The Challenges of a Unique (Uneek) Name

This post is a plea to those parents in search of the most unique name for their little one. You may consider lots of things when picking a name, but after living with my very unique Gaelic name for over 35 years, here are some more things you may want to consider before saddling your child with their very own uneek name.

No one can spell my name.

No one can spell my name, not even my mother, apparently. My mother chose to change one vowel in my name. This may not have been such a big deal if my name was Brandy;

“No, no, it’s Brandi, with an ‘i’.”

I wish that was the extent of my troubles. When I speak to people on the phone, I have to spell my name multiple times. Some people think that I have spelled my own name incorrectly, and happily change it for me. Ugh.

Can you imagine my poor teachers in school? They are trying to teach me my ABCs and phonics and the letters in my name don’t even come close to the sounds they are supposed to make. Which leads me to my next issue:

No one can pronounce my name.

When I worked in customer service, my calls took at least a minute longer than my peers, because I spent extra time spelling and saying my name over and over again. And it didn’t really matter because I was called everything BUT my actual name.

In school, my teachers would go down the list, taking attendance, and I could always tell when they get to my name. The cadence of their voice grinds to a halt;

“John? Jennifer? Amy? Matt? … er… um… “

“That me.” So, I finished college and think I’ve put all that behind me. Then restaurants started asking for your first name. As people order ahead of me, no one has to spell their name to the cashier. But I do. Twice. Sigh. And it doesn’t help at all.

When my order comes up, they butcher my name anyway. It isn’t their fault. They have never seen a name like mine before. The mispronunciation of my name has been at least, and inconvenience, and at most, embarrassing. Why? Because…

I was teased for my name.

Kids can be cruel. We all know this. And they will for sure make fun of your name, even if your name is Sally, Roger or Apple. It doesn’t matter.

But I was really shy in school, and it led to many people mispronouncing my name. I just couldn’t bring myself to correct them. Even even they took my name and created a super awful rhyme that included my name and indicated that I wet my bed.

My name doesn’t rhyme with bed, but it did the way they said it. It really made me hate my name and I hated any free time at school. I heard the rhyme at least once a day, and I was miserable.

I would wish constantly that I had literally any other name. I daydreamed about changing my name when I turned 18. I wonder what types of forms I would have to fill out? It doesn’t matter, I would have to do it multiple times because something always gets left out or switched around.

My name costs me lots of time and money.

Spelling my name multiple times for cashiers, customer service reps and administrative people takes time. And I have to do it multiple times, and sometimes they still get it wrong. Sorry, if I’m a little jealous that you can walk right in and say “Mike”, and they got it.

But spelling my name multiple times doesn’t seem to help, because I’ve had to refill paperwork several times. My marriage certificate was missing a vowel. My deed to my house had some name I had never seen before. My student loan was on my credit report twice, because the agency holding it had my name spelled two different ways. I didn’t get two different checks!

It’s one thing to have your name spelled wrong on your coffee cup, but it takes time and effort to change things like your deed, and costs money too. I had to wait to close on my house while they redid all the paperwork.

Now, I really wish I had left it alone, because the worst part of having a unique name?

People can easily invade my privacy.

I bet you are wondering why, with all this complaining I’ve done, why I haven’t said in this post what this awful first name could be. The truth? I can’t.

With my first name, and my first name only, you can find out what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years and where I live. I am not a serial Facebook poster. I don’t feel the need to share pictures of my meals, or use those tools where you ‘check in’ places, so people know where you are. But because of the uniqueness of my name, the whole first page of Google results are actually me.

I feel I need to reiterate that I am in no way a famous person, related to a famous person, or even on the fringe of anything remotely famous. There are just so few people with my name. Now, remember that one vowel that my mom decided to change? That’s where this comes in to play. There are many women with the traditional spelling in Ireland and Great Britain, that would have caused me to be several pages deep on a Google result. It may have still been possible to find out information about me, but having the record of my deed on the first page of results is so stressful.

