Nicknames: Mommy’s first steps in baby communication

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A lot of time and consideration (and arguing) goes into picking a baby name. As a writer, it was hard for me to settle on a good name for my son that wasn’t just one of my character-driven flights of fancy. So far, we cannot think of any demoralizing chants that children would torment Dante with on the playground (if things keep progressing as they are with his confident suavity, then he will most likely be the one doing the taunting).

Once you say your child’s name out loud, you know it. You won’t listen to your mother who insists that Dante Luca sounds like a vampire, or that Ophelia Lune will be crowned a crazy person because of her name combination (before the tell-tale ultrasound, I was convinced I was carrying a girl). But you don’t tell a pregnant woman what’s what — and I gave birth to a Dante.

Photo by Virginia Petrucci
Photo by Virginia Petrucci

I never wanted to be an overly sentimental and blubbering mom who syrup-coos her child (let alone a son! I’m raising a Paul Bunyan here). And yet, I fell almost immediately into the unintelligible speech known as “motherese”. Nicknames are a part of this.

As soon as your child is born, you will want to find as many absurd variants of his/her name as possible, which will lead to increasingly bizarre ways to address little Johnny or Sally.

There aren’t a lot of obvious nicknames for Dante. “D” is most often utilized, although we are perhaps instilling a rapper sensibility in him too early (he loves Eminem…loves). As such, I started fooling around with other identifiers early on.

These are my favorites, although probably not his:

  • Smalls: He is small. Or, he was when he was two months old. Now that he and everyone else are insistent that he has entered toddlerhood, I guess I should retire this one. I guess.
  • Squirms: Babies are squirmy. Nothing odd here.
  • Sneezles: Baby sneezes are precious. Even more adorable is the much-anticipated “lost sneeze”: Baby winds up for the sneeze, loses it, then sighs woefully. It’s hilarious and endearing and somewhat of a marker along the line of an infant’s development to human normalcy. We all do this, although it somehow loses its charm the older we get.
  • Snortles: Dante snorted from day one. Well, day three or four; he was kind of a lazy character for those first seventy-two hours after he was born. Initially, he integrated snorting into his wake-up cry: we would hear the unmistakable cheh-cheh-cheh from the other room, and find him winding up for a meltdown. He then began to do it accidentally, during his waking hours. This has been replaced by blood-curdling screams and unsettling demon moans.
  • Angel baby: Aw, c’mon, this can’t be that uncommon. All babies are angels. Mine, especially, because he has always been such a darn good baby. This is probably the least obnoxious item in my How to Address My Son Today vernacular, but the sugary intonation I can’t help but use with it probably makes it that much more annoying.
  • No-pants-Nancy: This is used when he is sans pantaloons. Before he started walking around like he owned the place and pulling off his diaper for amusement, he was often dressed in a shirt and nothing else because of how warm it gets in our home. My dad objected to his only grandson being called this, so I switched to the following …
  • Photo by Virginia Petrucci
    Photo by Virginia Petrucci

    Two-teeth-Tommy: No longer applicable; he has eight teeth and is very proud of them all. So proud, in fact, that he has taken to leaving bite marks all over my shoulders and arms so that it looks like I have been attacked by a Doberman. No, it was just a pack of wild Dantes, I imagine myself explaining to inquiring strangers at CVS, all I wanted was a hug. Nobody has asked me about them yet.

  • Poops: An oldie, but a goodie, and still totally relevant to my son’s daily activities. I usually call him this when he gets pouty and tired.
  • Poopsicle: What? This is a natural variant of “poops”.
  • Primate Offspring: This is factually correct. Sometimes I think that the love I feel for my son is unusually primal, as I have nonstop impulses to devour/tickle/smother him with as much mom-ness as I can possibly muster. Maybe this accounts for the aforementioned biting problem.
  • Monkey Pudding: … leave me alone.