My Name is Not Pumpkin!

After I finished her bedtime story and started to turn off the light, our six-year-old daughter said, “Don’t call me Pumpkin. That’s not my name.” While I don’t remember saying it, I must have said, “Goodnight, Pumpkin. I love you.” The pet-name is now a long established habit. She followed up with, “Goodnight, Banana!” complete with air quotes.

I’m not sure if this is normal for a 5 or 6 year old, but I’m not much liking it. I’ve no idea how I settled on the pet-name “Pumpkin” when she was a baby, but other than her actual name, “Pumpkin” is what I’m most likely to use as an endearment. She’s saying now that she’s never liked being called anything other than her real name, though I’m not convinced.

Our Pumpkin on Halloween 2008

Perhaps this outfit influenced my choice of pet-name?

I’m wondering if this is something that kids do at a certain age? I had hoped perhaps it would be a bit later before she pushed back on the some of the tender remnants of her early childhood. Clearly she’s asserting some of her independence and personal style and taste, and that’s likely a good thing, but I don’t want her to grow up too fast.

Did you go through this with your kids? It’s a pretty small thing perhaps, but I wonder if it’s a sign of changes to come. I wrote a post a while back titled “My Name is Daddy” in which I defended calling my blog “A Daddy Blog” and expressed comfort, even a wistful hope, that our daughter might always call me, “Daddy”, even when fully grown.

Yeah, I’m a silly sentimental old guy. Do you ever find yourself wishing you could drag your heals and slow down the steadfast progression of time, mercilessly dragging them toward their teen-age years? I do. Oh, and I’m not going to stop calling her “Pumpkin”, by the way… especially in front of her friends. Payback is hell, isn’t it, “Banana?”


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  1. Oh Michael…
    This is just the beginning of the teenage independence soon to come.
    Isn’t it amazing how this little creature that has lived on this planet only six years can reduce us to blubbering jelly with one little rejection?!
    Watch out for those air quotes…they are leading to some serious drama storms looming on the horizon.

    It’s okay, this is all part of the game. I stopped using my “precious” nickname for both my boys in public when they started 1st grade, and in private when they started middle school. It just didn’t feel right calling them that when they had armpit hair… Now I use my go-to endearment, “Love” in private only, and they aren’t offended (as long as I don’t call anyone else that!)

    If you fight it, you will fuel the drama. You might ask her what other name she prefers, since she calls you “Daddy” but your name is Michael…but on second thought, you probably have a little angel who will then start calling you Michael.

    Have fun, Banana, and welcome to the big leagues.

    1. Thanks for the good advice, Mary. I’ll probably pass, as you suggest, on bringing up the daddy versus Michael thing. I’m sure she’d start calling me Michael, which absolutely will not fly. That said, if I can avoid it becoming an issue by drawing attention to it, that’d probably be best. 🙂

  2. I still call my 6 year-old Peanut…a nickname she got in the hospital from the nurses. She’ll always be my little Peanut, even if I don’t get to say it out loud when she is older.

    May you always get to be called Daddy.

    1. I sure hope so. I suppose if she still tolerates my presence with minimal embarrassment when she’s a teen that may be as much as I can ask? 😉 Thanks so much for your years of support of my humble little home on the web. Always wonderful to see you!

  3. I think the secret is to always respect what they want to be called or not be called. I’ve always respected my children as though they were my equals. Not equals in authority but in respect to their individual personhood. I was also lucky because all three of my girls from ages 10 to 22 have never objected to me calling them pet names. I can still get away with “baby girl” for all of them… As long as I didn’t treat them like baby girls. Make sense?

    Yes, it’s normal. All children are different and raising each one is like a dance we can learn if we listen very carefully to the beat of their individual songs.
    I really like that she has a strong self image and knows who she is and who she wants to be.

    I talked to my Emma (10) not an only child, but sort of is, because her sisters are so much older. She told me that it’s possible your daughter feels like she’s the youngest one around and wants to be a “big girl.” Emma also told me that at 5-6 she really did want to feel like a grown up and thought a lot about her name and the fact that she wanted to be called by her full name. I don’t remember it but she seems to remember she felt like that too.

    PS Don’t worry my friend, you have plenty of time. Childhood is like pregnancy, it gets really hard at the end so when the time comes, you are actually ready for it. I don’t mean that to sound negative, It’s just what’s supposed to happen.

    1. I’ve always respected my children as though they were my equals. Not equals in authority but in respect to their individual personhood.

      Thanks for your advice and encouragement, Kelley. I was just on your blog the other day, and clearly you are doing something right with Alix, Amanda and Emma.

      Please thank Emma, by the way, for her thoughts about what my daughter might be thinking/feeling. It helps to have input from someone closer to her age.

      Our love to you all!

  4. I am 31 and I still call my dad Daddy. In fact, both of my sisters do as well and they are 33 and 40, respectively. It was never a conscious decision, we just never shortened it to Dad. In fact, it feels weird to think of him as “Dad.” lol Maybe this gives you some hope. 😉

    1. Thanks so much, Katy. I’m very heartened to hear that. My mom called her father “daddy” her whole life… and she’s in her 80’s now. 🙂

  5. I must thank my father who shared this blog with me. This website is truly remarkable.

    1. Gosh, thanks.

  6. Hi Michael….As an identical sister and I were referred to as Neise and Netta. I never liked it. However, I didn’t have the courage to speak into that to my parents or anyone else…I was also considered the ‘good’ twin and lived in a box for many years protecting that image…unconsciously. It’s on the edge of my comfort zone to even speak into what my thoughts were when I read your post! But here it goes….I see her asking as powerful and courageous. I have a grandson who is 6 and I’m intentional about allowing his own creative path. By the way…he heard a family friend call me Neise and I am now Grandma Neise!! My first thought with your pumpkin is a conversation around her not liking it…and allowing her to choose. When we are heard, we can offer that to others as well. And, she’s more likely to continue coming to you openly. Wish you all the best and thanks for sharing!! Denise Moor

    1. Hi Denise… Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m not a twin, so can’t fully understand that dynamic, but my brother and I were close in age, and I was the (partly self-labeled… as well as some parental input) the ‘good’ son, as you say. That sort of labeling can definitely affect the choices we make the risks we take or don’t. I love that you’re taking the lessons learned and letting it guide your interactions with your 6-year-old grandson. Have a great day, Grandma Neise!

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