No Name Calling Week

Rose and her BFFs

This week is “No Name-Calling Week,” an anti-bullying effort spearheaded by public and private sector sponsors. In honor of “No Name-Calling Week” I’d like to share an incident that happened in my own home.

Rose has two best friends – Mia and Jane (not their real names). We used to live in the same neighborhood but we moved 35 minutes away from them, so we don’t see her friends that often. When we do, it’s a big occasion–fun for all three families.

Rose’s friends were visiting one day and Mia came running down the hall. The girls were in Rose’s room, and someone had locked the child gate in the doorway. I went back and opened the gate. Then it happened again. I went back to Rose’s room and asked why they locked the gate. Rose said, “So Mia can’t get in.” She and Jane were playing on the floor together, looking innocent.

Shocked, I said, “No! Mia is your friend and you do not lock her out. That is mean and it hurts her.” I opened the gate, “Go ahead, Mia.”

I never thought my kid would be the bully. Mia and Jane see each other more often than they see Rose, so if anyone locked anyone out, I’d have thought the two of them would have excluded Rose. Rose was a really shy kid at first (see Warming Up to Slow to Warm Up). I worried so much about her getting sand kicked in her face that I didn’t realize she could be the kicker. And I bet I’m not the only parent who thinks like this.

She’s my sweet baby, and I hear about the mean things kids do to her, not what she does to everyone else. But Rose as the aggressor never occurred to me. I thought a kid who’d cry when another kid took her toy was too timid to be the aggressor. I had to teach her to take the toy back. I saw the implications of becoming the victim way down the road and I felt I had to toughen her up.

I even took Rose out of one preschool because they had a two-year-old bully in her class. This kid would crash everyone’s party, muscle them out of the way and take their toys. The moms attended class too, but this kid’s mother never bothered to stop him. Plus he spoke only Spanish so the preschool teachers couldn’t communicate with him. One of the Spanish-speaking moms tried to set him straight, but she had her own kid to worry about and she couldn’t be everywhere at once.

Rose’s current preschool is great, and their rule is that everyone plays together. But we were at the school’s playground one day and Rose was playing with two older girls. Rose loves older girls and she’s a relentless shadow. These girls were fine with playing with her but when she told them she had made a card for herself in school, they laughed, “You made a card for YOURSELF??”

My heart broke, but the comments went right over Rose’s head. “Uh-huh, I made a card,” she said with a smile. But what would happen when she understood the taunts? I knew it wouldn’t be the only time that big girls would taunt her, but I realized I couldn’t be there all the time and even when I was, most of the time I’d have to allow Rose to work out the conflict herself. It will kill me to watch it, but I’ve got to let her learn on her own.

Between the Mia incident, the two-year-old bully and the four-year-old taunts, I realized that bullying can come from anywhere. Fortunately, the girls never excluded Mia again once they heard that doing so was “not very nice” But what if I hadn’t caught them just then? I’d have been one of those moms who defended their kid to the death. Bullying? Not my kid.

I learned a lot from the bullying experience. I learned that even sweet little girls, faced with the right situation, can bully their friends, and I have to be vigilant with Rose’s behavior, because in some situations, she could be the victim, and in others, she can be the bully.

I also learned that sometimes I can be there for her, and sometimes I can’t. My job is to pick and choose my battles and pick up the pieces when I can’t.

What’s in a Name? Everything.

These are the top ten names we have for Baby Boy Fisher:

1. Commercial Fisher
2. Charter Fisher
3. Hunter (Gatherer) Fisher
4. Finn Fisher
5. Compliment Fisher
6. Fly Fisher
7. Marlon Fisher
8. Sustainable Fisher
9. Fisher Fisher
10. Offshore Fisher

Let’s just hope it’s a girl! This happened last time too. We wanted a girl so badly that we had only joke names for a boy. We’re still leaning toward girl, but this proves we’re just bad at picking boy names.

