What you call a step-parent matters

Why Labels Matter, Like It or Not (This is Why I’m Renaming My Husband)

What’s In a Name?

In high school, I got an award for being an “Advice Queen.” At the time (thank you seventeen) I was flattered thinking it meant people thought I was wise.

Now, I’m sure that what it really meant was that I shared a heap of unsolicited opinions about things that were none of my business (thank you thirty-three), and people noticed.

Though I’m sure I am a little more legitimately wise, am careful about sharing my opinions and try desperately hard not to give unsolicited advice, thank goodness I have a good friend who really is wise and really does give good advice.

Recently, she gave me a gem about labeling or naming. She said, “Call it what you want it to be.”

It got me thinking.

It’s All In a Name

I have a playful and powerful, second marriage. It is light-hearted and flirty while being redemptive and reverent and (mostly) respectful.

You would think that the names we call each other would reflect this complex balance. They don’t.

What you call a step-parent matters

In fact, my dear husband has a slew of ridiculous nicknames, courtesy of yours truly, that express love and affection with a sprinkle of ruthless teasing.

He hates them all. And I’ve ignored his displeasure – it’s part of the game – but in blessing him with these names, I think I’ve made a serious error. Why?

Because the nicknames I’ve given him diminish his role in our family.

Not just in our family – but in our blended family.

And the kids are watching.

Now, because I teasingly call my husband David, Davie-crocka-bee or Davie-crocka-beetle or Honey-bunny-poo-poo-pants or…Okay, I’ll stop…They see him as this soft, not-a-bit-serious, childish-even man.

And what is a kid to make of that?

Or a bigger challenge – how can any step-parent, carving out a place in a new family, command respect and honor with a name like Snickerdoodle-of-love?

Do you call anyone you love a ridiculous nickname? Share in the comments!

Yes, Father? 

Growing up, my family referred to my maternal grandparents as Grandmother and Grandfather. No abbreviations. No adaptations. Every now and then there was a context in which I was allowed to call my grandfather Ole Dad, but my grandmother didn’t have a nickname until she became a great-grandmother, and for the sake of ease, we gave her Great Gran.

I remember as a child I thought the formality of their naming was ridiculous (thank you seven). I would never be a “Grandmother.” How unapproachable and cold!

In my child-mind, it would be better to be a Nana or a Mimi – maybe a Grandma.

But in trying to support my dear husband in his role as a step-parent, I wonder if formality is just what we need.

A formal name is inherently respectable – just what a step-parent needs. Inherent respect.

One to Grow On

My friend’s advice is really her mother’s story. Her family includes three sons plus a daughter (my friend). Knowing this family well, I can tell you this mom is a pro. But one of her son’s was apparently very challenging during his adolescence. As a result, she started calling him, Sweet John.

If you’re confused, you should be. Yes. She called her challenging son sweet.

The second bit of true wisdom from my friend the Advice Queen is call it what you want it to be even if it’s not – yet.

Sweet John did eventually become Sweet John.

And my Davie-crocka-bee will eventually become a father to his step-kids, whether they ever really call him that or not. (That much I can I speak to from personal experience.)

And I think it’s time. In fact, I know it is.

It is time for me to grow up – grow up as a wife and a mother. It is time to step into my role as a leader in our family and give my husband a name that inspires both the love and reverence he deserves, and the affection and respect I have for him.

And I’m up for the task:

Father
Step-father?
Fearless Leader
King David
Captain David – or Capt’n or Cap!
Sargent
Sarg?

He would say, “Just David.”

Okay, maybe I have some work to do. But I’m ready! How about you?

One thought on “Why Labels Matter, Like It or Not (This is Why I’m Renaming My Husband)

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