There was a time in my life that I held a protective order against my ex. I really didn’t want anyone to know where I lived. It was just dangerous and I really didn’t feel safe. It led to a time in my life that I would guard my name as if it were a key to my house. You are reading that correctly, I wouldn’t even tell people my name. If we met out, I would give a fake name, just to protect myself.

I’m sure that it wasn’t my parents intention to give me a name that made me feel unsafe or to cause me trouble. But the fact is my name has caused problems for me. People have used that information to locate me and show up unannounced. Now that I have children, it scares me even more.

I have embraced my name and I love it. It no longer makes me miserable as it did in elementary school. But it is something I need to consider in my every day life. I think that there are names that can be special for you and your family, but try to reign it in if you are going too overboard.

Do you love your name? Or hate it? Maybe you never think about it, it’s just your name. Share in the comments below.

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How Many Chores Are Too Many?

Chores. Everybody in my house hates doing them. We don’t like the house to be messy, but we aren’t jumping up to offer to clean it either. My house definitely has that ‘lived-in’ look everyone keeps talking about.

Growing up, my mother believed in chores for her kids. My husband rarely had chores to do. With both perspectives, we agree, that children need to have daily chores.

I have had all types of reactions to the chores I give my children, ranging from admiration of the abilities they have learned to dismay at my robbing them of their childhood. So, how can you tell if your child has too many chores?

To start, if they don’t have chores, then they definitely need some. Chores have wonderful benefits to your kids, yourself and your family as a whole. My family sometimes bonds over our hatred of the necessity of chores, or the boys band together against my insistence chores be completed in a certain way (the correct way a.k.a. my way!). It obviously helps me and my husband, because we have many responsibilities and aren’t available to do every single task. Having chores gives my kids ownership of the home we live in and knowledge on how to be self sufficient in the future. It also makes them appreciate their free time more. If your child has ever said they are bored, they need more chores!

On the other hand, if your children have no down time or chores are interfering with their ability to get their homework done, you may have ventured into the land of child slave labor, and need to cut back a bit. Some people like to give their children a strict list of daily chores that never changes and other like to assign chores as things need to be done. I prefer a list of daily chores, which can be substituted out. For instance, my 13 year old feeds and walks the dogs, but I’ve been teaching him about the kitchen and making simple meals, so if he cooks dinner, I’ll take care of the dogs. It’s only fair if he take one of my tasks, that I take one of his.

It may seem extreme, but as soon as kids can walk, they can have chores. It’s important not to let the word “chore” take up too much head space. People balk at my toddler having chores, but he does. We don’t call them chores, and the work he does isn’t really helpful in the overall scheme of the things I have to do in a day, but they help him learn. He learns a rhythm of everyday life of preparing for an activity, performing an activity and cleaning up after the activity. So, he sees us set the table for dinner, this give him a cue to take his seat at the table, then we have dinner and he knows it’s time to eat, then he sees me at the sink, and he knows it is time to cleanup. When I’m using the dishwasher, he takes up his post, moving the utensils back and forth in their little holders. When I saw this behavior, I handed him a spoon I had rinsed off to see what he would do. He put it in the dishwasher! So now, one of his chores is putting the utensils in the dishwasher. Even though this means it takes twice as long to load the dishwasher, and we can’t put knives in until we are ready to run it, it’s his chore and he is proud when he has completed it. He’ll “help” me close the dishwasher door and give himself a round of applause.

The older boys help take care of the younger children. The fact that the kids ages are so spread out, it helps them to bridge that gap and form bonds. The 13 and 16 year old change the baby’s diaper, and help the 10 year old with his homework. But even with this team effort mentality, it is inevitable that the kids will feel overburdened and taken advantage of. When they have to pause their video game to take out the trash, or stop chatting with their friends online because the the dogs need water, they can start to imagine that they do EVERYTHING and no one else has to work as hard as they do. They feel it’s not fair.

