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Published January 20, 2014, 02:53 PM

Parenting Perspectives: Not just 'Honey' or Daddy'; he's still my Craig

My toddler son’s cries dragged me out of bed at 1 a.m. I sleepily trudged down the stairs and into his room, where I confronted a pile of puke on his mattress.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

My toddler son’s cries dragged me out of bed at 1 a.m. I sleepily trudged down the stairs and into his room, where I confronted a pile of puke on his mattress.

“Craaaaig,” I called up the stairs to my husband. “I need you.”

He joined me downstairs to tag-team the post-vomit cleanup. He washed our son and changed pajamas. I tackled the bedding. We took turns cuddling Owen back to sleep.

An hour later, back in our shared bed, Craig made a late-night confession.

“Whenever you say my name, it’s like nails on a chalkboard,” he said.

My mouth dropped. This is not a good thing for a husband to tell a wife.

“You only use my name when you’re yelling at me,” he explained, or to enlist him in an unpleasant parenting task.

It’s true. The rest of the time, to me, he’s a term of endearment, like “Sweetie.”

Back in college and the prehistoric age of landlines, I’d call the large apartment Craig shared with his fraternity brothers. Whoever answered would teasingly summon him to the phone by saying “Honey, it’s Dear.”

When we became parents nearly six years ago I started calling him a new name: Daddy.

And I became Mommy, not just to our children.

I pondered this as I lay awake, digesting Craig’s revelation.

Many couples with kids call each other Mom and Dad. My parents, married 43 years, have as long as I remember, and still do, even though we kids have been out of the house for many years. Craig, whose parents are divorced, thinks it’s cute.

But names are central to our identity. Dale Carnegie said the sweetest sound to a person is his or her own name.

Not in my husband’s case, at least not from my lips.

By using his name in only negative situations, I’d conditioned him to expect the worst whenever I uttered it.

While I regularly express appreciation and affection for the husband (“Dear”) and father (“Daddy”), was I disregarding him as a person, the guy I started dating 15 years ago, by not making his name a sweet sound?

I vowed to change it.

The next morning, eating a quick breakfast at the kitchen table, I called down to the landing where he put on his coat.

“Craaaig?”

He responded with a pained groan, a verbal grimace to the screeching chalkboard.

“I love you,” I said.

He laughed, realizing what I was doing.

Since, I’ve started using his name frequently, when I say something sweet or silly or mundane. It still sounds a little awkward.

Our daughter, Eve, tried to admonish me. “Don’t call him ‘Craig,’” she said. “He’s Daddy.”

Yes, he is. But he’s also my Craig.

The one who responds for middle-of-the-night cleanup duty, no matter how I yell up the stairs.

Sherri Richards is mom to 5-year-old Eve and 2-year-old Owen and a reporter for The Forum. She can be reached at srichards@forumcomm.com

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