Friday, October 21, 2011

What's in a name

Like yesterday's offering, this post originally appeared on From the Monkey Bars, a site that closed a few days ago. I'm reposting this here so that I don't lose it.

What's in a name

By  on November 1, 2010 · Parenting · 6 Comments

When my lovely friend Tina asked me to contribute a post here, right away I thought: “how fitting.” I have three lively, vivacious children, and with affection I call them my “crazy monkeys.” My first two monkeys, daughters, are four-and-three-quarters and this close to three years old, respectively. My baby monkey, our son, is eight months old and just this week figured out how to climb on top of the coffee table. He didn’t figure out how to climb back down, mind you. I had to rescue him.

You know what he did? He climbed right back up and panicked all over again. Do you think monkey bars are all that far off in his future?

I call them “crazy monkeys” and each of them I call “love-love” and my eldest, I call her “Booshker.” That one started out as Mushkie but we play with word sounds in our house like other families play with cards or electronic game consoles. Mushkie one day became Mushkie-Tushkie which became Mooshkie-Tooshkie-Ooshkie-Booshkie and now when I want to speak with her I’ll sometimes sing in a high falsetto, “Oh, Boooooshker?” and she says, plain as day, “Yes, Mama?” because nobody else in the world calls her Booshker and she knows in that mama-made sound that I’m wrapping some love around her with my voice.

Why was she Mushkie? Oh, because you should have seen her, back in her sweet cheeks days, all round face and huge eyes and tiny little teeth sparkling like current-swept confetti in a waterfall of drool. She was my first baby and a mama knows these things. She just looked like a Mushkie. But now, with the sass and the spunk and the mischief in her eye: she’s all Booshker.

My second one we call Ladybug, because her name starts with L and I’ve always called her Lady L— Ladybug. If you say her plain name she might answer, but she’ll just as likely yell: “I’m not THAT! I’m LADYBUG!” Because you know, when you think of the fiercest winged creatures, you always envision a Ladybug. Or she might mix things up on you: you’ll say, “hey, Ladybug!” and she’ll retort, “I’m not a Ladybug! I’m a FIREFIGHTER!” because that’s what she says she wants to be one day, so that’s therefore what she is. So I’m happy to be corrected, and I’ll try again: “hey, Firefighter!”

Baby Monkey hasn’t individuated himself enough yet to be the beneficiary of too many nicknames, but I like to call him Griz. Behind the softest belly-rub skin you’ve ever mistaken for velvet, deep beneath the melted ice-cream folds of flesh, deep inside that barrel chest is a Tough Guy waiting to emerge. Deep inside, obviously, but don’t let that shallow dimple fool you. (Actually, I think it’s not really a dimple. It’s a facial fat bend. But you know that makes him all the Tougher.)

A couple of weeks ago at a birthday party I asked of my Booshk, “Hey, Booshkin Ooshkin, should I get you a vanilla cupcake or a chocolate one?” and the boy next to her asked, “what’s a booshkin ooshkin?” And I told him, “that’s just one of her names, silly!” because it is.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ is a lovely sentiment, but I don’t agree. Let’s say, for example, that my not-quite-three-year-old monkey Ladybug was in charge of naming flowers. She might brand that one a Poopyhead Ouchie Stick, and then FTD would probably have to change their logo because I don’t think the would-be roses would be so popular anymore. Names do matter, truly.

And what about me? I can tell you that I’m a hobbyist blogger, or I can tell you that I’m a wordsmith with a penchant for creative suffixing. I could apologize before you come to visit, saying, “just so you know, I have three kids. The house is kind of chaotic.” Or I could tell you that I’m a cookie baker and an on-the-fly fairytale inventor, and invite you to climb into our pillow castle with a resplendent platter of fresh snickerdoodles and a plastic chalice of cold milk.

The way we see the world doesn’t have to be the way everybody else sees it. What’s important is that we remember that our kids model their understanding of the world from our own. I can introduce you to my first love-love by saying “This is ___,” making an introduction to her sound like any other introduction. Or I can tell you, “This is ___, and you may call her that but you should know that I call her Booshker.”

Through my words and through deeds unspoken I want my kids to learn from me that this life is a playful, joyous thing; that I treasure them as wonderful individuals; and most of all, that I love them very much. When they’re standing in front of monkey bars, I want them to have both the confidence and the eye-twinkling sense of adventure to try to climb all the way to the top.

And even if their doing so means that I need to climb up, too, to help them find a way down, I’ll climb for them every time, even though I know most mamas at the playground keep their feet planted firmly in the woodchips. That way I can watch them climb again and again and again, those crazy monkeys.

Original comments:

  1. Kate says:
    Keeping feet firmly on the woodchips is so boring. So is not having playdough ground into the carpet. Or songs being made up around you, very loudly.
    The joy is in climbing, in playing, in noise.
    Lovely post.
    Kate recently posted: All in all- a good day

    • Oh, Kate. When we moved in, we had generic-ugly medium brown carpet in the family room. But now it’s a rainbow of fruit flavors, thanks to Play-doh crumbs affixed to nearly every fiber. One day I’ll replace it with a durable wood floor, but there’s just no point right now : )
      I think you’re absolutely right – the joy is in participating right alongside them, isn’t it?
      Robin (noteverstill) recently posted: A very scary spiderweb

  2. kitchwitch says:
    I have a handful of different nicknames for each of my kids–I can’t seem to settle on just one. My poor kids! It’s hard enough to have just one weird nickname, let alone 5 or 6!

  3. C. says:
    At the place I used to work before I had kids, there was a regular client who always came in with her young son. We’d kind of snicker at she left because she constantly called him Pooh. Pooh this, Pooh that, why would you call your son Pooh? we wondered. Well, obviously now, it’s not so strange at all, and I’ve found myself calling my kids probably much more ridiculous nicknames over the years.

  4. Kelly says:
    My oldest has been Chunk, Babu, Boobah, and Bubs. My youngest is Monkey, Evirella, Meanie Weanie, BayBay, or Bay. I love nicknames.
    Totally agree — life is in the chaos and mess!
    Kelly recently posted: Happy Halloween!

  5. Tina says:
    Oh hell Robin…I can’t believe I have been so absent that I missed your post!
    I just adore reading everything you write about your kiddos and your dreams for them. And names? I am surprised my tot knows his real name. They get quite ridiculous at times.
    Bubby (sounds more like boobie)
    anything with buckets: crankybuckets, happybuckets, sillybuckets, grumpybuckets.
    Love this post and so glad you did it!

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