My son is going through a nickname phase. He keeps calling me Mimsy, Tommy and other variations of Mommy- truly playing with the language and the sounds of the words. I play right back with me, changing up his name. I’m not as good at the game as he is- he has hundreds of riffs on my name and the names of everyone in the family. I keep waiting for the “Fe fi fo-fanna” song to emerge from him. Because you see- I don’t get to sing it to him.
Here’s the interesting thing- If I initiate the name game, he gets mad, but if HE does, we’re off and away. He’ll walk past me and say “You CAN’T tickle me” as a challenge, and initiating the “I’m going to chase you and tickle you” game. But if I reach to tickle him, he slaps my hand away and screams at me. It’s as if the surprise of hearing his name changed or the physical contact disturbs his sense of balance, but if he’s in his funny, quirky place, it’s all right. Reading Ray’s moods as as changeable as reading a weather map. Do we play word games today or not? (Do I wear a jacket today?) Do we sing and laugh today or is my singing kept to a minimum? (Is it shorts weather?) Do we tickle and love on him or is it hands-off? (What about that hat?).
The other day, Ray said at dinner, “Did you know that the teenagers at the park didn’t know what ‘obstreperous” means? And they were BEING it!” BRILLIANT kid- who’s going to get his block knocked off someday. I can’t imagine your typical 13 year old kindly taking to being called “obstreperous” by a little kid.
Elizabeth rarely plays word games. She remembers words, she makes connections to antonyms and synonyms, she makes pun jokes, she WRITES jokes, but she doesn’t play with words on the spot. She was the one who “named” my mother, and the name came from analyzing the relationship- “Mamamum” was her way of understanding “Mama’s mama”. We sing her name to her and she preens when we do. When we tickle her, she goes over the top with it in nothing flat, shrieking and flailing and wanting that stimulation. She DOES have a sense of humor that she and my husband both “get”, but word games aren’t it. She doesn’t really have a nickname beyond “Little girl/pretty girl/lovey” that I use endearingly.
But I also remember her “peekaboo” language of “I can say it.. Now I can’t”. I am deeply grateful for her ability now to learn language through analysis. I still feel the pain when I remember the day, at age 3, when she was running down the hallway, stuck her head in my bedroom door and sang out “I love you, Mommy!”. It was the first time I had heard her say it. I snapped my head up and said “What, honey?” trying to get her to say it again- but it was gone. Just a flash of language and lost the next moment; lost in the mist of autism. Joymama calls these language flashes “Elvis Sightings“. One of its traces still remain- my name is “Mommy”. Always has been. Always will be. Constant.
And for Ray, my name is as changable as he is.
Signing off- Nommy/Amam/Tommy/Mimsy… and always, Mommy.