I have three daughters. My eldest daughter is named Alisha. Ever since she was born, my husband and I have called her ‘Lishi’ for short. It’s the only nickname she’s ever known. But in the last few weeks, my 7 year old, who’s now in Year 2, has been asking me, “Why don’t you call me, Alisha?” I know her question hasn’t been purely out of curiosity. She says she would much prefer going by her ‘real’ name because her school friends call her that. When she first told me that she didn’t like being called ‘Lishi’, I felt a mix of emotions. I felt sadness because she wanted to go by a different name to what we’re used to all these years. But, on the other hand, I also felt happiness at knowing that my ‘baby’ is growing up. As parents, how often do we hold on, when really we should be letting go? How often do we do what’s right for us, rather than what’s right for our children?
Making small changes
It was only yesterday that I finally decided to stop calling my daughter, ‘Lishi’. It was only yesterday that I chose to let go of more than just her name – I chose to let go of the early stage of her life that she’s moved on from. I’m trying my best to embrace this new stage of her life now.
When I first started calling her, ‘Lishi’, many years ago, she was only several months old. It was something I thought was a cute name for a baby. Giving her a nickname seemed to reinforce the special bond and personal connection that a mother and daughter often have. It was something I didn’t imagine we would be calling her after all this time.
But Alisha is no longer a baby. She’s no longer an infant who needs me to respond to every needs of hers. She’s a young child – my young daughter who’s learning to think for herself. Who has her own likes and dislikes. Who knows she’s feeling hot when I’m worrying that she’s feeling cold. Who’s independent enough to run her school lap-a-thon alone, unfazed as to whether I run alongside her or not. Who’s independent and confident enough to sleep overnight at her friend’s house.
And I think that making these small changes, like calling her by her birth name ‘Alisha’ and letting her make her own choices – is good for her. Not only am I building her self-confidence, but I’m telling her that SHE matters. That HER feelings and thoughts matter. That it’s not always about what I want for her.
Sometimes it’s difficult to let go
Sometimes it’s more than just a change in our child’s name. Sometimes it’s more than just baby toys that we’re struggling to throw away. Sometimes it’s more than being afraid that our child will get hurt at their friend’s house.
In order to get over our deepest fears of our children growing up and needing us less, we need to accept that it might be time for us to gradually let them go.
We need to let our children explore the world. Learn to deal with hurt and disappointment. Find out what a true friend really is. Learn all these sorts of lessons on their own.
The reality is, my three children aren’t going to be with me forever. They won’t need me the way they need me right now. They will learn to cope without me and have their own lives to live one day.
But my job as a parent isn’t for me to shield them from everything that is negative. My job is to help build their resilience so they have confidence that they can face and conquer the negative.
If calling my daughter by her ‘real’ name means that much to her, then I’m going to do it.
I want her to realise that sometimes, when you love someone, you put their needs ahead of your own. And that love isn’t just shown through our words, but through our actions as well.
This article was written by Thuy Yau, who is a freelance writer. She is passionate about making the world a better place to live in. You can follow her at her personal development blog at Inside a Mother’s Mind.