First I want to say that I am officially an empty-nester! I will tell you that when you bring your child to the right school and they feel confident there, it makes the process of leaving so much easier. So today is my debut with an empty nest. And my male cat got himself wedged in my weight machine while I was using it. So there is the saying that curiosity killed the cat and I am starting to think they meant my little guy. This just shows me that someone still needs me and I will be ok.
Now onto my story about horrible nicknames. As a child I was called B-Sue by my family members. I was either known as Becki, Becki-Sue, B-Sue or (on special occasions) Little Tippy-toes because I was a ballerina and I danced constantly. (Actually if I am going to be completely honest if you show up at my house early in the morning you will find me singing and dancing with my dogs and cats…so nothing has changed.) When my brother’s started to get clever and I probably got older and perhaps sassier, they started to call me Pea Soup. I absolutely hated it.
I will say that nothing could set me off quicker than being called pea soup. “Hey, pea soup!”
“How’s it going Pea Soup?”
You know the drill. Older brothers are mean and cruel and give horrible nicknames.
So now the time has come for little four-year old Becki, B-Sue, Little Tippy-toes, Pea Soup, to go to school. I am really small for my age and I can barely make the first step on the school bus. I actually had to climb up the first step. It was terrifying and I remember it well…but I also lived in a school bus so that memory may not really be accurate. Either way I was small and I was going to school and I was four years old. I showed up and I was excited because I loved to learn. I could already read and write and my brother taught me to write my name in cursive. I was ready to be the smartest one there.
Circle time was the first thing we did as a student. Circle time was when we students would sit in a circle and face the teacher who was in a chair. I don’t want to bore you with the psychology of why a circle…but we can all see each other’s faces and it is better for interaction as a class. Simple! So I go over to the circle and I sit next to a girl who looked a bit like me (again psychology at play). The teacher starts calling out names. She gets to this name and says “Rebecca?” I sit there and look around the circle with the rest of the class.
“Rebecca, are you here?” She smiles and I smile back. Apparently the teacher and I are on the same page, this fucking Rebecca person ditched the first day of kindergarten.
“Rebecca, are you in the circle?”
I look around and I was like ‘NOPE, that bitch is definitely not here. Move on Teach!’
again she says “Rebecca? Honey its ok to say something don’t be shy. Or you could just raise your hand, that’s fine too!”
I look around and search for the poor shy girl who is afraid to raise her hand. My poor little heart went out to the meek little dear. I make myself a promise to be friends with her as soon as she raises her hand. That way she will not be afraid because she has one friend.
“Rebecca, I think that is you dear!” the teacher’s helper points to me with my name tag and my bus number.
“NO! My name is B-Sue!” I correct them.
The class giggles a bit. Which makes me nervous and when I get nervous I start mammering on without taking a breath. “Well my real name is Becki, or Becki-Sue! But my family shortened it to B-Sue and then sometimes my brothers call me Pea Soup but I don’t like that name!”
The entire class is roaring with laughter and I am now embarrassed because they are all laughing at me. I have been laughed at and laughed with. It’s amazing that at such a young age you can distinguish the difference. I was mortified and I didn’t know what to do. The teacher calmed the class down and she explained that “Becki is a nickname for Rebecca and so I was in fact Rebecca!”
I looked at her and I thought ‘this is the dumbest fucking words to ever be spoken to me. Because correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t B-sue the nickname for Becki-Sue? And isn’t Pea Soup the nickname for B-Sue? And isn’t little tippy-toes the dancing version of my nicknames and what you are saying to me is that all of these names are some sort of spawn from….Rebecca?’
I looked at the teacher with doubt and so I said “ok. But just call me B-Sue or Becki. I don’t like that other word you called me. It doesn’t sound very nice.”
The teacher grimaced and carried on with class. I sat down because my version of school involved me being the smartest one there and turns out I didn’t even know my own name. At recess the asshole kids called me Pea Soup and I promised myself to punch them in the mouth one day. I just needed to grow a bit. The girl that I sat with at circle time played with me despite the fact that I didn’t even know my own birth name.
I get home after my exhausting first day at kindergarten and I couldn’t even eat my PB&J with chips. My mom asked me if I was ok.
“No! Why didn’t you tell me that my name was Padecca?”
She looks at me with confusion.
“And now everyone is calling me Pea Soup thanks to you.”
She was now really confused and she asks me to slow down and explain. The problem was that when I slowed down to explain this hot bubble grew in my throat until it burst into tears and then I was all tears and spit and making absolutely no sense.
“Are you trying to say Rebecca?” she asked
I nod my little head.
“I’m sorry! I thought you knew that was your name.” she tries
“Well I don’t and now the mean kids call me Pea Soup!” I still am not making sense to her because she wasn’t there during the circle fiasco of ’75!
“Why do they call you Pea Soup?” She asks
“Because they are mean and stupid and I am going to punch them if they say it again.” I explain
“Please don’t punch them. I think you can just ignore it.” mom tells me.
The next day I go to school and I put my mother’s advice to work. I ignored those kids. In fact I actually ghosted them. I would say things like “I don’t even hear someone talking right now. Do you?”
Second day of school I had to stay in for recess for being mean when others were talking.
I was not making a good impression at school. Needless to say I had to learn that ignoring hurtful comments is different from ignoring the person saying them. In my field we call it detachment with love. I used to struggle with detachment. I still struggle with detachment because my ego and hurt feelings blow up and want center stage. They want to do the dance of my people and sing the song of pity. Which is not a great show, It never made it to Broadway!
Moral of my story: When sending your child to school and you don’t call them by their formal names, please tell them that is, in fact, them. That would have saved me some embarrassment as a young student. The brunt of what went wrong surely fell on my shoulders though. When put in a tough situation don’t pretend you are the smartest person in the room. You can learn a lot from others even when you least expect it. Third when someone is hurting your feelings keep in mind that those are their actions and you can’t control them. You can control your feelings and your own actions. It is never too young to learn that.