I believe pet names can create negative responses and expectations.
I didn’t know how to answer my 93-yr. old mother when she asked me, “How did you get so smart? If I wasn’t certain she was serious it wouldn’t have hit me so hard, but she was.
She had started calling me “flubadub” when I was about 5 yrs. old. And she considered me as that my whole life. That’s when I started thinking about my life and relationships and how nicknames are just another form of bullying. Living up to Expectations was easier with that nickname.
I was a carefree and happy child. Gullible but loving and tended to believe what people told me. When my older sister got me to try and put salt on a bird’s tail she started calling me “birdbrain”. I carried that one around for at least 15 years.
In High School I was the tallest person in my class. I had a green dress I loved and wore green tights with it. Yes, I became the jolly green giant. At first, I was sad, then I wore it just to be different. Just to give them a reason to call me names. At least I was in control of them.
But when my dad treated me with love and respect and called me “Pal” it didn’t take but a second to know who I’d “pal up with” at a moment’s notice. I was fortunate to carry that one around for life – it help offset the others.
But none of that seemed to help answer the question – How did I get so smart and if I wasn’t why was I the sole trustee for the family trust? She passed on two weeks later and I never got to talk with her about it before that. But every time I think of “expectations” I think of her question and how hurtful pet names can be.
Why did she have one for me? Because her Aunt had one for her and she still resented it 75 years later. She was tall and thin, and Aunt Nelle called her “too big”. Was momma too big because her Aunt’s daughter was short, thin and pale? We’ll never know that one either because Grandma didn’t stand for her daughter and we got much the same.
It was the beginning of generations of “expectations” that shouldn’t have been. Did I pass those on? I’m not sure. I called Julie “Lunch bucket” because she was hungry all the time; she dubbed herself “funny leg” after she rode her bike in front of an oncoming car when she was 12. And Jennifer? We called her “spook”, what message did that send? I met a man in rural Utah several years ago. His nickname was “Toad”. What in the name of heaven did he do to deserve that?
Nicknames can be and are another form of bullying and we should consider them carefully. Being a ”Pal” or “Sweetheart” is supportive and loving, “birdbrain” not so much. I guess that’s how I got so smart – or not.