Life On the Other Side

How to Cope When Your Teen Says, “Don’t Call Me Pumpkin!”

teen holding pumpkinMany parents have pet names for their children, often from the time they are young. Things like Princess, Slugger, Buddy, Bubba, and yes, Pumpkin. Sometimes these nicknames are then picked up by other family members and friends, even when they don’t know the origin. Some nicknames stick through life, others fall by the wayside when they no longer seem appropriate. I have one close friend whose family called her sister Boo for years when we were growing up, and my dad’s close friends still call him Bunny, a name given to him by his mother when he was a baby.

Prior generations were fond of nicknames. Sometimes they helped to differentiate who one was talking about as it was more common years ago to name children after their parents. Though many kids went by Junior, there was room for only so many Juniors in a single group. While the origin of these nicknames is often simply shortening of a first or last name, it can also be related to a particular quality or can even be happenstance, coming from a random event which somehow end up sticking with a person. With so many origins, it is also possible in a lifetime to end up with multiple nicknames.

You may have nicknames for your child that are silly or affectionate. He or she may be accustomed to going by that name and seem to like it. However, the pressures of being a teen and struggling to fit in may be the end of this. The teen years are known to be a time when children move away from their parents and try to create their own separate identities. A name can say a lot about someone. Teens start to pay more attention to what they are called and may decide to take a stand on which variant of their name will be used going forward. This is when Joey becomes the more grown-up Joe and John Christopher separates from his father John and becomes Chris; where Mary Jane gets tired of writing out her name and becomes MJ and Samantha decides that she prefers the decidedly feminine version of her name to the ambiguous Sam. As a thoughtful parent, you of course acknowledge this but continue to use whatever name or names you have always called your children. (That is, you reason, one of the perks of being a parent.)

Then it happens, you are told in no uncertain terms that you are not to use that name in public or when friends are around. Resist the urge to say, “Okay, Pumpkin,” as that will unleash wrath and result in either an angry tirade or silence as you watch the back of a head angrily stomp away. You may, however, ask what is acceptable to call your child now. Though you may not like the answer, it may be best to go along with it (at least in public). Unless of course, you want to take an alternate route and find a new, less “babyish” nickname. After all, isn’t that what all the cool kids do?

A quick Google search turns up thousands of “Cool Nicknames” such as Froggy, Godzilla, Thunderbird, Sabre-Tooth, Cookie, and Astro for boys and Hurricane, Tootsie, Guppy, Bug, and Kevlar for girls. Be careful when choosing; these websites remind that a nickname should be fun and that those who are called by such a name need to be “cool with it.” Just think about it:  If you choose carefully, you may find that your child is really fine with Pumpkin after all.


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