Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Binkys and Baby Voices

We drove Little Guy up to camp this weekend. There are very few social activities up here for young adults when school's out, so it's something to break up the summer.

It's a neat program for people who have mild to moderate disabilities. This week's age group is for 18-21 year olds, and Little Guy has been really looking forward to it, since he missed out last year when he smashed his fingers in the garage door.

For the past year, Little Guy has been practicing greetings---hand shaking, making eye contact, adding phrases to his verbal repertoire so that when he gets past the "Hi, how are you, I'm fine, how are you?" part, he'll be able to appropriately add more to an exchange other than his old initial stand-bys---"Are you wearing socks?" or "What did you have for breakfast?"

He desperately wants to go beyond a first conversational connection when he meets people, so he's been trying on a phrase wardrobe to see what fits and what doesn't.

"Did you take a shower today?" is not usually a hit.

"I really like your colorful t-shirt!" is.

While we were waiting our turn in the lodge to get him signed in (we were there early), I sat with his pile of stuff along with a few other parents and he wandered around putting his new skills to work. He introduced himself to other campers and counselors, shook their hands and chatted with them. Then he came over to stand by me.

Sitting next to me was a mother and her daughter. The daughter smiled at Little Guy and shyly said, "Hi!"

He stuck his hand out to her.

Hi, my name is Little Guy! What's your name?

Somehow her mother intercepted his hand first and shook it. "Nice to meet you, Little Guy!", she exclaimed brightly in a baby voice. "My name is Marty!"

He cringed.

I cringed.

We don't do baby voices.

She turned to her daughter. "This is Ellbee!"

Little Guy moved his hand over to shake. Nice to meet you, Ellbee!

She took his hand and grimaced.

"My name is really Daniella", she said softly. Pretty name for a very pretty young woman.

Then her mom chimed in loudly---again in an excruciatingly cloying baby voice---and pointed to the name tag on her daughter's chest, "But WE like to call her our little Ellbee!"


When we filled out the forms for camp, I remember there being a section for nicknames. I guess if I even spent any time pondering it, my thoughts would be along the lines of Tom being short for Thomas, or Liz being short for Elizabeth, etc. It never would have occurred to me to fill it in with nicknames we called Little Guy when he was 3----Bubarooni and Sweet Pea.

He's not a baby. He's a young man, for Pete's sakes.

While he was doing an inventory of his belongings with one of the staff, I wandered over to the table that held the name tags, hoping to see if any of his old friends were attending this week. Amongst the Johns, Ricks, Marys, Heathers and Kates were WeeDee and Binky.

What the heck?

Ok, to be fair, I haven't met these people. For all I know WeeDee and Binky LIKE their nicknames. Or maybe they're like Daniella, who is struggling to claim her adult name as her own.

I know it's hard to let go of our babies, especially if developmentally they will remain as children. But our babies WILL inevitably grow up to be adults.

Where is the dignity for someone named Ron, if everyone is calling him BINKY when he's 40? It's not cute any more. It's a bad caricature of stereotypes regarding people who have cognitive disabilities.

I said a little prayer the other night.

I prayed that Ellbee tore off her name tag and continued to assert herself after Mom dropped her off. I prayed that at least this week, she gets to be who she wants to be.

A lovely young adult named Daniella.


TraceyTreasure said...

Oh, ATM, it is so important for parents to think of their children as adults as they grow up! Can you imagine if Binky has kids? That might get confusing to the kid if he/she asks for the binky and Binky tried to console the kid with no luck. I'm with you on age appropriate nicknames. But I have to admit, my youngest will always be my "baby" but not in public! I'll call her by her name! Hugs!

Stinkypaw said...

I hate baby talk and even worst for parents who use it! Argh.

I don't think it's helpful in ANYway for kids with our without disabilities.

Hope Little Guy enjoys his time away and helps Danielle to come out of her shell.

carmachu said...

yikes! That made me cringe listening to it second hand.

Gotta let them spread their wings. Disability or not......

Hope he has fun and she asserts herself.

litzi said...

Hi Attila,
As I age, I’m becoming a staunch believer that a person’s actions, whether good or bad, will often have consequences for that person; i.e. “what goes around, comes around”. You’ve accepted the fact that Little Guy is now an 18-year old young adult/man and is going to have a life independent of you. Obviously, Daniella’s mother wants to keep her “baby” dependent forever. There may be some co-dependency going on in the family dynamics arena. Perhaps when Mrs. Loud-Mouth Baby Talker becomes old and crotchety, Daniella will remember how she was humiliated and abased as a young adult and return the favor to the old battleaxe. She can invent an egregious nickname while speaking in a degrading tone and be sure everyone in the Menopause Manor where mom has been stowed away hears it loud and clear.

