“Nina” – not “Nana” – and I’m Fine With That

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The most eventful thing that happened to me last week didn’t happen to me. It happened to our daughter and our son-in-law. She had a baby – which for those of you who are counting know is her second child. Which means I am a grandmother 2x.

How did this happen?

Well, I know how it happened technically  – and that intimate part is thankfully between our daughter and her husband. But exactly how did time pass to this point – where I am supposed to be able to somehow casually admit, oh yes, I’m a grandmother, that part I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around.

While I adore the two little guys, I stumble over the word “grandmother” – and all it implies as an image to others.

Earlier today I had to fill in a form that called for you to check off your occupation. I hesitated. No, I’m not a “Lawyer” anymore (but wait, once a lawyer, always a lawyer?). I couldn’t exactly check the box for “Homemaker” either – though my hard-working husband would be most happy if he arrived home at night to find me cooking his dinner more often than I do. The box for “Retired”, forget it. I’m adamant in thinking of myself as semi-retired.  And the form did not contain a box for “semi-retired.”

Neither did the form have an occupation box called “grandmother.” If it had, I probably could not have brought myself to check that one either.

Why am I so afraid of the labels that imply aging when they are factually correct?

I think back to my own grandmothers, both of whom I was lucky enough to know, and up come images of printed dresses,  papery, wrinkled cheeks to kiss and being enveloped wafts of strong perfume. My sister and I would visit them in their respective apartments, filled with figurines, memorabilia and the latest TV Guide magazines. We took them out to dinner on Sunday nights for Chinese food, then considered a rare treat.  The more stylish (fresh lipstick always) of our grandmothers had six grandchildren; the more comfy of the two had twelve.

They were the classic grandmother types. I’m not in that mold, I like to think.

I catch myself consciously practicing to be the “young” grandmother type.  Our older grandson calls me “Nina.” A variant on my first name, Nancy and the word “Nana”. He picked the name on his own – and to my ears, “Nina” sounds youthful and hip. It goes along with my getting down on the floor to build Lego towers, stretching play dough into colorful ropes and taking walks to the playground to go on the slide.

Were my grandmothers ever the “Nina” type?

In my memories they sat on couches or in heavily upholstered chairs; they never crouched on wood floors to stack blocks or line up trucks in a row.  Did they read to us when we were little or mostly pinch our cheeks and then make soup? They certainly didn’t drape themselves in blankets and create pretend forts.

So therefore I cannot really be a grandmother because I don’t act or look like the grandmothers I once knew.

I am a “Nina” instead. And I’m not alone in this – wanting to be perceived as the youthful g-ma type. A friend of mine who has two grandchildren likes to be called “Mimi” and another has her three grandchildren call her “Gigi”.

Likely we fool no one with these young-ish sounding names. But somehow they make us feel better that we haven’t morphed into our parents’ parents generation.

The photos we post on Facebook (with permission of our adult children, of course) show us being active grandparents. Look at us, how energetic and playful we are. Hardly grandmotherly at all, we say to the world.

At a meeting last night, a friend came up to me to offer congratulations (although as noted above, I had nothing to do with it) on our daughter’s new baby. The friend hugged me, then pulled away to look at me –  assessing my appearance.  Non-Mom jeans, a dark cardigan sweater, stylish (I think) short black boots.

“You look pretty good for a grandmother,” she said.

“Thanks.”

I guess it was meant as a compliment.  Maybe my friend is also recollecting her own black and white photos of an apron-wearing grandmother at the stove.

25 years from now will my two grandsons look at old photos of me (assuming they make it into print and aren’t forever trapped inside an iPhone) –  and think how stodgy and old-fashioned their “Nina” looked way back then? And yet we called her “Nina” – wasn’t she fun, I hope they will say.

How she loved being with us, singing silly songs and playing on the floor. Just like “Ninas” are supposed to be.

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, daughters, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Parenting, Retirement, Semi-Retired, Women

3 responses to ““Nina” – not “Nana” – and I’m Fine With That

  1. I am an 87 year old grandmother! I have 3 grandchildren and one great-grandchild! I am now convinced that I was born in the greatest generation. After college, in the 50’s I got married, stayed home to raise my children and when the youngest was ready to attend college in the 70’s, I went back to work in my profession of Personnel (now called Human Resourses) While traveling with my husband (on his job) I became interested in the field of travel. After working in the Travel Industry I decided to open my own Travel Agency and was one of the first women to get a business loan from our local bank! I retired from the travel Industry in 1989 and I am back into the volunteer world. I am a strong advocate for NAMI today…….my. brother had his first episode of bi-polar illness while we were n college together in the 50’s…..In conclusion, mental illness in my family inspired me to become my highest self……my focus is bringing my church and NAMI together as partners,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bonnie J. Weissman

    My 23-year old twin grandsons are supposed to call me Busia (I am Polish-American, and it’s pronounced boo-shah) but they say “boo-taah,” and I love it! I am a very healthy and active 63, and love helping out with them whenever there’s an emergency at work or daycare, and sometimes just because I want to pick them up early and play with them. We moved to Baton Rouge from NoVa to be near my oldest and her husband, who graduated from LSU Law and now slave away at large firms. I enjoy my grandsons so much, and they bring so much joy to my life! I also sing with a group that performs at hospitals and nursing homes, paint landscapes at the art guild studio, and work out regularly at the local Y. In the fall we enjoy tailgates and football games at LSU with my son in law’s family who have “adopted” us. Nothing like being Busia!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love that he calls you NINA!

    Like

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