I AGONIZED over what to name my children. I mean, who doesn’t, right? But I really, really did. I have been a name nerd (yes, it’s a thing) since I was a kid and naming characters in fiction I was writing. I was the 15 year old with dog-eared baby name books stacked in her room. I love learning the origins of names, interesting nicknames and understanding why names are spelled the way they are.
Miss M (almost five years old) has always gone by her full name. It’s a long one, but a beautiful one, that has sentimental meaning to us. It has a shortened version too (which is much more common than the long version) and we often call her that within our family as a “pet name” but always introduce her with her full name and everyone who has known her since she was born calls her by her full name.
Until this summer.
One day she started asking about nicknames and how they work. Her Dad goes by his nickname and so does her brother. She asked if she could tell other people to call her by her nickname and I said what I’m supposed to say, that, of course, she could. I told her she could choose to be called whichever version of her name she preferred. I didn’t think she’d actually go through with it. I thought we at least had until she was a teenager when she will likely reject everything we think is good.
A few days later a store clerk asked her what her name was and she gave her the nickname – which she’s never done before. Another day later she met a child on the playground and, same thing, nickname.
She started primary a little over a week ago and her desk had her full name on it, as do most of the items I labelled for her (though I had to use her nickname or only her first initial on some because the labels are so darn tiny!). As she hopped off the bus at the end of her first day she waved good-bye to some girls she met on the bus. They yelled good-bye to her, using her nickname. Any work from school that she’s put her name on has has been her nickname.
And now she happily tells me that her teacher changed her name on her desk to her nickname. It seems to be official.
Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% okay with this (in theory). I love her nickname, and truthfully, it suits her personality just as well, if not better, than the long version. But it unsettles me because this is the first major independent choice she has made. She is deciding how she wants to be seen and referred to and SHE MADE IT HAPPEN. She introduces herself with this name and asks new friends to call her that. She doesn’t mind when people call her by her full name (and it’s going to take me awhile to get used to the change, if I ever do), but it’s just another reminder that during this time of huge change that she is becoming her own person with her own opinions, and that she can affect change in her life, independent of me.