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This is my home-game entry this week for therealljidol. I am not competing this season but invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week's topic is "Sobriquet."

This video captures the moment in question

After we sang "Happy Birthday" to my son, our little Kung Fu Panda, an old friend of the family, Uncle Squash, asked me, "So when does he stop being Kung Fu Panda?" My response: to squeeze KFP close to me and declare "Never!" And then, more seriously, I answered, "Whenever he starts to mind it." Of course, this response was swallowed up by more joking from the guests.

There is no truer way to answer the question than this split response. He became our Kung Fu Panda because of something that happened in the hospital (which I never tire of retelling). A big boy from birth, at 9 pounds 7 ounces, he was also strong, alert, and with arms and legs that never stopped moving and exploring. When I was feeding him for the first time, he pulled out the IV nurses had positioned in a vein in my hand (my arm veins being notoriously difficult to find)! I immediately made a joke to The Gryphon about our son's "Kung Fu action grip," an allusion to the GI Joe commercials of our childhood.

Then, after our baby was taken to the nursery for his first round of tests, the nurses returned him in a blanket covered with pandas. His online nickname sprung to life.

For years, I have used nicknames to refer to friends and family in my blog, in part to protect people's privacy. While it is possible to view pictures and figure out the real names of people, it's not searchable in any practical way on "teh Internets." I also often omit real place names, and when I do use them, I omit street names unless it's a place of business.

So for practical reasons, "Kung Fu Panda," or "KFP," as friends shortened it soon after I started using it, will continue to be used on my blog until, as I said, he starts to object to it. Or until I feel the need to change it, for whatever reason. (I have occasionally changed people's nicknames; sometimes by request but sometimes because the original one no longer fit them.)

Typically, I use real names on Facebook, but following in the footsteps of a number of friends who even use pseudonyms there, I used "Kung Fu Panda" on Facebook, as well. This is why many people, upon first meeting him, call him "Panda."

The nickname continues to suit him: like his namesake, he is unfailingly optimistic, good-humored, and self-confident about his awesomeness. He's a dreamer and an adventurer: always seeking out new challenges. And yet, also like his namesake, he has moments of weakness, when the smallest thing makes him lose his stuff. This typically happens when he's tired. For example, on Saturday, he was cranky and difficult but refused to nap. I read him a book to distract him, and the minute I'd finished, he began wailing, as if the book was his best friend and had abandoned him in a snowstorm with no skis.

Names have power. This is a truth recognized across cultures. I often think about KFP's nickname and the uneven way it's applied. While I call him that online, his real name slips into the videos I've uploaded to YouTube. And when strangers compliment me on my baby and ask his name, I weakly tell them the truth, although I wonder whether this is wise. Should I give them a dummy name? Or say, "We call him Kung Fu Panda or KFP"? If so, how do I decide who gets the real name? Only the moms at the library storytime and similar locations? It's impossible sometimes to tell who's going to be significant in your life.

That is why I was incapable of giving one answer to Uncle Squash's query. I will never stop wanting to protect KFP, in my clumsy way, of at least overuse of his real name. And, no matter how old he is, I'm sure I will still see in him the bright, strong baby I met a year ago, the baby with the Kung Fu action grip.

Nicknames are complicated, especially for mothers.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
Aw! I loved reading this, loved learning the background behind the name :)
Jun. 21st, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it! He'll always be my little panda, even when he's 6-feet tall. :)
Jun. 22nd, 2011 01:19 am (UTC)
This is so beautiful and so sweet. I love knowing how his name came to be. :-) I loved this piece. Glad to know he'll always be your little Panda. :-) Make *sure* you call him that in front of his first girlfriend too!
Jun. 22nd, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
LOL That would be the best. I have no intention of embarrassing him, but I'm sure I'll do it accidentally. I was just watching the episode of "The Simpsons" where Marge discovers that Bart is playing a vicious knight in an online multiplayer game. She's playing the game, too, and she starts embarrassing him in front of people by telling him to wear warm pants when he goes on a raid in the forest. Then, she redecorates his fortress with Hello Kitty wallpaper!
Jun. 22nd, 2011 01:38 am (UTC)
hahahahahaha... oh please, please, please, please tell me that you'd do something just like that??? :-)
Jun. 22nd, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
Yes, of course! He's my special little guy!
Jun. 22nd, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
lol... so awesome. :-)
Jun. 24th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
Aha! I'd wondered how you came up in that nickname.

I've never had reason to make up nicknames for my family when I post about them online. Maybe I should? I don't know. I have changed names of some people, but I think about what my relationship to them is/was before doing that.
Jun. 24th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
*shrug* If you don't feel you need them, then you don't!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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