The sad end of baby names
The tragic day your child turns around and says “don’t call me that!”
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My father had a nickname for me when I was very young. He called me “Dodge”. I think it had something to do with my horror of being tickled and my lightning-fast reaction to the threat of that happening. Try to tickle me? I’ll be across the room faster than you can blink, while your fingers grope thin air. But the day came when hearing him call me that in public wore thin. I remember quite vividly blushing and asking him not to call me “Dodge” anymore. I allowed my mum to continue calling me “Scottie”, but no one else could.

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I suppose it was a mark of affection for him, one that he hadn’t considered could be annoying me. Now that I’ve have children of my own I have seen this experience repeated. My eldest son has made it clear that he won’t take too kindly to being called “Jamesey-Wamesy”, and my youngest son is rapidly moving from “Jo-Jo” to Joe. His name is Jonah, but he quite likes the shortened version. The only one who allows her name to become something else is Hannah, who will happily reply to some silly versions of her name (which I won’t repeat here, for dignity’s sake).

Nicknames can come about out of habit- you say something once and it sticks. It could also be that the name you have chosen for your child seems too adult for a baby, so you trim it down.

It seems to happen in the first couple of years of school, in my experience. Perhaps it’s related to assertive behaviour as the child tries to plant some social roots. Their friends may give them an entirely new nickname, or they may even choose one themselves.

So you’ll be hanging out at home, maybe relaxing in the garden or cooking while having a chat and you’ll use the nickname. The responses range from “D-a-a-ad, don’t call me that!” to “I don’t want to be called that anymore”.

Just like that, a piece of their childhood becomes ancient history.

I must admit to feeling a bit embarrassed for putting them in the uncomfortable position where they felt they had to (gently) rebuke me. How could I have missed that the nicknames had passed their sell-by dates?

A parenting paradox

One parenting paradox many of us experience is that despite the outward form growing up, our brains play tricks on us, reminding us that the kid lounging around on the couch, nearly as tall as me, was until recently a baby. Where did those years, that decade, go?

On letting go

Sometimes I think back to my own childhood and remember my dad calling me “Dodge”, and it makes me smile. It leads to memories of walking on our hands around the garden or him letting go of the saddle of my bike for the first time as I wobbled off down the road. He let me go at exactly the same time that I was old enough to push forward on my own.

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