It wasn't that Adair Lara wasn't thrilled about her daughter's pregnancy. It's just that at age 52, Lara was, well, way too hip and young to be a grandmother. And she spent the next nine months trying to avoid the name "Grandma" — a word, she says, "that lay in wait for me like a pair of dentures in a glass."
Actually, the San Francisco author was four years older than the average first-time grandmother, according to an American Association of Retired Persons survey — and the exact same age her own grandmother was when Lara was born.
But times have changed.
"It used to be at age 60 you were old," says Matt Thornhill, founder of the Virginia-based Boomer Project, a marketing research firm that specializes in the "grandboomer" generation. "This generation has gotten to that age and it's considered midlife. Boomers today, knowing — or thinking — they're going to live to be age 85 or 90, (say), 'I'm not old yet at 60. And I don't want to be called the name that signifies I'm old.'"
That was the issue for Lara, author of the new "Granny Diaries: An Insider's Guide for New Grandmothers."
"We're often the same age as our mothers and their mothers were when they became grandmothers," says Lara, "but it looks different and feels different on us. We're in our forties and fifties, in the middle of our lives and careers."
Plus, there's that whole boomer zeitgeist thing.
"We all think we're still 19 years old and we don't want any titles actually used for older people," says Lara, now 56 and grandmother to Ryan, age 5, and Maggie, 3. "The connotations in this culture have a lot of baggage — you should get an apron and learn to bake cookies."
Lara says her husband told her "I won't sleep with a 'grandma.' You can't make me."
So, Lara tried on "Nana" for size, vetoed it, and finally dubbed herself "Bobbi," a twist on "Baba," the Russian word for grandmother.
That's not to say there was ever any question about Lara's excitement and delight at the thought of having grandbabies to hold and love. Lara was — and is — absolutely smitten.
The Landaverdes can relate.
"My mom is called Nana and gets mad if strangers call her a grandma," says Noreen Landaverde, a Pittsburg mother of two. "It is an age thing. She does not want to be old enough to be 'grandma.'"
Sixty is the new 40, says Jerry Shereshewsky, CEO of Grandparents.com, a Web site devoted to first-time grandparents.
"They're certainly not their own grandparents and they're barely their own parents," he says. "Instead of being an old person dealing with your grandchild, you're a young person — younger and fitter and richer."
And the most popular segment of Shereshewsky's website, he says, is the section devoted to cool things to do with your grandkids: Alaskan cruises, whitewater rafting, and adventures keyed to different cities. The Bay Area guide, for example, includes ghost walks, sailing excursions, teddy bear-building and exotic, ethnic restaurants.
The bottom line, says Lara, is that today's grandparents are more than a label, unless that label is Grandma 2.0.
"Baby boomer women, in their forties and fifties, with busy lives and careers, are wrestling with their new identity as grandmothers in a world where Mom, Dad, and Nana all work," she says. "These new grandmothers are the urban, marginally hip, accomplished boomer who's too busy getting her Website up and running to take up needlepoint."
And "grandma" is just a word, anyway, says Merrilee Miller. Her mother-in-law, Joyce Miller, may be "Grandma Joyce," but she not only sews quilts but she also also does yoga and celebrated her 70th birthday by climbing Mt. Whitney. This year, the retired Sunnyvale nurse is headed for Mt. Kilimanjaro.
"When she comes over to visit, she says 'OK, put me to work,'" Miller explains. "The other day we were redoing our side yard with half a ton of river rocks. Joyce and I put all the rocks in."
As for Lara, children have a way of reinterpreting names anyway. Lara may have settled on a "Baba" variant, but 3-year-old Maggie calls her "Bob."
Looking for variations on "grandma"?
KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS
Some grandparents end up with more unusual names due to toddler mispronunciation, similarities to cartoon characters, garbage can accidents, or even a proclivity for arriving with great fanfare:
Got an odd grandparent moniker? Add it to the grandparent name list at www.namenerds.com
"The Granny Diaries, an Insider's Guide for New Grandmothers" by Adair Lara ($12.95, Chronicle Books, www.adairlara.com)