Monday, June 15, 2009

That's Not What I Chose

Play along with my pop quiz here.


Years ago, I worked with a really fun woman named Val. She was in another group that I worked with regularly on my client. She had great stories about her kids and her life, and I always enjoyed spending time with Val.

One day, I sent her an email to check for accuracy (it involved technical things she was familiar with that I wasn't) and she responded with a couple minor changes. As I scanned through it, I noticed that she had changed the reference to her from Val. Instead, she had written out Valerie.

Weird. I'd known her for four or five years at that point, and she was Val. I was confused, so I asked her.

Oh. She doesn't like to be called Val; she wants to be Valerie. I felt horrible. For years and years, everyone had always known her as and had always introduced her as Val. But apparently no one had ever asked her. I felt badly, and I've called her Valerie to this day, as a person's name is theirs, not yours to change as you choose.

She still works for my company, and many people still call her Val, but I've let people I know that she prefers Valerie and shared my experience. And she also feels more comfortable stepping up and correcting people now. Good for her.

But it shouldn't have to be that way. Her name is Valerie. That's what her voicemail says, that's what her email says, and that's how she introduces herself. What's so hard about calling her by her name?

I have this same discussion every year with Mister Man's schools. I should have known better. People told me that if I gave him the name I did, people would shorten it without my permission.

And if he goes by a nickname someday, I'm totally cool with that. But if he starts out with the nickname, he can never go back. People just don't get it though, and it drives me batty. Just like Val.

The principal at his school calls him Mike*. His bus driver calls him Mikey. His aides and therapists vary between thetwo. And I correct them gently by saying things like, "Michael, say goodbye to your bus driver" or "Michael, what do you say to Ms. Barb?" It doesn't click with them.

I've tried writing on the form at the beginning of the school year that his name is MICHAEL, not Mike or Mikey, and he is not to be called by his nickname. Nope, that doesn't work.

I call his teachers and aides out on it. I ask them to please call him by his right name. That doesn't work either.

My new strategy is teaching Mister Man to correct them on his own by politely letting them know that he prefers to be called Michael (which he does -- I recently found out that he doesn't like even my nickname for him, oops!). He's a sweet kid who respects authority, so it's hard for him to stand up for himself, but it's a good skill for him to learn. Someday.

On the plus side, he starts summer school with new teachers today. Maybe this will be the place that calls him by his right name.

Do you have a name that people shorten without invitation to? Do you like it? How do you deal with it?


Heather June 15, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

That's just rude and disrespectful that people would totally ignore you and your son's request to call him by his full name! I hope that people will eventually listen and call him by his full name.

Veggie Mom June 15, 2009 at 12:05 PM  

Well, sometimes people shorten my name to "Veg." Makes me feel lazy or something. Seriously, though, 3 of my nephews are named Robert, David and Stephen. That's what the extended family calls them. Everyone else calls them Bob, Dave and Steve. They don't object, but we sure do!

Raevyn June 15, 2009 at 2:08 PM  

As my name is unusual (Raenell), and most people either do not know how to sound it out (Ray-nell), or are too lazy to do so, I am called a variety of names, mostly I suppose because they are certain that I misspelled it or something (Renee, RaeAnn and RaeLynn are the most common), I was quite happy to shorten it to a nickname (Rae), much to the chagrin of my mother. Most of my friends who knew my mother called me Rae when we weren't around her, but always called me Raenell when she was around. None of my teachers or other adults in my world tried to shorten it, although they usually asked me if I had any nicknames that I preferred.
When a parent gives instructions to a caregiver, be it a teacher, bus driver, aide, or whoever, as to what to call the child, those wishes absolutely should be respected.

H F W June 15, 2009 at 8:34 PM  

Aww, poor kiddo. It's sweet that he's so respectful he doesn't want to "correct" his elders, but it stinks to be called a shortened version of your name that you just don't like.

I get it all the time, too. But I'm used to it, and my name is hard, so I deal. :)

Angela June 15, 2009 at 8:46 PM  

I don't care much for nicknames either. It was pretty funny when my friend Angie and I were growing up. We attended school together all the way from kindergarten up. She was always Angie, and I was always Angela, and it worked out fine because we each preferred those names. But I'm glad she liked the shortened version of our name, because never liked it for myself. There is a guy at work who calls me Angie (without ever asking if that was okay) and it drives me batty!

a corgi June 15, 2009 at 9:16 PM  

first time visiting your journal; I hadn't really thought about this with names and nicknames. Sometimes I just assume because I hear someone going by that name that that is the name they like, not realizing maybe it just got changed that way over the years due to circumstances beyond their control. My husband goes by a shortened version of his name, our son goes by a shortened version of his name and another nickname he chose for himself, and our daughter has a name you can't shorten. My real name is Betty, but at times people wanted to lengthen it and make me an Elizabeth. So I guess it goes both ways.

