It takes some people years to shake off detested childhood nicknames. My son managed to do it smoothly at the age of 3.
One look at my son’s face as an infant convinced me that he had a haughty demeanour. I therefore decided to nickname him Gatthu (Hindi:????? Kannada: ?????) which means “haughty” in Kannada. This name met with indignant protests from everyone in my family except my wife, but I persisted. “Doesn’t he look haughty? Just look at him!” I’d ask anyone who objected. No one could convincingly argue that my son does not look haughty.
So we called him “Gatthu” – at least, I did consistently. His mom used, in addition to “Gatthu”, a mishmash of endearing names many of which she’d make up on the spot, use once and never use again. We’d rarely call him Samvaadh, which is his given name.
Then my son joined playschool, where his teachers called him Samvaadh. Then, one of the two things must have happened:
- My son realized that Samvaadh was the right name for him, and that “Gatthu” was the nickname he must shake off ASAP
- My son realized that Samvaadh was his real name, and wondered who “Gatthu” was. After making a few logical leaps, he settled on the obvious answer.
So now, he is Samvaadh, my wife is Amma, and I am Gatthu.
My son has a rather instrumental view of parental love. As far as he is concerned, the affection felt by his parental units is a means for him to achieve certain ends. At 10 months, his main objectives are to be fed when he is hungry and to be taken out of the house so that he can see cars zipping by. In seeking the second objective, he has learnt that when one of the parental units says “Let’s go Tata”, they often follow it up by opening the door and taking him out, but sometimes they cheat him and do not take him out. Worse still, the PU pretends to take him out, but then cheats him by leaving him with the other PU and goes tata all by himself. So, he now applies the following heuristics:
- The male parental unit is more likely than the female parental unit to take him out to tata.
- The parental unit that is putting on footwear is the better bet.
- The parental unit that is standing at the door is more likely to take him tata.
- Once the parental unit has gone out through the door and closed it, it means that he will not be taken tata now, but sometimes wailing loudly opens the door.
These heuristics have served him well so far, but sometimes strange things happen when they come into conflict. For example, today, the male parental unit was putting on footwear, while the female parental unit decided to say “Tata” to him and go out. This brought two of his rules into conflict, but he stuck with rule nos 1 and 2 and stayed calm. Then, after the MPU seemed ready with his footwear, it turned out that the FPU was at the door, offering to take him Tata, so he lunged for her. Then, to his surprise, he found that the positions were now reversed and the MPU was at the door pretending to go Tata all by himself. A quick wail soon corrected the situation.