I just heard my two-year-old say her name for the first time. Not because she didn’t know her name until now and not because she couldn’t verbalize it, but because very few people call her by her full name. After repeatedly asking family, friends, and teachers to call our daughter by her name, I was almost to the point of giving up on that concept. I needed to stop spending energy on it. But today she finally said her name, and it sounded so beautiful in that sweet voice.
We did choose a nontraditional name for our daughter, but it makes sense phonetically and is two syllables. Just two. We love that her name has future nickname potential, but we didn’t expect people to flat out refuse to use her full name when she was a baby and now a toddler. When I have tried to politely correct those who mispronounce my daughter’s name, I’ve heard, “It’s too complicated,” “I have a lot of kids’ names to remember,” and “It’s just easier to use her nickname.” Again, the name is two syllables. I have also explained to people that while she’s young and still learning how to say, spell, and write her name, I prefer that we use her full name. That seems logical to me and seems like a nice way to ask people to use her full name. I nearly exclusively use her full name in every conversation about my daughter, hoping that others will pick up on my hint. But I have learned that sometimes people just don’t care to respect parents’ wishes.
I wondered if this was something I was being overly sensitive about, so I asked some other parents for their opinions. I heard stories of their children’s names being repeatedly mispronounced by loved ones with no desire to attempt to say their names correctly. I also heard many parents discuss children’s names that traditionally have nicknames that the parents didn’t want to use (“Hank” for Henry, “Peggy” for Margaret, “Jack” for John, and “Sally” for Sarah). Aren’t these completely different names? Of course mistakes and misunderstandings are bound to happen, especially at doctors’ offices and when meeting people for the first time, but a blatant disregard for parents’ and children’s wishes is unacceptable. Parents shouldn’t have to repeatedly ask for someone to call their child by their preferred name.
The next time someone introduces you to their child, it’s best to call the kid the name the parents use during the introduction. You don’t need to take it upon yourself to give the child a nickname, either the parents or child will do that if they want you to use a nickname. Eventually, my daughter may choose that she prefers to go by a shortened version of her name or perhaps another name entirely, and I will happily call her by that name if and when that time comes. But in the meantime, please don’t make us say, “That’s not her name.”