Name Game

Let me tell you about my children’s names. Or, not exactly. When I started this blog I was squeamish about having our identity out there, so I only gave my family members’ initials, and I never included current pictures of the girls’ faces. It’s gotten to be a little bit silly at this point, since I’m on KidsOutAndAbout with my full name all over the place and even on tv occasionally, so really, if people wanted to hunt us all down, they certainly could (Dear Creepers: as a courtesy, please don’t hunt us down). But in any case, I’m used to this schtick, so I’ll keep it going.

I like my name. My full name is Katherine (after the shrew and I’m not kidding), but I go by Katie. I spent my childhood assuming that at some point I’d become a grown-up who went by Katherine. Actually, for much of 5th and 6th grade, I really thought I’d be going with Katherine Siegel, which still sounds very slick and dignified even if in retrospect Jeff S. was not really dynamic enough to keep me interested in him for life.

So I went through college as Katie, got married as Katie, and even continued through graduate school as Katie, which is fitting, because I found very little dignity in the miserable experience I had at graduate school. Finally, during a job search, I decided that I was going to make the Big Switch to Katherine. I updated my resume with Katherine with the intention to use it in whatever professional capacity came next. Except that one job for which I applied specified that the candidate should be “fun.” Well, clearly, Katie is more fun than Katherine. So for that one resume/cover letter mailing, I switched it back to Katie. And of course that’s the job I took, as a museum educator at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.  The die was cast. I decided to just stick with the fun.

Still, I like the flexibility of a long, dignified, classic grown-up name that can be shortened into something cute and fun, so that’s the kind of name we gave both girls.

Except, here’s what happened with M. And just because I’m used to the semi-anonymous schtick, I’m going to stick with it. So, let’s say we named our first-born child. . . Mikayla, except that we decided to call her Mickie. It’s not that we didn’t like the three-syllable full name, it’s just that it seemed like quite a load for a baby or a toddler. And we like the “ie” ending, even though one of Cute W’s female colleagues argued that it was anti-feminist to use this diminutive-sounding ending for a girl-child. Yes, that caused us to fret for a couple of days (because we are pro-girl power and, more importantly, were first-time parents inclined to fret about everything), but we stuck with it.

So we called her Mickie for years and years.

And then school started.

We filled out endless forms to begin kindergarten, many of which included the “full/legal name” as well as a space for “nickname/prefers to be called.” We filled them out Mikayla and Mickie respectively.

At our school, everyone starts with a quick one-on-one conference with the kindergarten teacher to ease the transition to the big kid’s school. When we went to meet M’s kindergarten teacher, the entire classroom was decked out for joyful learning, including all the kids’ names. And everywhere, it said “Mikayla.” I explained to the teacher that our daughter went by “Mickie,” and she assured me that she could change all of those labels. Then my five-year-old jumped in. “No, this is good. I’m Mikayla now.”

And that was that.

There was no dissuading M. What really irritated me is that when I ran into the kindergarten teacher about a week into school, she said, “Oh, she’s doing really great. The only strange thing is that she has trouble remembering how to spell her name.” And I had to remind the teacher that she had just changed it the week before, when she saw the classroom.

But what are you going to do? It’s her name.

M and J a day or two after the name change

M and J a day or two after the name change

So for years, it’s been Mikayla. Relatives and friends who knew her as a baby have been permitted to use Mickie, but Mom and Dad? No way. Then, more recently, more people have started calling her by the nickname. With the rise of soccer, it’s just easier to yell two syllables than to yell three. And she seemed pretty okay with it, which gave me hope that we could all revert to Mickie. And now she’s at a new school, and she’s introducing herself as Mickie and she’s Mickie on Instagram. But Cute W and I are still supposed to call her Mikayla. This makes me crazy.

We talked about it the other day. It was the first time I told her that I prefer the nickname over the full name for her. It just fits her personality. Plus, it’s what I called her from the beginning. I freakin’ like it better. Plus, I pointed out that it’s socially awkward to meet new parents and talk about our kids, because new parent will say something about my child and refer to her as Mickie, and then my choices are: 1) continue the entire conversation without using my child’s name, 2) refer to my child as Mikayla and thus appear to be correcting the other parents in an annoying and uptight way, or 3) give them the whole irritating name story. M conceded that it was awkward. I’ve officially been given permission to use the nickname outside of her earshot. But she hates hearing me use it.

And while part of me believes she’s just yanking my chain about the whole issue, I also understand. When she started kindergarten, she chose to switch to a big, grown-up name that acknowledged her big-kid status. I get that. But since Cute W and I have been calling her by the full name since she was five, when we do use the nickname, it just makes her feel like a little kid again. And when you’re in sixth grade, it’s extraordinarily important that your parents acknowledge that you’re not a little kid. Plus, once again, it’s her name, and there are plenty of other battles to pick. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t go in for a check-up every six months or so, even if it means that I’ll still be checking with her fifteen years from now over a glass of wine.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *