tannen, who has directed parenting and grandparenting workshops at the 92nd Street Y in NYC.
Clashes over names can backfire, Ms. Tannen pointed out, if they make new parents angry enough to withdraw. Parents serve as the gatekeepers to their children and, as I learned from my conversations, they remember feeling pummeled, even decades later.
Get over it:
“As soon as you’re pregnant, everyone has an opinion” about names, Ms. Tannen has observed. “Once there’s a baby, it would be pretty silly to hold onto that.”
Span writes of one grandfather who was so angry about his children's choice of name for his first grandson that he swore he would never utter the name. "It’s taken a while but, he told me," Span writes, " 'I’m happy to call him whatever he wants to be called.' ”
painting: Mary Cassatt