My kid is the king of random thoughts. Sometimes questions, sometimes statements, but always requiring a response. And always apropos of nothing.
“Air conditioner. What does conditioner mean?”
“Where is Heaven?”
“What’s at the center of the earth?”
“When is Mt St Helens going to erupt again?” (For several months, he was completely obsessed with all things volcanos. Over the holidays, Mike even found through social media a volcanologist to video chat with Teddy; he was engaged in the conversation for 45 minutes!)
“What killed the dinosaurs?”
Sometimes I have the answer; many times I’m formulating it as I’m giving it to him because it’s something that’s never occurred to me. I’m considering it on the spot.
As an adoptive mom, I also prepare myself to field the occasional (at this stage–research tells me more will be coming in the next couple years) question about his story. Again, sometimes I’m happy with my answer; sometimes I wish I’d had a little time to think about it.
But the other day, Teddy made a statement that didn’t faze me at all. It was actually one of those statements I could’ve taken personally and been offended by, but thanks to my own experience, I was able to take it in stride.
It was the 4th of July and we were enjoying dinner at our favorite BBQ restaurant with my parents and friends who were visiting from out of town, before heading to watch the fireworks. That morning, we’d spent outside watching the local neighborhood parade, so my homebody son was quite tired, having exceeded his daily quota of one outing for the day. He had achieved an awkward semi-reclined position, legs curled up on his chair, head lain across my lap. Apropos of nothing as usual, he declared, “Mommy, I don’t like my name.”
I betrayed no emotion. “Oh?” I simply said.
“My name is silly.”
My first reaction was actually excitement. “Well, the great part about your name is there are plenty of options for you. If you don’t like Teddy, you can go by Theo or Theodore or Ted, or even Billy or Will if you want to use your middle name.” Mike and I had been very intentional about this when choosing a name for our first child. Give our own common, simple names, we wanted a name for our eldest that was more unique and offered a few obvious nickname options.
This did not satisfy Teddy. “I don’t like any part of my name.”
Oh. Ok. But I still rolled with it. Because when I was a kid, I got sick of my name, too. I don’t remember how old I was–I think it was still single digits–but at some point, I decided I didn’t like Sara anymore. Maybe because it was/is so common. My parents insist they didn’t know anyone named Sara when they chose my name, which can only mean that all the Saras were born that day because I’ve know many my entire life, and in my sixth grade class of 30, there were six of us. Regardless, I was tired of my name. I wanted to be named Mindy. I think this might have been inspired by the board game Mork and Mindy, which we owned, because I don’t think we knew anyone named Mindy, but I decided that Mindy was a beautiful name. After harrassing my parents about it for months, my father had the genius idea to let me give Mindy a whirl. On my birthday, which happened to be a Saturday that year, he declared that the whole family was to call me Mindy all day. Anyone who forgot and called me by my given name owed me a nickel. (My older brother had to give me a penny. He was quite annoyed by even that.) I remember little of the day’s activities– we did make a family trip to the library– but I strongly remember two distinct details: my dad excelled at this game; and by the end of the day, I *hated* the name Mindy. (I don’t anymore, which is good, since I have a dear friend named Mindi.)
So when Teddy said he thought his name was silly and wanted to change it, I wasn’t fazed at all. I simply replied, “Huh. What would you like to be called instead?”
He clearly was not prepared for that response. He looked at me the way I looked at my parents when they said, of course you can change your favorite color! Really? That’s allowed? Obviously I had no intention of actually changing Teddy’s name, but I had no problem calling him a nickname of his choice for a while. But he didn’t not have a ready answer. So I told him to think about it and let me know when he’d come up with something.
A couple days later, I reminded Teddy about his name angst and asked if he’d given it any thought. He, Mike and my mom were playing tabletop crossword (Scrabble without the board) when Mike, out of ideas for his letters, asked jokingly if he could add “ax” to the word “cool”, to make “coolax”. Teddy exclaimed, “That’s what I want to be called! Coolax!”
“Alrighty,” I said. “Instead of Bud, I’ll call you Coolax.”
His new nickname has not grown roots. Sometimes I use it; most of the time I don’t. Sometimes he reminds me; most of the time, he doesn’t remember. But in a stage when so often what he does and says triggers a less than pleasant response, I was proud to have this parenting win.