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Simon is learning names. His names, our names, the names of his friends and teachers, all of them.

First came our names, Mommy and Daddy. They’ve been around since he was under one.

Then came his own name, Si-moan. That’s newer.

Next up came extended family, friends, and teachers and pets:  Bubbie, Grandma, Lola, Greta, S[F]ira, Lana, Sos[ph]ie, Tristan, Percy. Aside from ‘Bubbie’, most of these began cropping up around the holidays.

A few days ago, we decided to rock his world and introduce our first names, last names, and the difference between a full name and a nickname. He mostly looked at us like we were insane.

Us: Simon, do you know what your last name is?

Simon: Silence.

Us: It’s ‘Whitworth’. Can you say ‘Whitworth’?

Simon: ‘Ruf-ruf’

Close enough. Do you know what Daddy’s name is? It’s ‘Matthew’.


Right. And Mommy’s is ‘Jessica’, but you can [and better] call me ‘Mommy’.



‘Dagesta! Dagesta!’

Uh, ok. And my last name is ‘Goldstein’. Can you say that?


Exactly! Perfect! [Take note brothers, that’s ‘Gold-stine’ not ‘Gold-steen’.]

Do you know what the orange kitty’s name is?


Yes, we call him that. But it’s not really his name….

This is where we stopped to realize how insane naming is. How crazy it is that my mom is ‘Rita’ to most, ‘Mom’ to three, ‘Bubbie’ to five, ‘Aunt Rita’ to five more, and ‘Cousin Rita’ to one or two more. [Hey, we’re Southern, don’t laugh.]  It’s no wonder that Simon can’t tell ‘Mr. Dave’ (Sophie’s father) apart from ‘Uncle Dave’, 65 year age gap notwithstanding.

As I pondered how complicated this all was, I was struck with two simultaneous thoughts. The first was to teach Simon the “Whitworth” part and let the rest go. The other was immense gratitute for not being Russian, a culture whose naming traditions are infinitely more complicated than our own.

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