The end of nicknames

Jul 15, 2008 at 11:34 p.m. ET

Our family likes to give nicknames. Although the boys chose their nicknames for this medium, they are not the names I use with them day-to-day. Each of the kids has several nicknames, and they have evolved from infancy through their childhood. Some nicknames are fairly common, some are plain silly, some are seeming non sequiturs, but they all come from affection.

Annoyed Little Boy
Several years ago, Alfs decided he was too old for his nicknames. He insisted that I stop using them with him - at all. I could not use them at home and definitely not in public. If I slipped up, he would shoot me an icy glare. Double the intensity of the glare if I slipped up in front of his friends. It was hard to do it, but eventually I broke the habit of calling Alfs by any one of his many nicknames.

Each child in turn

Now it's Woody's turn to insist I stop using the nicknames. It has happened at a slightly younger age than Alfs, and as such it took my by surprise. I knew I'd have to stop using the nicknames eventually, but I didn't think I'd have to just yet. And to top it off, Woody's icy glares when I slip up seem to be even chillier than his brother's. And the tone in his voice? Ouch.Even so, it's been really hard to stop, harder than I thought it would be. At first I made light of the request. We tried joking our way through it and even came up with a new nickname along the way. At first, Woody laughed too. But then he stopped laughing, and I realized I need to take his request seriously. He deserves that from me. It's just one of the small ways in which I am going to let Woody know that I take him seriously.

A bittersweet transition

This transition is a natural one. I know that. It's just another one of the signals that my little boy is growing up. Still, I'm bittersweet when I think about the end of the nicknames, and admit I hope it's only temporary. I would give just about anything to hear my late father call me by my family nickname again. Maybe one day the nicknames won't be taboo and we can use our family endearments freely. In the meantime, I have found a way to keep the nicknames alive. When my husband and I talk about Alfs and Woody, we still refer to them by their nicknames.