Respecting Parental Boundaries: A Rant


ParentLine2My four-year old hates nicknames. We’re not sure why or how, but if you want to start a tantrum, call him anything but his name.

We first noticed it when we commented on his love of his Superman shirt.

Seen here, moving to a new planet after his old one blew up. Source: Mordechai Luchins
Seen here, moving to a new planet after his old one blew up.
Source: Mordechai Luchins

This has been his signature outfit since he was two. He loves his Superman caped shirts. We’ve made sure to have one in every size (hooray for clearance sales). And yet, he’s even more fixated on his identity.

“Hey,” asked someone “are you Super Ben?”
“No. I jus’ Ben.”
“No, you’re Super Ben!”
“No. Is jus’ a shuht. I Ben.”
“I’m going to call you Super Ben!”
Which leads to him getting upset, looking for me, or acting out.

It’s not just the Superman shirt. When we dressed him up for Purim (Jewish holiday) as a doctor, he got very upset at being called “doctor Ben.” Again, “I jus’ Ben” was heard.  In an interview for a new school for next year, he absolutely fell in love with his future teacher when she asked “Now, do you like being called Benjamin, or Ben.” Lately, he’s even gotten proactive about it; going up to new people and firmly saying “my name is Ben Luchins.”

Is it possible that this is part of a larger issue we will have to look into one day? Sure. But that’s not the point of this write-up. What is? To adjust for his little complex, I’ve had to ask people to please not call him “Benny” or “Benji.” You know what blows my mind? How hard that is for some people. I’ve had to ask people over and over to please stop calling him nicknames, sometimes after water works are initiated.

It’s not just with names; I see a real trend of people ignoring parent’s wishes. Discussing the issue with fellow GeekDads brought general agreement. Maybe I don’t want my son watching a certain TV show. Perhaps you don’t want your child going to certain stores. Or maybe, G-d forbid, you want to let your 11-year-old play in his own backyard. Okay, so the last choice is extreme, but it’s absolutely a symptom of the mentality that you know better than I do about what is right for my children. A child playing in his back yard is no danger to himself or others. On the other hand, taking a child from his house, his designated safe space, and taking him from his parents for being smart? Yeah, no. The Meitiv family was found not guilty of child neglect in the famous case of daring to let their children walk home from school, to the point that the state will be clarifying the laws.

But it shouldn’t have to. Parenting should always follow the old rule “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins” (not said by Oliver Wendell Holmes). My right to parent my child is my right, unless I strike your nose. In other words, unless you can show I’m harming my child, mind your own business. You’re welcome to argue with me about vaccines, or walking home, or why my son needs to deal with people calling him things other than his name, but if your arguing with me damages my child, you’ve crossed the line.

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11 thoughts on “Respecting Parental Boundaries: A Rant

  1. My 5 year old son is the same way about nicknames. I think it’s just part of trying to figure out their identity and find their place in the world. I think it’s normal. I agree about other people not respecting your requests on addressing your son. Call him what he wants to be called. Gees!

  2. I’m OK with Mike or Michael. I draw the line at “Mikey”, though. My nephew can call me that if he wants, but he’s almost 3, so he’s a special case.

    What’s weird is the idea that some people don’t accept this. Names are an important part of identity; just ask Caitlyn Jenner. But even if YOU don’t consider it a big deal, if the other person does, where’s the harm in respecting their wishes? Even a little kid deserves that much respect. (I can see where Ben is coming from in not liking this. He may not have an adult’s concept of agency, but he can still tell when people are denying it to him.)

  3. I can see where someone would mean well, insisting on calling him “Super Ben” while he’s dressed up in his outfit. (Perhaps they think he’s just trying to be modest by saying he’s “just Ben”, so “not really that super”, and they’re trying to give him a self-esteem boost?) But once they get the explanation that he really does prefer to only be addressed by his name – that should be that.

  4. That was weird, I wrote out a nice reply and WordPress ate it. Let’s try this again…

    When I was younger I went by Jen. I’ve always hated Jenny. By the time I got to college, I started introducing myself to ppl using my full first name. My parents insist that, when they call me Jenny, “it’s a term of endearment!” If they gave a damn about either me or my feelings (they never have), they’d address me by my full first name, like everyone else does.

    Reminds me a little of the Brady Bunch episode where Greg decided to try being a “hippie.” As part of that, he started addressing his parents as Carol and Mike. Took them about thirty seconds to make him understand that referring to them as Carol and Mike wasn’t “hip,” and referring to them as Mom and Dad indicated the respect they deserved as his parents.

    If Greg can figure it out within thirty seconds, why are my parents still struggling with it after more than twenty years?!

  5. The failure of this rant comes at the mention of vaccines. They should be mandatory, or your child is a health concern to other children and adults.

  6. My son’s name is Julian and his father and I have always calling him Jules or Jay for short. Now at 8yo he absolute hates Jay and demands that everyone calls him Julian. But mama is special…. I’m the only one in the whole world that gets to call him Jules….usually as Sir Jules the Brave.

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