Saturday, 18 July 2009

I Have a Name

Identity is something very important to me.

It was especially significant in the aftermath of my wife’s death. I was incredible keen, and fought harder, to establish myself as my son’s sole parent.

We were living with my parents, so I was aware it might be all too easy to become overly reliant on my folks, send confusing messages to my boy, and also end up, eventually, dependant on them to exist.

I was also mindful that I did not want to lose my fully competent parenting ability and tag.

I know a good few men, becoming fathers, who were almost fearful of their children, and the responsibility thereof. My only fear was that of the unknown, never taking much of an interest in other babies or children, I really did not know what to expect or how to perform the most basic of tasks.

But I was determined to get rid of that fear, and the only way I was going to do that was to get stuck in, and take responsibility, at times solely, for all the necessary functions of parenting.

I had great opportunities to hammer this home right from the start. When Max was born Samantha was confined to her bed for a couple of days, so it was left to me to do the first changing, dressing and bathing.

She also needed some unrelated surgery a couple of months after, and was again out of action for a while, so I took a lot of the responsibility for our son then too.

This is not to say that Samantha did not do a lot, she did, but at times she could not even pick up Max, and needed to recuperate herself.

In fact when she did recover, I decided she deserved some more time. One of her friends was living in Stockholm, so she went off for a girlie weekend, again leaving me in total confidence with our child.

There were other times where Samantha would go out, and indeed when I would, sole charge was passed between us.

This is how we wanted our lives to be as a family, not all that much time apart, but the confidence, and will, to be both able to do our thing when the right opportunity arose.

One leaving the other in sole charge of our brood, without fear or guilt.

If everyone is having a good time them guilt is even more unnecessary than usual.

To bring it back, basically we were strongly established, and identifiably, as Max’s parents, two people that took their responsibility very seriously, putting a lot in, and getting a lot back.

Being introduced as Max’s dad, was more an honour bestowed, than an irritation.

I know some people like using their own names, for fear of identity, and of course I am not just Max’s dad, I have a few other facets.

Which is where I have got to today.

For nearly 18 months Max has been trying to get a certain child from nursery round to ours for play and dinner. A combination of non-English speaking au pairs, illness, unavailability, and this kid not really being helped into the kids’ social circle, had prevented it, until this week, the penultimate nursery week.

Both children were delighted and apparently spent much of their day at nursery asking if it was time to go home yet. Eventually, of course, that time did come, and they both proudly wandered to our house, only stopping to announce their social occasion to anyone that would listen.

I was called on a couple of times, generally by my son’s chum, who addressed me as ‘Max’s Dad’.

Junior tried to correct him several times; “You can call him Ian.” He said.

With all their excitement, correct designation was low on their list of priorities, but still, I pressed with my ‘I have a name’ retorts.

Repetition did not seem to wash with this lad, and I could also see his mind working – you’re clearly Max’s Dad, what’s the problem, let’s move on, and can you actually answer my question?

And, as always, I am pleased when my son’s peers accept me as his parent, and are comfortable being around me, however I still would prefer this child, who I am likely to have an ongoing relationship with through school, to use my proper name.

Because my approach of correction seemed to be making little inroad I decided to go on the attack.

Each time I was referred to as Max’s Dad, I responded with “Yes, Max’s friend, how can I help you?”

I did not have to say it many times for it to work.

Seems everyone likes their own identity.



Smitten by Britain said...

Ha,ha, nice one Ian.

Not a soccer mom said...

Haha I loved that. Reverse it on him. I too have had opportunity to do similar with my own kids.
There were rare times while finding their own identities when it would be stated by them that they 'did not love me anymore!'
I would immediately state that no matter what, no matter how angry they would get with me, my love for them was everlasting. And it too took only a time or two for them to realize- they loved me too. Kids are so much smarter than we adults think we are sometimes though

Badass Geek said...

Very nice.

PippaD said...

I might have to try that one, I am always Jessica W's Mum, despite having told the children that my name is Pippa and that they may call me that!

I have taught Top Ender that she should address parents as Mrs/Miss/Mr... unless told by the parent that she can call them by their first name.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Heh, nice one.

Thumbelina said...

Hehe Nice one Max's da.. I mean Ian.
Well handled.

SandyCalico said...

Very good!

SciFi Dad said...

Well played, sir. You outsmarted a five year old.

I kid. (Kind of.)

rosiescribble said...

So true. You gain a different identity when you become a parent. Many parents at the school gates don't even know my name, I'm just (just?) IJ's Mum, and I have to admit I don't know there names either. I'm used to it now. My own mum wouldn't let us call adults by their first name. You may find that some of Max's friends may have also been told this. Or maybe my mum was just odd, which is also a possibility. She won't read this. She can't use the internet!

Faiqa said...

Very clever!!


"Being introduced as Max's dad was more an honour bestowed than an irritation. "

I could hug you for that. And I don't even know you.

The Dotterel said...

Like it!
(Charlie's dad)

Canadian Bald Guy said...

That's pretty much the only way you could have handled it appropriately. Well played.

Single Parent Dad said...

Smitten - I have my moments.

Not a soccer mom - Turn it on its head.

Badass - Cheers.

PippaD - I might wield call me Mr N.

Xbox - You'll need to remember it.

Thumbelina - Touché.

Sandy Calico - I thought so.

SciFi Dad - He's only four ;-)

Rosie - I often refer to people as their kids' parents.

Faiqa - Intimate knowledge is not required for a squeeze, in fact, you're probably at a distinct advantage.

The Dotterel - Very good.

Canadian Bald Guy - Cheers dude.

christina said...

interesting how quickly turning the tables on the little lad made him change the way he addressed you. I do have to say that perhaps he, like I was told to never address an adult by their first names. I grew up calling people Mr/Mrs/Ms, or auntie, uncle, grandpa, or grandma. Even cousins had the Chinese title of older/younger sister/brother tacked onto their names. Funny story:

As I prepared to get married (to my then Caucasian boyfriend) my mom pulled me aside and said "You need to ask B's parent what they would like you to address them as once you are married." Usually, in Chinese custom, there are a whole host of ways to say "mother/father" with all it's varying level of familiarity/love, closeness and comfort.

In the four and a half years that I'd been dating B I had always managed to steer clear of every having to address them directly. Instead of calling them by their proper names or by their status plus last name (Mr/Mrs X) I simply just spoke to them. Introducing them to others was fine, I could do that.

So I found a moment to talk to B's mom and I asked her "What would you like me to call you after we are married?" Her answer: "K" and "H" (their first names). I literally told her that I couldn't do that, so we came up with a softer version of "mom and dad" since those titles were reserved for my parents. "Mum and Pops"... 12 years after being married I still cringe if I have to directly call them by their first names, I much prefer Mum and Pops.

T said...

I love that! "Max's friend". Ha! That has me in giggles over here.

I'm gonna have to try that...

Erin said...

Fantastic observations. As parents, it's all too easy to lose your identity, or to alter it to fit around your child. Nothing a little reverse psychology won't cure though, eh?

George's Daughter said...

I still refer to my friend's parents when I meet them as "Mr./Mrs.". Unless I have made friends with them personally as an adult, I feel as though I am being disrespectful. Conditioning at a young age.

I'm still, 21 years after her birth, "Annika's mom" to her friends, and her boyfriend does call me by my first name. I guess I am more modern than I realised.

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