Saturday, May 24, 2014

What is it with people and what other people name their kids?


I'm late to the game blogging about the bullshit kerfuffle surrounding the recent popularity of naming girls Khaleesi, after the title Daenerys Targaryen gains and holds on the television program Game of Thrones, as well as A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the program is based.

If you haven't caught wind of this, go check out Game Of Thrones’ Khaleesi is now a more popular baby name than Betsy by Katie Rife.

Now, I answered the question Is it a bad idea to name your child after a fictional character? over on Quora, because naming your child after a popular fantasy character is something I have some expertise on. Every once in a while I get an upvote, which reminds me of my annoyance regarding the subject.

The first way you can tell this whole "controversy" is bullshit is the fact that they chose Betsy as the name that's fallen, which is goofy on a number of levels. Betsy?! I think I've only known one Betsy in my whole life. I suspect there are a lot of goofy names more popular than Betsy! Especially when compared to people with "Betsy" on their birth certificate.

The choice of Betsy cripples the logic of the whole thing, because Betsy is traditionally a nickname. Do I know if the Betsy I knew was named Betsy or Elizabeth shortened to Betsy? Nope. No idea. Do they know how many of the people named Elizabeth in 2012 will be called Betsy? Of course not. I bet not even all of those parents know whether they, or their daughters, will at some point take a liking - or disliking - to the nickname Betsy.

The other choice given in the article, but not as fussed about, was Nadine, which is traditionally given as a name in itself, so at least we can make some sense of how many of those Nadines will be Nadine forever.

Again, to my recollection, a lifetime of meeting people has put me in contact with a grand total of 1 Nadine. My high school bus driver.

I think I'd notice, too, because it is also the name of one of the most finely crafted rock & roll songs in history.



So, the whole thing is framed around names that are just familiar enough to seem like it means something, but uncommon enough to render the whole thing utterly meaningless.

The thing I wonder about is, though, is why the fuck do we care?

Yeah, I used to be one of those people who grumped one thing or another about how people named their kids. That me would have complained about the "properness" of those people who named their kids Betsy rather than Elizabeth in that discussion above.

 Something happened to me, though, in the fuss over naming my son Conan. My in-laws got annoyed by it and there was a lot of back and forth over that, mostly involving passive-aggressive suggesting of more "normal" names, not one of which did we even consider... and, of course, would have dismissed on principle even if they had been names we might have otherwise considered.

So far, since his birth, we've had no real issues. Most people seem genuinely pleased when they get it. Now, sometimes people have trouble getting it.

We get "Connor?" a lot when we give his name, but that's hardly an issue in the long run. We also have some troubles with Pronouncing Conan, but again nothing that causes a fuss worth mentioning, at least outside this context.

Supposedly, the concern is "What about the children?" Right?

I'm sure everyone who is reading this an shaking their head is thinking this.

I think I'm in a pretty good position to speak to this.

I was born in 1971. My name is Neil. Neil was not and is not a terribly common name, but it is familiar to most people.

It's probably somewhere around Betsy and Nadine in being well-known but not common, although I'd guess, without looking it up, that it's a bit more common than those.

Growing up, Neils Armstrong, Diamond, Sedaka and Young were well known. I wasn't named after any of these. I was named much more traditionally after my father before me and his father before him.

But other kids would tease me about my name.

Why? Because it worked.

I was a sensitive kid, for whatever reason, and people made up silly rhymes about my name and it hurt my feelings and made me angry, so they kept it up.

Am I upset because of my name? Of course not. It's part of who I am. I like it.

Being the '70s, in liberal Seattle and going to a lot of experimental(ish) private schools, I knew a fair number of kids with odd names that they were given to them by their hippie parents, and you know what? Most of them were fine. Happy with their names. Why? Some probably got some flack, but most not. I suspect most of them just lucked into being less sensitive generally.

 I also knew a metric ton of Jennifers. The majority of them were named by parents who thought they were naming them something kind of interesting and unusual.

 I don't know if anyone has every made a study of it, but I suspect it has something to do with this -



I knew more Jennifers who were frustrated about the relative commonness of their name than people with unusual names who were frustrated by their unusual name.

