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We Didn’t Name My Stepson ‘Taco’ But Sometimes Kid’s Nicknames, For Better Or Worse, Just Happen

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shutterstock_105597305__1373281625_74.134.205.46There is sort of a crybaby opinion piece in the NYT about a father bemoaning the fact his son Walter has been nicknamed the rather awesome and pretty damn adorable nickname “Wowee.” Have we really gotten to the point as parents where not only do we stress and agonize and pro and con’s list every baby name option but now we get stressed over the nicknames that evolve from what we call our children? I guess so:

As you can imagine, he is not just Walter. Ten seconds after meeting, people rearrange his name with a kindhearted smile. I shouldn’t be mad because these nicknames are a sign of affection. People call him Walt or Wally because they like him.

But for some reason those names cause me to sharpen my tone and squint my eyes. “We named him Walter,” I say, an inch away from waving his birth certificate through the air.

When my daughter was little her older brother (technically, stepbrother) was her greatest fascination and object of adoration. He has a very elegant and Italian name, and his mother frequently requested that we used his full name, and not the Americanized, shortened version. When we asked our baby girl, barely able to speak, that she call him this to reduce any friction between us and my husband’s ex, she did what any young child would do when confronted with a mouthful name that she couldn’t quite enunciate. She shortened it and mutilated it into the word “Taco.” So now, not only is my stepson not usually referred to by his given name or even the shortened version, he is called “Taco.” It’s not the cutest or most classy of nicknames, but it is what it is. It doesn’t bother him at all, and he even uses it himself, as in when he is visits he will announce TACO WANTS TACOS.

My other kids have weird little things we call them as well, V for Veronika, ViVi, NikaNoo (I have no idea where the hell this one came from) and not the “Ronnie” one would associate with Veronika, which would be adorable and bring to mind beehived girl chanteuses from the 1960’s. My boys have their nicknames as well, and I guess I have never contemplated that nicknames can be perceived as being negative by the outside world. It isn’t like we call them derogatory names or nicknames derived from their appearances, just either shortened or skewed versions of their given names.

My husband calls me Bunny. On occasion my kids do as well. I have a handful of other nicknames, including one my extended family is quite fond of, that was given to me by my nephew when he was also barely able to talk. It has nothing to do with my name, I have no idea where it came from or why he started calling me this, but I doubt it’s hurt me in any way to be referred to as “Goggy” in my adult life. It may confuses my mailman to deliver holiday cards with this name, but it doesn’t bother me a bit.

Nicknames usually come from a place of fondness. We don’t plan on them happening, but they usually evolve from an inside joke or a personality trait or a happy memory we associate with the person we give them to. If the nickname is fitting it is usually used by others as well. We worry enough about what we put on a birth certificate, and I find it hard to believe a lot of parents are freaking out over what nickname our kids end up with. Unless it is something nasty or mean, but do you really know any adults commonly known as “Jerkface” to others? At least not to their face.

(Image: Lorelyn Medina/shutterstock)