There’s an adorable little girl in Big Brother’s class at school named Christine*. At least, that’s the name on her birth certificate. But if you ask her, she’ll tell you her name is Lani*.
I had a chat with her Mum last week. “That’s an unusual nickname,” I commented.
“It’s not a nickname,” the mum said. “When she was two, she told us we’d named her wrong and her name is really Lani. It’s the only name she’ll answer to. So if she stills feels that way when she’s ten, we’ll change it officially.”
That got me thinking. It would be easy to sit back and be judgmental about the situation, thinking the child was bring willful or stubborn and should have been put in her place, but is that fair? If the girl had asked to be called Chris instead of Christine, would anyone be surprised? Probably not.
And why shouldn’t she have a name that she feels is “hers”?
It reminds me of a stand-up comic I heard many, many years ago.
“Sometimes I wonder whether Paul really is my name, or if my parents just made it up.”
Really, as parents, that’s what we do. We make up names for our children. And then we hope those names suit their burgeoning personalities. If you’re like me, you want to give your child a name as a gift, trying to pass on personality traits and good wishes along with a moniker. But what happens if we get it wrong?
My name is Jo.
I introduce myself to people as Jo, I sign my name as Jo. Jo is my name.
But people often ask me what Jo is short for. And I find myself thinking, “If I wanted to be known by my paper-name, don’t you think that’s how I would have introduced myself?”
Because that’s how I think of it: my paper-name.
I don’t answer to it, not because I’m being rude or stubborn, but because it doesn’t feel like you’re talking to me.
Calling me by my paper-name is no different to calling me Sarah or Fran or Barbara. They’re not my names either.
It’s not that my paper-name isn’t pleasant, or pretty, or lovely for other people. It’s just not my name.
My name is Jo and Big Brother’s classmate’s name is Lani.
No matter what our birth certificates may say.
Have you ever wished you had a different name? Have you done anything about it?
* Names have been changed to respect the privacy of this family.