Thursday, April 24, 2014

What's in a Name?

One of my big disappointments in life is that I don't have a decent nickname.  I still slightly begrudge my parents for purposely picking my nickname-proof name.  There just isn't any short version of Amy.  I think I became sensitive to this issue because my two best friends when I was little were named Jennifer and Elizabeth.  There must be approximately 42 nicknames for each of those beauties.  But Amy?  Not a one. 

I thought it was cool that someone could morph their given name into something cuter or shorter than the original.  Beth.  Liz.  Lizzie.  Eliza.  I envied the creativity and freedom my friends had with their names.  Somewhere along the line, somebody tried to call me Aim.  Which kind of rhymes with lame.  But I didn't care....I hoped and prayed it would stick just so I could have a slick introduction like, "My name is Amy, but my friends call me Aim." 

Fast forward thirty-odd years and I was busy picking names for my own kids.  I'm not sure how it goes in other households, but selecting names for our children was one of the bigger debates of our marriage.  And it's really such a silly, yet infuriating one because each name holds memories and emotional ties for both the mom and dad.  After a few rounds of negotiations, I came up with a list of "Top 10" names that I liked well enough and presented it to hubby in hopes that he would find at least one that was mutually agreeable. 

He vetoed them ALL. 

Finally we settled on Clara for our daughter.  We both liked the old fashioned names and Clara was a historical family name for both of us.  After all the back and forth discussion, persuading and rolling of eyes that comes with the Great Name Debate, I completely overlooked the fact that Clara really doesn't have any good nicknames.  I inadvertently passed along my horrible nicknameless fate to my daughter! 

When she was younger she referred to herself as "Cara", unable to insert the "L" sound in the middle of her name.  I was constantly clarifying her name when she introduced herself to strangers.  She would say, "Cara."  The poor, unsuspecting stranger would repeat, "Cara."  And my daughter would get frustrated and say, "NO, CA-RA!" 

"Clara" I would quietly advise the confused new friend. 

At some point she finally got the hang of the "L" sound and successfully imbedded it in her name.  It's one of those cute quirks of childhood that you love when your kids are young, and then suddenly you wake up and realize it's gone.  And you don't know when or how it went away.  It just quietly vanishes like those cute, chubby baby cheeks or the gummy, toothless smiles. 

When Clara's little brother came along, he came up with his own version of her name.  To him, she is known as "Ra-ra".  He's been calling her that ever since he started talking and it's sort of catching on with the rest of the family.  I find myself referring to her as Ra-ra when I'm talking to her brother.  My husband and I often refer to her as Ra-ra when we talk about her out of earshot.  But woe to you if you call her Ra-ra to her face.

She's told me more than once that she doesn't want to be called Ra-ra.  I usually try to respect her wishes and use her full name.  But I also secretly coach her brother and discourage his language development so he will call her Ra-ra forever.  I know, I know.  This is not award-winning mom behavior. 

But the truth is, it's so cute.  I love that he is now perfectly capable of pronouncing her name correctly, but continues to call her Ra-ra.  I love that he is the only one that can call her that and not be met with indignant protests.  And mostly I just love shamelessly living out my nickname fantasies through the next generation. 

Aim and Ra-ra.

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