I enjoyed reading some of your entries; I hope your son enjoys his summer school and just summer in general ;)


Debbie June 15, 2009 at 9:59 PM  

People shorten Debbie to Deb all the time. Even on my blog. My kids have traditional names and people shorten them all the time. Drives me nuts!

septembermom June 16, 2009 at 7:23 AM  

I've been lucky that people call my son James, and not Jim or Jimmy. I always expected people to shorten it. So far, so good. My oldest son's name is John. I've been calling him Johnny since he was a little guy. I think he wants me to drop it and just stick to John. That may be tough :)

Roxane June 16, 2009 at 12:27 PM  

I get shortened to Rox and Roxy all the time. But if we were to go down my list of favorite name for kids I would be mad if anyone shortened them.

Cookie June 16, 2009 at 7:32 PM  

Poor Valerie :( I'm glad there isn't an automatic nickname with my name, Dawn :)

TechNubie June 17, 2009 at 8:17 AM  

People have invited themselves to shorten my name always. I always stress my full name to them. It's a bit offensive in a way, especially when we haven't established that sort of familiarity yet. I usually call others by full names only unless we are very close.

Michelle June 18, 2009 at 7:22 PM  

Heather - I'm with you... especially those who are educators working with special needs kids. You'd think they'd be a little more aware. Nope.

Veggie Mom - I know it's endemic. And as long as he nephews are ok with it, that's the key. It's when they aren't (and he isn't) that there's a problem.

Raevyn - It always amazes me that when a name isn't familiar, it's impossible for people to figure out. Then again, maybe it's a good thing I didn't name Little Miss Siobhan!

Hyacynth - I'm stuck trying to figure out what people would shorten your name to... Hy?

Angela - Gotta love *that* guy -- and there is always one at work, isn't there? You were lucky to be able to hold onto the Angela. Apparently I need to get another same named kid into Mister Man's class ;)

Betty - It definitely does. I have a friend who has a typical nickname as her given name, and people never believe her when she tells them it isn't short for something. There's always a challenge, I suppose!

Debbie - Oh, I can imagine they do. I have my fair share of Deb and Debbie friends! I'm starting to think we should just all go with numbers.

septembermom - You are lucky. Little Miss would have been a James but we would have called him Jamie -- ironically. That's impressive that people have held on to his "right" name for oyu.

Roxane - I can imagine they would :) I bet they sing Duran Duran to you all the time, too.

Cookie - True, that does help when you have no nickname... It's hard to find many names that don't have common nicknames though. I obviously failed!

TechNubie - Yep, I do the same thing in the stressing. Does it work for you? I'm hoping that Mister Man will either learn to be more direct as he gets older or decide on a nickname he enjoys that people can call him.

Gina June 23, 2009 at 12:24 PM  

I went through that with my son. People warned me that folks would shorten his name, but we still gave him the named we loved (even though we don't love the shortened version). The thing is - everyone warned us that his friends would shorten it, but it wasn't - it was the adults! And adults who also didn't want their kids names shortened no less!

I responded like you do - always using his full name, etc, but no one paid any attention. And now he has begun to refer to himself that way, so there is little I can do. But I'll never call him by the shortened name.

It's weird - nicknames don't bother me - I call my daughter by the 1st syllable of her name all the time - but that is a nickname or term of endearment - but shortening my son's name makes it a whole new name, and that is what bothers me.

Michelle June 23, 2009 at 8:29 PM  

Gina - I'm right there with you on all counts, although he still wants his full name. I think I'm going to start being a little more direct with those adults though. Fingers crossed it works -- until HE decides he wants a nickname.

Anonymous June 26, 2009 at 8:13 PM  

Good for you! I like that you have him tell them No, my name is... My issue is that dad and son have the same first name. I made the mistake of making the boy's short. Now I can't go back. But the cool thing is that the dayCare he goes to insist on calling him by his full name.

Michelle June 28, 2009 at 9:26 PM  

Elftea - It's always hard trying to predict the future and know what we should do in so many areas! I know he needs to learn to be more direct, too, but I think I do myself!

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