Starting a new year at school can be just as daunting for parents as it is for the kids. As a parent, you want to know your child will feel comfortable in their new class, will settle in with new and old friends and enjoy the challenges that come with a new year and a new teacher. So with Maisie moving from grade 1 to grade 2, I was anxious to see who Maisie was sharing her year in Grade 1/2 L with. On the first day of class I studied the student list stuck on the outside of the door and, to my great shame, thought about sending Maisie to another school.
When Maisie was born, Susie and I had a range of names that we had agreed on just in case our little baby decided to be a girl. Oddly enough, none of those names was Maisie. Maisie was a name that just seemed to come to us (admittedly about five days after she was born, so it wasn't a "flash" moment). But having agonised over a name, and deciding on one we loved, we couldn't have imagined that anyone else wouldn't like it as much as we did. And then we told Susie's dad. In short, he was not a fan and expressed his disapproval in high-volume four-letter descriptors.
Out of that experience I learnt that what I may think is a great name may not ring everyone else's bells. I also learnt to not be so judgemental about the names other people choose to give their kids. But, as much as I try not to judge, there were some names on Maisie's class list that made me think "I have to be opened minded, but I really really hope that Maisie finds other friends to play with". On the list were several Jacksons with close to a dozen 'x's between them, names with 'y's substituted with 'i's and 'i's swapped for 'y's and a smattering of silent 'w's, 'k's and 'h's. There was also a liberal dollop of umlauts, accents and hyphens. In order for Maisie to fit into this class she would need to change her name to Maähyzií.
I’m not sure when this whole D.I.Y. approach to name construction started. But, rightly or wrongly, I can’t help seeing it at as an extension of other D.I.Y. endeavours. I imagine the parents that decide to make their child’s name unique by swapping a few letters in Bianca to make it Byankah, are also the type of neighbours who like to make their home unique by swapping lawn with concrete. Likewise, the mum and dad who hotted up little Michael’s name to make it Mykahl probably also hotted up their people mover with 20inch mags and a midnight-black paint job. I can already see myself fall into the trap where Maisie introduces me to her new friend and, before I can control myself, I find myself saying “Well hello Typhanii, nice to meet you. Now tell me, how long have your parents been bogans?”
I know it’s wrong to judge a child for the creativeness of the parent, but every time I see ‘creative’ spelling I instantly think that I would pay anything to avoid that kid’s parents at the fund-raising quiz night. And the idea of Maisie becoming friends with one of these kids, forcing me to enter into some doorway conversation where I’m asked “we’re all getting neck tattoos of the Goddess of Love being devoured by the Egyptian Sun God riding a Harley, it’s a really tasteful design I created myself – what do you think?”, just terrifies me. Creating a life is unique enough in my book without having to reinvent the English language.
In order for Maisie to fit into this class she would need to change her name to Maähyzií.