To the extent there's a real judgment of kids names based on their rarity, it's all about parents not kids.

Remember, for most of childhood, most of the names you hear are new to you. So kids are in the habit of being introduced to people with a name they've never heard before and accepting that as the name of the person. They don't learn about names being out of the naming conventions is from their asshole parents and the bullshit judgments they offer.

You, name judging assholes, create the problem entirely.

If you introduce a kid to someone as Screwdriver, they'll just go along and call them Screwdriver, because they have no basis to judge that as unusual, until quite a ways into growing up. Not because they can't be jerks, as I said before they can and will, but because they don't have the context to specifically realize the oddness of that yet. The only way they get that is from adults in their life teaching them that.  By the time they know enough on their own to draw that conclusion on their own, they'd already most likely just know this Screwdriver and judge them and tease them based on whatever factors they really judge and tease other kids by, which has absolutely nothing to do with their names.


In the end, I'm done. I was an asshole to make dumb judgments about what people name their kids and you're an asshole if you're still doing it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Humiliation as parenting


After posting Thoughts on spanking and respect, I wanted to add to the greater subject of humiliation that I think is key to what's wrong with spanking and how too many people who give up or seriously restrict spanking their children.

In Pop, RIP, I alluded to issues in my relationship with father, things I didn't think my eulogy for him was an appropriate time or place to go into any sort of details about, but were a big enough part of our relationship and my life that I couldn't leave unreferenced.

My father was abused as a child.  I believe that is the way he would - and did - describe it, although certainly he was prone to downplay the importance and impact of it, when confronted directly about it.  That's not only a common thing among abuse victims, but it certainly matched his way of dealing with issues in general, whether because of that or not.

I was only spanked a small number of times, and, as far as I recall, they were all "by the book", not in anger, as a consequence for an action I was warned would lead to that, etc.  I remember all of those details quite well.  I don't, on the other hand, remember my infractions one bit, which could hint at how effective the lesson was.

My father was a big one for humiliation, though.  Humiliation is the key lesson of spanking, probably the only lesson of, truth be told.

Obviously, humiliation can be achieved through any number of means, though.

My father liked to stay on a lecture about something long, long after it was serving a point.  He would twist around and demand answers for obviously rhetorical questions, then make a point of not wanting an answer for questions that would seem necessary to answer and calling it interrupting.  He would dismiss discussion harshly.

I don't remember the details well, only the humiliation, which again speaks to the effectiveness of the lesson, I think.

They would go on for far too long and eventually, my mother, sensing the humiliation and the lack of any useful purpose would try to cut him short, which would just shift the humiliation over to her, which I'm not sure I preferred, except that I felt in some way protected.

There were a number of things that I think damaged our relationship beyond repair, but I think I can point to the point of no return.  When I was an adult and we were trying to mend our relationship, or something of that nature, we were out having beers, playing pool and such, he led the conversation to that topic.

I can guarantee that I didn't.  My part, however pathetic, of the mending fences was to avoid subjects like that that at all costs.

He ended up going on an unsolicited and unnecessary rant again criticizing my mother for interceding in these.

Whatever of my desire to build our relationship or strengthen it or even really to maintain it died at that moment.  He maintained that his right to humiliate me was the foremost point of order.

Or relationship stumbled along awkwardly and, at best, occasionally, for a while after that.  My memories of whatever happened after includes many more things that made the relationship worse than things that made them better.

The tendency to humiliate as a tool of "winning" an argument lives on with me.  I know I've done it in all of my relationships.  I think I've done better with each one, but I know I'm better with Kim than I've ever been before in the past, but it's there, and I'm genuinely terrified of doing it to Conan.

I hope I never do that at all.  It's destructive.  There's no lesson in it, whether it's physical or emotional. I can say that don't have any respect for the people who avoid humiliation through spanking but have no qualms with it when it's done through other means, including - perhaps especially - verbally.

I know for sure that if I ever fail myself and do that to him, I won't defend it to him when he's an adult.  I wouldn't dare.

