Family

Why I Call My Son By A Fake Name

Photo: Irina Wilhauk / Shutterstock
toddler boy

My son’s name isn’t Andy. But I refer to him by this alias when I write about him, because I want to respect his privacy, and because I fear it might embarrass him if the whole world found out I’d cursed him with the name Fitzwilliam.

(Kidding. I don’t love Jane Austen THAT much. Well, okay, I kind of do. But I love my son more. And his real name is definitely not Fitzwilliam.)

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When I first began thinking about writing a down-to-earth, day-by-day series that would capture everyday life — all right, okay, it’s mommy blogging, I admit it — the biggest hiccup I encountered was that of maintaining my family’s privacy. (I don’t drink. But if I did, maybe I would create a drinking game for the number of times I use the word “privacy” in this piece. How about this: every time I say “privacy,” you do one push-up, or squat, or snap your fingers, or whatever… and when you get to the end, comment and brag to me about how much stronger you are now.)

I’ve mentioned before that my husband, Rob, is very supportive of my writing and has had no qualms about what I choose to put on display for my readers. He knows I want to keep our family’s privacy intact while also being truthful and engaging. When I draft an essay that I fear might be just a little too personal, I always ask him to read it before I publish it.

(I’ve asked him to read non-personal essays, too, for criticism and typo-catching, but he is too kind for the former and commits more errors of the latter than I do. Moral: do not ask your nearest and dearest to proofread.) If he feels something violates his privacy, I delete it. (Well, okay, I will if that ever happens. It hasn’t happened yet.)

But my son isn’t old enough to offer an opinion on what I share with the world.

He can’t even say “mama” in an appropriate context yet. (We’re working on that. He sure has “dada” down pat already, despite the fact that “dada” didn’t give birth to him, nourish him from his own body, get up five billion times in the middle of the night with him, or make baby food purees from scratch. Thanks, kiddo.)

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I can’t ask him if what I’m writing about him crosses a line. For now, nothing really crosses a line with him anyway. He’s perfectly happy to take all his clothes off and rinse sand out of random crevices before leaving the beach.

But cute little babies with no sense of public decency or personal privacy grow up into children, and then adolescents, and then adults, and they often care very much about whether their privacy has been violated (as well they should).

(It has occurred to me from time to time that I may use too many parentheses in my informal writing. ((Do you think I use too many parentheses?))

I’m not famous, and though I may dream of someday writing books that put my name on the New York Times bestseller list, I don’t have realistic plans to become famous anytime soon. I don’t have to worry about my son being hounded by paparazzi. But as they say, the Internet is forever, and as I have learned to my own chagrin, any little thing you put online has the capacity to go viral if the stars align just right.

If any of my writing survives in the public eye until such time as my son begins applying for illustrious professional positions (in other words, filling out redundant questionnaires on a retail chain’s confusing website), I would hate to think that someone could Google his name for a job interview and be confronted by something embarrassing that I had written about him.

I don’t plan to write embarrassing things about my son. I’m not a fan of boosting one’s own “relatable parent” street cred (tweet cred?) by waxing poetic about diaper blowouts and public tantrums.

There are plenty of interesting and funny things to write about without using my son’s most vulnerable or mortifying moments as blogroll fodder. But I do happen to know that teenagers can be embarrassed by anything, no matter how innocuous a parent thinks it may be, and I think our relationship will be better served by keeping his real-life identifiers out of my public journaling.

Certainly, if one were to dig deep enough and had the time to go into public records and trace family trees on the expensive premium version of Ancestry.com, one could probably uncover my son’s real full name.

But a stalker with that much time on their hands probably has far more nefarious purposes in mind than simply embarrassing my sweet little baby boy in front of adolescent coworkers. Since, as aforementioned, I am not famous, I’m going to tenderly release the fear of a creepy Internet stalker bent on murdering my family into the breeze like a butterfly since there’s not much I can do about that extremely remote possibility anyway.

But I’m not about to make it easy for any unlikely murderer (or those mocking adolescent coworkers). And that is why my baby will henceforth be known as Andy. Griffith, Dwyer, Warhol, Kid From Toy Story — whatever you like. I’m not telling you his last name, in case you couldn’t figure that out.

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Amy Colleen writes about parenting with a healthy dose of humor. You can read more of her work at amycolleen.medium.com

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.