February 6, 2011
hello again: hello, my name is...
It's been awhile since I've written a blog entry, and it's not that I haven't been thinking about writing. It's just that I've had a lot of thoughts, and not sure how to channel them into a coherent thought, among other things.
We've been hosting an exchange student this year (hello, CJ--yep, that's your blog-o-nym--and I know you're reading this), and I've been enjoying the experience immensely, and wanting to post some thoughts about our exchange experience. Yet, it's taken me awhile to figure out how to do that while respecting CJ's privacy and my own, while also not coming across too trivial about any of our experiences.
CJ is from Germany, and NOT from Bavaria, so I'd say I've learned a little about that distinction and how there's a tendency here in the US to associate Bavarian elements of Germany with all of Germany. Part of my family comes from north of Hamburg, so I have to say that I appreciate having a better understanding of this distinction, and I'm really enjoying learning more about Germany and the EU and CJ's perspective on a host of topics, like politics, economics, technology, and education. I hope I'll write about a few of these things here in the next few posts.
One interesting little topic that has come up in a whole variety of ways for me during CJ's stay has been names. He and I talked about it a bit today, but we really just scratched the surface.
My own children's names, which are usually referred to around here as J and S are in fact, of German origin. J's name, when pronounced correctly, starts with a "y" sound, and S's name should start with more of a "z" sound (well not exactly, according to CJ), but we don't ever really say it that way. J gets his name mispronounced all the time, as do I, and he seems to handle it pretty well. S probably will have some trouble with her name too, but for now she's too young.
CJ's name is also uncommon in Germany, but common here in the US. The pronounciation in German is different than it is in English, and I've gotten so used to saying his name the German way that to hear it in English doesn't sound right anymore. Yet, he goes by the English version at school here this year. His brother also has an uncommon name in Germany, and that name is also uncommon in the US. It's sort of neat to me that his parents chose interesting names for their kids, as we did too. We share some values across our cultures, and I like that this is one of them.
One difference, although slight, is that CJ calls his parents by their first names. It came as a bit of a surprise to me because I had asked him what he called his parents when he had first arrived, and he told me "mama and papa" which is also what we want our kids to call us. Of course, CJ calls us by our first names, but I wouldn't expect anything else. Nonetheless, I was surprised to hear him on Skype using his mother's first name. He also seemed a little upset or insistent in his tone with her, and maybe that added to my surprise because even as an adult, I don't call my mother by her first name, and even if I did, I wouldn't call her by her name in an argument. (Readers, do you call your parents by their first names? why or why not?)
In the meantime, S has taken to calling me "mommy." Of all the possible ways of referring to me, this is absolutely my least favorite. Everyone around her tries to correct her with "mama" but she insists "mommy!" Right now, I've given up.
This name, to me, conveys a certain helpless dependence that I don't want to foster in my children. I've joked that if she's still calling me mommy when she's four, I'll insist on her just calling me by my first name instead.
This comes as a shock to a few people. This fall, J was calling C by his first name, which really irritated C. It was a passing phase, and J is back to calling C "Papa," but I know there'll come a day when J is going to ask not to use mama/papa anymore, and I'm feeling right now like it should be okay to call us by our first names, even in an argument. Even if they are exchange students talking with us via Skype from some other country. But right now, the whole idea feels a bit of a foreign concept that still takes some getting used to.