I know better.

Thoughts on spanking and respect


The mother-in-law - Kim's former stepmother, who remains the major maternal figure in her life, for a variety of reasons - recently called her, offended that she'd posted "so many" anti-spanking memes or articles on her Facebook.

As far as we could tell, that was two of them, but that's us being pedantic.

She thought it reflected badly on her, which she found unfair as she'd never spanked Kim.  This is another demonstration of her world view that everything is about her.  Suffice to say, while the stories are not mine to tell, she did do things I consider worse than spanking - far, far worse, in fact - but it's worth crediting her for being right about that issue.

I have no patience with her, but that's my failing.  Not that she deserves a bit of my patience, but Kim deserves a lot more than I give too much of the time.

The point that the mother-in-law is missing is how often parents of a toddler has pro-spanking messages fed to them.  On social media or in the world.

I read Spanking Your Children is Hitting Your Children by Chuck Wendig to Kim today, a couple of days later. It's a very good article and my feelings on the issue match the ones expressed there, so I won't go into more detail than to highly recommend it.  I also read Spanking is Hitting, Part Two, which gives a more tempered argument that is also important to make.

In Honor thy father and thy mother, I discussed the question of people bending to nearly any length to justify their parents actions.  I think the dialog on corporal punishment largely comes to a standstill because of this one single, stupid problem.

Look at the dumb fucking meme that inspired the original Chuck Wendig post:


The entire thing is predicated on the notion of the person's parents being "right".

I think the implicit contempt expressed in the tone suggests more than a little that their psychological self-evaluation has failed on a massive scale.  Of course, the average person has little concept of what respect is.  It's a modestly complicated concept and most people were trained as children that respecting people was demonstrated by obeying them, which isn't a very good beginning to understanding it.

"Respect for Others" is taught by example.  Period.  There is no other way.

Spanking is not a very good way to demonstrate respect.  In fact, it actively demonstrates the opposite.  It's an act of profound disrespect.

Saying a person can't learn without violence being inflicted upon them is perhaps the ultimate in contemptuous statements.  It's certainly arguable in cases of Nazi Germany and rapists that without violence - or, at least, the threat of violence - one might not be able to stop them from their atrocious actions.  It happens I hold my son in much greater esteem than Nazis and rapists.

I don't remember either way if my parents did this to me, but I've always hated, even as a kid, watching people trying to teach their kids manners through humiliation.  "Hold on, what do you say?"

What a crock.  If you're polite and respectful to the people around you, your child will most likely grow up to be polite and respectful to the people around them.  That humiliation game is just intended to bolster your reputation as someone teaching their kids "manners".

But let's circle back to the world in which there's explicit and implicit messages pushing you to spank, outside of dumb as fuck Facebook memes.

Conan recently took up screaming.  Not screaming in pain or excitement.  Mostly randomly, although frequently it would seem in annoyance, as he'd often follow-up by saying "Annoying."

He'd do this in various public places, but especially on the bus.  I speculate he was annoyed about being in transit and a bit bored with the wait, but he wasn't able to communicate the more complicated point unfortunately.

Kim and I would do our best to gently shush him or tell him to stop in a more commanding tone.  Neither of them got us too far in those moments.

But at the worst it was intermittent, even when it was fairly often.

You could see people stare and glare and mutter that we should obviously be doing something more.  Most likely not everyone thought we should strike him, but you could tell we should be do something more and more aggressive to quell it.

I'm not sure what that would based on.  My experience, although admittedly anecdotal, in witnessing people who tried to physically punish or get into a screaming war with a toddler over making too much noise is that 100% of those escalate into something worse than intermittent screaming.

Now, he seems to be getting over that.  Not completely.  But largely.

And so goes life.

I promise, as soon as I stop seeing people arguing that I should spank my kid, I'll stop talking about why I'm not going to do that.

On the other hand, if you present an argument that isn't awful, I might treat it with respect.  As we can see above, that's not very likely.

And just to  hammer it home, here's Why Shouldn’t You Spank Your Kids? Here’s 9 Reasons.

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