When this happens, it is more than worth it to write down every chore that needs to be done and offer to reassign everyone to new chores. When they see that your time is taken up by grocery shopping, paying bills, replacing shingles on the roof, and cleaning gutters, all of a sudden their small every day tasks seem much more manageable. I don’t think kids need to be blind to the work it takes to run a household in order to remain carefree children. It really makes them appreciate that they don’t have worry about all that, because you got it!

A word of caution though, don’t try to oversell how difficult your tasks are, or let on that you struggle with them. Kids worry about their parents, and fear if we can’t hack it, they’ll have to step up and do it for us. I learned that lesson when I was a single parent.

Once your kids get into their teen years, you should be able to count on them to get their tasks done in a timely manner and completed correctly. But that doesn’t happen unless they grow up with chores. For children 10 and under, don’t really expect their help to be useful. In fact, you may have to go behind them and repeat the task, so it is done correctly. But never reassign a task because a kid doesn’t do it right. This will obviously lead to them doing all their chores wrong, to get out of them. My older sister perfected this strategy against my mother, so much so that none of my siblings ever used her washer, dryer or dishwasher.

What chores do your kids have? Feel free to share below in the comments.

Notyetsupermom’s kids chores:

  • 16 year old:
    • Clean his room
    • His own laundry
    • Clean his bathroom (including toilet, sink and bath)
    • Mow the lawn/shovel the snow
    • Take care of the younger kids
    • And, once he gets his license, he’ll drive the kids around sometimes.
  • 13 year old:
    • Clean his room/laundry/bathroom
    • Feed and walk the dogs
    • Wash dishes
    • Take out the trash
    • Help with the younger kids
  • 10 year old:
    • Clean his room/bathroom
    • Help with the dogs
    • Separate the recylcables
    • Fetch items from under beds and behind furniture (He’s the only one small enough to do this without having to pull out the furniture!)
  • 20 month old:
    • Put his toys in his toy box after play time
    • Separate laundry colors from whites
    • Put the spoons in the dishwasher
    • Help me cook by pulling out all the pots and pans, creating tripping hazards and general noise

Pre-teen Boys & Inappropriate Behavior

As a mother of all boys, I face some challenges. Without any other females in the house besides their mother, boys tend to get rambunctious. My girlfriends, that have girls, endure much less jokes about bodily functions and general horseplay. They have their own challenges, of course, but I really feel it is beneficial for boys to have a sister. It gives them an in-house peer that they can relate to and learn how girls may have different boundaries.

But my boys don’t have a sister. This is why it is of the utmost importance to talk to boys about inappropriate behavior. I always talk to my boys about what it means to be a gentleman, and to have respect for yourself.

Some may feel that curse words are better to never touch the ears of their little ones, but I feel it is a part of our language and the best defense is a good offense. When I first spoke to my oldest about swearing, he had definitely heard some swear words. Whether it was on TV or a family member, it is important for older children to understand curse words and how and why they are used in our society. Why? Because without understanding, you risk your child saying words that they don’t understand are offensive, because they are hearing them used by their peers.

For example, one mistake I made myself when I was young was the use of the word ballsy. People may feel that the words ballsy isn’t offensive, but people shouldn’t make references to genitalia in polite company. I heard the word at school, in reference to someone being daring and outlandish. Imagine my mother’s surprise when I used the word that night at dinner! I just didn’t know what I was saying.

Sometimes kids are afraid to ask their friends what something means, they don’t want to seem dumb in front of them. So, they aren’t trying to be inappropriate, but ignorance can’t be an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Of course, you should also lead by example and not curse around your children.

So, you’ve taken all these precautions, talked to your kids about what is expected of them and what behavior is appropriate, and you think you’re good, right?

Not so fast.

You also have to talk to your kids about other types of inappropriate comments. Comments about others, even if they think they are being complimentary (“You’re so skinny!”) can get your child in trouble quickly. And this is almost more difficult to manage because pre-teens and teenagers always are jumping on the next witty fad, calling each other names and spouting off internet memes left and right. When you talk to them about it, they say “It’s not a big deal.” and “My friends think it’s funny, it doesn’t offend them.” And that’s what happened to me.

