The name game: A world of pain?
Am I the worst father ever?
Joseph Kelly wonders whether nicknames are just harmless monikers, or do they trap people into certain periods of their life?
When I was growing up, everyone in my family had a nickname. I was either called 'Maneen'or 'Mon', which are both variants on the Gaelic 'Little Man', because I was the youngest male. My youngest sister, Romy, was called 'Boose' which was short for caboose because she was the last carriage on the long train that was our family. So it's no surprise that when my children arrived I soon found nicknames for them.
When both 5 year-old Maisie and two year-old Frances were in-utero they each shared the same nickname: "Junior". However, each has developed different names to match their developing personalities.
When Frances first arrived we played around with general variations on her name: Francie, Francie-Pantsy, Frankie etc. But as she grew her personality demanded more and more defining. "Frankie Two-Shoes" was an early nickname inspired by both her love of shoes and her uncanny resemblance to a Mafia Godfather. By the time she was about six-months, however, we had hit on the nickname that is still current today: Sherman. Inspired by the Sherman tank of World War Two, Sherman sums up Frances' 'stop at no costs' approach to life. Along the same vein, Maisie calls Frances "Giant" because of her ability to destroy everything in her path, while my mum simply refers to her as "the Storm".
For her part, Maisie made her way through the 'Buddha' and 'Chubba Bubba' phase in her early months before picking up a few generic toddler nom de plums: Princess, Angle Cake, Sweet Pea, Devil Child, Lucifer. She also earned the name Parma Toes thanks to some pretty stinky feet. But the name that has stuck fast is a title she won one night when she had just turned two and had a bad case of gastro. Having taken it in turns with Susie to stay up all night with her while she threw up every hour on the hour, it was only natural I would take to calling her Spew Face. Maisie was too weak to protest so I took her passive acceptance of the name as a ringing endorsement. Very soon it had been cemented in and was used in regular rotation with terms such as "Maisie Daisy", "Crazy Maisie" and "Sausage". For her part, Maisie took to calling me "Daddy Pum Pum" which I'm guessing is funny because it rhymes with bum. Everyone was happy - until recently.
About a week ago I was loading Sherman and Spew Face into the car for the morning drop-off. All was going well until I went to ask Maisie a question. "Hey Spew Face" was all I got out before Maisie unleashed a tirade. "You can't call me Spew Face because that was from when I was little and now I'm big and it's not a nice name and no other daddies at school call their kids Spew Face". All I could think was: "Where the hell had that been stored up? What am I going to call her now? Am I the worst father ever?" I have since agreed with Maisie that Spew Face does not, in fact, accurately reflect the sophisticated and elegant young five-year-old she has become and I am trying to un-learn the name.
But the incident makes me wonder: are nicknames just harmless monikers, or do they trap people into certain periods of their life that they would like to escape? I probably wouldn't like it if Maisie started calling me "little man" and I bet Frances won't want to be called Sherman on her wedding day.
Is it enough just to drop nicknames when they've been worn out or should we be more judicious in their use in the first place?
Comment on Diary Dad's blog.