Most kidding aside, naming a kid is a huge responsibility. Names are so important. Ask my mother-in-law. Her maiden name was Smelley. When she married Matt’s dad, she became a Smelley-Fisher. Maybe that’s why we poke so much fun. Seriously, your kid’s name will be his or her calling card. The name every teacher will have to learn. The first line of the resume. The first shot at acceptance or rejection by potential dates, employers and, most importantly, kids in the schoolyard.

The trend now for boys leans toward “unusual” names. I meet a new “Aidan” or “Jayden” every week. Let’s stop right there. If you want your kid’s name to stand out, try to stretch a little further than the ones that make the top 20 name lists. When I was a kid, we’d have to call kids “John A.” or “John F.” or “John S.” because we’d have three “Johns” in our class. Same story with Mikes. When parents began to get more creative, I thought the three Johns phenomenon would become an old-fashioned memory. But it’s not. Especially if your kid’s name is Aiden.

Girls name are trending toward the traditional, but the “unique” ones still enjoy some popularity. I picked “Rose” ten years before I married Matt. I loved the name since I was in my 20s and vowed to use it one day. I didn’t know it would be Grandma’s middle name. That was just a bonus. Truth be told, I probably got it from “The Golden Girls” but what the hell, I love it. It was really popular throughout the 19th Century all the way to the 1960s, when its use sharply declined, probably in favor of “Hayfever” or “Wheatgrass.” But every time I introduce her, someone says “Oh, that’s Sailor’s middle name!” or “My sister’s godson’s cousin is named Rose.” It kind of makes me freak. I thought it might be really popular and my kid would have to be “Rose F.” through school. I’m glad I just looked it up. It’s not even in the top 50, according to Babynology.com. It’s not that I’m on the “unusual” bandwagon, I just don’t want my poor kid to have to distinguish herself from others at every introduction.

Which brings up another pitfall. I see a lot of variations on traditional names and there’s nothing wrong with them, you just have to be careful which ones you use. My boss’ stepson will spend his life clarifying, “No, it’s Al-EC!” Don’t impose that on your kid. I hate it when people get my name wrong and mine isn’t even hard. For the record, it’s Maria, not Marie. I used to have to say, “Maria, like West Side Story.” I’ve made enough corrections to know how much it would suck to do it at every introduction. Your name is the first thing you tell people. Having to clarify and correct each time makes for an awkward first interaction and potential bad impression.

And then there are those people who ruined it for everyone at reception desks and switchboards everywhere. If you want to call your kid “Amy,” go ahead. But do not fool yourself that changing the spelling will make the name unique. The only thing you accomplish by spelling it “Amyee” will be to force your daughter to spell her name to every receptionist and secretary, thereby wasting months of her life and reinforcing the resentment she has toward you for doing it in the first place. People ask ME how to spell my name, thanks to some idiot whose mom thought it would be cute to call her daughter “Maryeiah” or “Mahreea.”

One more thing: Your child’s name should grow with her. We had an 80-year-old family friend named “Sally.” Sally sounds good for an 11-year-old, but once that kid clears 17, she’s outgrown her name. When she’s 80, it’s just ridiculous. For boys, I like to imagine my kid introducing himself when he’s 17, after his voice has changed. “Hi, I’m Dylan” doesn’t cut it unless the kid’s a professional gunslinger. My best friend likes to imagine her son introducing himself as a lawyer, “I’m Corey Rabinowitz,” just doesn’t flow with “Good to meet you, Counselor.”

Throughout all the name searching, I’ve realized I’m pretty traditional when it comes to names. I don’t have anything against the latest “unusual” names, they’re just not right for my kids. We don’t know the baby’s gender, but we’re set on “Jackie” for a girl. My top picks for a boy are “Charlie,” “Sam,” and “Ozzy.” I know “Ozzy” is weird but I just like the way it sounds with “Fisher.” My husband hates “Ozzy.” It’s just as well. I think the Nobel selection committee would dismiss anyone named “Ozzy” right out of the gate.

Once we know the gender, we can either stop the boy name search or it will begin in earnest. It won’t be “Commercial” or “Hunter” or even “Ozzy” (sigh), but when we do agree on a name, it won’t be in the top 20, we’ll spell it correctly and our son can use it his whole life.