Shortly after writing my last post about not wanting JP to call me Dad I got an email from my own father. He reminded me that at the very same age as JP–five and a half–I had gone to him one day after school and said that from now on no one would be allowed to refer to me by my name at the time, Teddy.
A couple of kids at school had apparently been teasing me, calling me “Teddy Bear,” a grievous insult in my estimation at that time. I think that my father, as with me and JP, enjoyed calling me by the diminutive, and at first, also as with me and JP, he resisted. Eventually, though, he gave in and he never called me Teddy again, although there are, to this day, members of my family who continue do so.
Now my father was considerate enough not to tell me what I should do with JP. He just reminded me, which, I should point out, is a pure and exquisite form of Jewish guilt. Regardless, I determined to do something to right this cosmic parenting wrong.
Earlier tonight I told JP that before he went to bed he could expect a “special story.” This is the sort of thing that he is still young enough to find inordinately exciting. When he was finally in bed, after the teeth brushing, the discussions about pooping, the final chores, and the reading of a book, I settled in to tell him the tale of how Teddy became Ted.
Once there was a little boy just about your age whose name was Teddy. And he liked his name, because it was his, until he went to school one day and a bunch of kids starting teasing him about it. They called him Teddy Bear, which he thought wasn’t very nice, mostly because stuffed animals were for kids, and he was five and a half and no sort of kid at all. So when he got home that day he told his father that henceforth and in perpetuity (Teddy wanted to be a lawyer at that age) he would be known as Ted instead of Teddy.
Teddy’s daddy, however, didn’t immediately accept this request. He liked the name Teddy, which he called to mind certain things about being a father that he wasn’t sure he was ready to let go of, at least not just yet. But Teddy was serious, and eventually he gave in and Teddy became Ted from then on.
Do you understand what I’m talking about, JP? I asked, and the answer was a rather frank and to the point, no. So I explained and I told him that I was that boy and that I had forgotten this story and that he could call me anything he liked, Daddy, or Dad, or father, or whatever he preferred.
How poignant is THAT? Surely some Daddy prize should be coming my way, right? JP would have to admit, now and in his dotage, that Daddy listened, he cared, he did the right thing…right?
Wrong. JP’s response: “That’s the story?! That’s not funny! Tell me another one.”
He can still call me what he likes.