For reasons that make little sense to my readers, my wife, or even myself, I often refer to my son as Detective Munch. But that’s almost exclusively online; I never call him that to his face.
No, to his face I call him all manner of things, some of which rhyme with his actual name (there aren’t a lot of options; his actual name is Pantry), some of which rhyme with grass-pole, and most of which are just nonsense words because I’m more of a child than he is.
Aside from causing some identity-confusion that could come back to haunt us both and the occasional scolding from Mom and Buried, the nonsense nicknames I give my son are harmless. They’re just a way for me to be affectionate with him when I can’t remember his real name and don’t want him to know I’ve forgotten.
But since I don’t use his real name online, I’m starting to run out of ways to refer to him, especially as he gets older.
A few years back, when Pantry was still a baby but was older than one, I caught myself expressing his age in months. And it made me sick. I had told myself that when he hit the nice round 12 month mark, I would stop using months, especially in conversation with non-parents. But I failed. And I’ve never forgiven myself.
It’s gotten easier as he’s grown older and I’ve been able to call him a two- or three-year-old, or to use the “toddler” catch-all. Unfortunately, I’m now caught in a bit of a label war with my wife, as she keeps telling me I can’t use toddler anymore. He walks competently now and no longer toddles, she says. He’s almost four already, she says. Put the clothes IN the laundry basket, not on it or near it, she says. The proper term is “preschooler” now, she says.
I don’t know why I have a problem with the term “preschooler” except – PLOT TWIST – maybe I do know! It just seems bizarre to reduce my kid’s age to his spot on the educational chain, especially when “education” is a stretch at four. (In this country, “education” is a stretch at fourteen. BOOM!) When he’s in high-school, even if I occasionally refer to him as a high-schooler, I can still call him a teenager. And when he’s like 8 or 10 or whatever, I can call him a tween. I MOTHERFUCKING WILL NOT, but I could.
Next year, when he’s in kindergarten, it’s all good. Calling him a kindergartener will be kind of cute. Kindergartener’s are like penguins; their outward appearance and adorable name make them seem a lot more approachable and appealing than they actually are. (Penguins are cute and all but they smell like raw fish, people.) Plus, anything that allows me to bark “you lack discipline!” at my son in a bad Schwarzenegger accent is okay with me.
So yeah, soon enough, I’ll have options. But until then I’m sticking with toddler. Even at (almost) 4, it still seems to fit, despite the lack of any actual toddling. Detective Munch is still kind of caught in between (haha, NO!) being a little goof and a little person; I imagine by the time he’s five, the term “toddler” will just seem like a lie, or at least like an insult (I’m gonna file it away for use when he’s 12), but not yet.
No, the demise of “toddler” has been exaggerated, mostly by Mom and Buried. But I don’t care if the kid is running marathons next spring, I’m sticking with it. It works for me, so I’m going to keep working it, and you can’t stop me!
But I will take recommendations. What do you call your post-toddler, pre-kindergartener? And keep it clean!