” Your last name is Singh, so does that mean you sing all the time? “, is mockery my son faced last year during school by his “friends”. Some of it in jest, some in sheer meanness. I didn’t even know about it till months later, after it had stopped.
Our last name in Hindi means Lion. It not only carries my husband’s family name but also carries forward my last name (a name only I from my father’s side carry). It is also a slight miracle because I found a man to marry who coincidentally carries the same last name, which meant I didn’t have to change or amend my name, as is Indian culture.
“What’s in a name ? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet..” , said Juilet through William Shakespeare’s eyes and yet, the truth name does carry the a lot of weight in a person’s life, derived from significance in the parents’ lives & a legacy of ancestors. And that is why it deserves respect.
Needless to say most people are proud of the legacy our name carries. And that it was so carelessly made light of my children from other cultures is hurtful, not just to my son but to us a family.
When a child is born, parents spend months thinking of just the right name for them. Something that would carry all that we want their legacy to be. A mixture of life experiences, memories and hopes for the future is all held in that one name.
Names carry a lot of meaning, because they carry a lot of thought and love. A parent puts in months, maybe years of memories and a lifetime of experiences into the one person they raise. A last name carries legacy. While both of these are wonderful to have, and not really what define a person, they come to mean a lot to the family.
During the time before my children were born, we went through many, many names not just to do the above, but also to have a name that was easy to pronounce by other cultures. This is often done so we can fit in easier and our children do NOT have to face mockery by name calling or badly made rhymes.
Now, I understand difficulty in pronouncing names. In Kuwait, India, and USA I have been called everything from Adithi, Adeetee, Athithi and more … With different languages having various meanings of the same word and dialects, I get that sometimes people can misunderstand. And the simple fix to that is to correct them, and explain to them meaning or just give them a easy way to remember, like ADT the security system. Genuine misunderstanding can be corrected gently. After all, no one can take offense on unknowingly made mistakes.
But even children can make out when someone is insincere in their jest of one’s name or mispronunciation.
When I found out, my son’s friends had been mocking him I was very curious to know what exactly had been happening. He said it was weeks of teasing before he stopped.
I responded, “People sometimes make fun of things they don’t understand.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “Yeah. I told them what our last name means but they still kept laughing.”
My hand on his, I ventured, ” Then…. what did you do? Ideally you have three choices. You let it go and walk away, you laugh with them or you tell them to make fun of something else . ”
“But moooooooooom, even if they aren’t respecting me. I should be respect them. So, I just let it go. ”
It is these small moments that let me know I am on the right path to teaching them good values and a global mindset. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way in personal growth.
I hope parents out there take a few minutes today to explain to their child that every single person’s was named with a lot of love. That it deserves respect and mocking anyone’s name, first or last is NOT okay.
Originally published on Todays’ Parenting Team website.