Bubarooni? Oh my! My dad use to call me Pitzi because at one stage everything in my life was “The Pits”. I’m glad that moniker didn’t stick.

Have you heard from Little Guy on how he’s getting along at Camp? Are you and Big Kid still “bonding”?

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Um, yeah!

mrsb said...

Gah! I hate those kinds of people. I know a mom in our community who speaks to her son in "dog talk" -- "Was you a good boy? Yes, you were! You were a good boy while mommy was gone!"

The child is 11. Good gravy.

Beth said...

I hope that Daniella (and WeeDee and Binky) all have the opportunity to assert themselves and command the respect and dignity their given names bestow.

Brenda said...

I still call my 28 yr old, 6'3, 240lb son, Bubby. He's my baby and he'll always be my Bubby, he's ok with that, maybe it's because I use a normal tone of voice when I refer to him as such. :-) His wife calls him James, at work he's lieutenant M., he's ok with that too.

Ashley's Mom said...

Beth, let's just hope WeeDee and Binky are NOT their given names!

abfh said...


phlegmfatale said...

Marty sounds like a condescending bitch, however well-intentioned she may be.

I hope Little Guy is having a blast, and I hope Daniella is too.

litzi said...

Wow! Condescending bitch is much better than battleaxe...I love it.

Eileen said...

This is a great point, so hard for parents to let go and stop treating their young adult children, like babies. I feel for that youn girl and it fosters a dependance within her or for anyone else for that matter. If I ever started talking baby talk to M. she would set me straight, very quickly (or anyone else, appropriate of inappropriately, she is missing that filter).

Hope Little Guy is having a great time at camp. He sounds like such an great guy!

Jezebel said...

This reminds me of the times my mother referred to me by the nicknames she called me "Butch" and "Petunia" when I was in middle school and friends called me on the phone...

"BUTCH, so-and-so is on the phone!"

You'd be right if you thought that I didn't hear the end of it for weeks.

I tried to explain to my mom what 'butch' meant but I don't think she got it 'til a few years ago when she heard one of her friends describe a girl as being butch.

Half rabbit said...

A baby voice for a 18-21. o_O Are you sure the camp isn't for mothers with disabilities (only applicable for her and not all the other great mothers. Also apologies for using the term disabilities as it's to good for her)

Also I'm just curious but what are we talking about with mild to medium disabilities. I've read a lot of post, (o.k. only half an hours worth) but I can't seem to find anything that would warrant someone been so condescending. (One post promised to have an description for little guy, but it has being deleted)

Finally is there a website for this camp. I'm curious as to what kind of activities there are. (apologies if it's obvious, but I don't have much experience with camps)

One second thoughts maybe I was too harsh in my judgment and they were just being friendly. Though if my mum said used a baby nickname to introduce me to someone they would get the "stare of death". (well anyone other than my mother at least)

Anna said...

I can't stand baby talk, even when used on babies!

How on earth are toddlers supposed to learn to talk properly if all they hear is that rubbish all the time?

I don't even use it with my dog (well okay, I say "good girl Summer!" in an excited high-pitched voice, but no silly words or phrases).

I also think that everyone, disabilities or not, should be given the respect of being treated like an adult as much as possible. And this means asking what their preferences are and letting them make their own decisions (and mistakes). Support them, bail them out of trouble, but for God's sake allow them their individuality and autonomy.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

How horrid. I don't even talk baby talk to toddlers except in jest.

I love how you're helping Little Guy converse. "Are you wearing socks?" That's great! I think I'd enjoy meeting him.

Jennifer H said...

Baby talk drives me crazy. Parents who won't let their children grow up make me crazier.

I hope he's having a great week.

Anonymous said...

I loved this one :"Did you take a shower today?" I would enjoy to meet LG! ((LG))

I wish him, and you two, a fabulous week. Best wishes for MIL!

Queen Goob said...

Everytime you tell a story about Little GUy I laugh for a moment then say a little thank you that He sent LG to you - he's lucky to have a mom like you.

Hope he has a MOST awesome time at camp and if he asks, yes I DID take a shower.

Jodi said...

ewwww....baby voices and cutsie names for adults....they make us cringe too.