I got a call from my 7th grader’s school yesterday. It was the counselor and she had the daunting task of telling me that my baby boy made a girl feel uncomfortable. It’s not a call you ever want to receive.

I felt so awful, and wanted to make sure that the student was ok. For myself, I recall things being said to me at the same age that just made me wish I would be invisible. It shaped so much of my future, just not wanting to be noticed, especially by the opposite sex, because the embarrassment was unbearable. To think that my son had made someone feel that way is heartbreaking.

The counselor let me know that pre-teen boys are notorious for pushing the boundaries and venturing into the inappropriate range of behaviors. I was glad that she tried to reassure me that my son isn’t a deviant, but the important message was that it cannot happen again, or there will be serious consequences.

She told me that my son passed a note to the girl, in class, that said “I know you’re naked under those clothes.” My son denied doing this, but the message sounded all too familiar. I recalled back in the summer hearing my son and his friend laughing at such a joke. A quick Google search reveals this is an internet meme:

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Although the alleged note didn’t say slut on it, if this is well known amongst the kids these days, it seems it would be implied.

I imagined when I got home I would find a cow-eyed child afraid of the trouble he was in. Instead, I found him merrily doing his chores without a care in the world. I asked him how school was, and he said it was fine.

Talking to the counselor hadn’t even registered with him.

I let him know that the counselor had called me, and he replied that the school was over-reacting. HUGE RED FLAG! It was time for a serious talk.

It wasn’t clear to him that it was the student that complained, and he had assumed that the behavior was witnessed by a teacher or staff member and reported. He further explained that he and his friend tickle and poke each other and it was no big deal.

I never condone a “They’re over-reacting” response. If someone finds it serious enough to pull you out of class and into their office to speak to you, you should listen up!

When I explained that it was a student that was in certain classes with him that reported it, he quickly realized that the person the counselor was talking about was not in his close circle of friends and/or in on the joke, as he had originally thought.

I felt the need to explain to him that even his friends may not be the best at letting him know when he is annoying them. At this age, kids may just giggle and put up with bad behavior by their peers because they don’t want to be a stick in the mud or they are shy, and that he, as a shy person, should understand how uncomfortable it can be to confront someone that is bothering you.

It was a perfect time to remind him that he is at school to learn, not to joke and play around with his friends. He should behave appropriately, keep his hands to himself and leave the jokes for after school.

I got back in touch with the school today, to let them know I had spoke to my 7th grader. The counselor seemed really surprised that I had put in the effort to follow up with my child. That is a sad commentary on the state of parenting these days, but I’ll save that for another post.

People may feel they need to side with their kid, when dealing with people in the community, like schools and other parents. But ignorance will not shield your children from the consequences and neither should you. You should be on the side of knowledge and let your child understand what is and is not accepted in our society, and you should be specific. Never assume they know what you mean. It has been my experience that children understand way less that they would admit.

Sleep

Sleep is so important.

Try functioning on little to no sleep if you doubt the importance of good sleep. For the past couple of weeks, it seems that our family has gotten off their sleep schedule.

Currently, I arrive home from work dead on my feet. One day, I actually laid down right after work, and napped for over an hour. Last night, we slept from 9:30 pm to 1:00 am, sat up for a few hours, and fell back to sleep around 4:00 am and had to get up again at 7:00 am.

This just won’t do. Now, we have to begin the process of adjusting our schedule.

The first step to getting back on track is no more naps. While a power nap of 20 minutes or so shouldn’t hurt your regular sleep habits, that same nap can kill your ability to sleep through the night if you are having trouble sleeping.

When you are off your sleep schedule, it is also important to wake up at the same time every day. It is tempting to sleep in longer on the weekend and catch up on your sleep, but that further disrupts your sleep schedule.

Finally, pay extra attention to your diet. Are you getting plenty of water? Do you have too much caffeine in the afternoon? Are you having a sugary dessert after your dinner? You need to cut it out and watch anything that you ingest that can be perking you up later that night.

Follow these tips and you will be yawning and sleepy at night and will soon be sleeping through the night.