It’s OK to admit it, we are all friends here, you’ve played the Name Game.
No, I’m not talking about some obscure board game or a drinking game.
I’m talking about calling your kid by the wrong name. And not just an innocent looking-at-one-kid-while-talking-to-the-other kind of thing. This is the full-on, exasperated, cycle-through-every-name-in-the-family moment.
This Name Game follows a certain formula.
First you run through the names of all of your children, then you use an expletive, and finally settle for a generic descriptor. Let’s say that one of my sons hits one of the others. My immediate response may go something like this:
“Liam, Rowan, Corbin, Clara, crap, you!”
You can tell when I’m really upset because I’ll start pulling in random names as well.
“Liam, Rowan, Corbin, Clara, Kenneth, crap, you!”
“Dad, who is Kenneth?”
“Doesn’t matter. Get off your brother!”
I come by it somewhat naturally. My own grandmother hasn’t called anyone in the family by their correct name since the mid-1980′s. We sometimes like to get her worked up just to see how many names she can make it through. The current record is five kids, four of their spouses, nine out of 11 grandkids, 2 of 4 great-grandkids and the dog. The woman has a gift.
My second oldest has caught on to what is happening and figures that when I am caught off guard there is only a 25 percent chance that the right person will be punished. His ingenuity, while admirable, highlights a problem.
If I’m playing the Name Game then I’m not taking the time to think about what is happening. Instead, reason takes a backseat to the passionate response. Rather than correct the real problem or discipline the primary infraction, I wind up grounding all the kids until they are 30, which is both unrealistic and in no way consistent.
So the Name Game has become more than a way to see how many names I can rattle off, it’s also now my cue to slow down, focus, be specific in my parenting.
But I think I’ll still keep trying to get grandma to make it through the entire family.
Chris Donnelly is a working dad with four children. You can read him every Thursday on momaha.com
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