Do you remember in high school when you thought everyone, everywhere, was watching you and judging you? If you were at the mall and your hair was a mess, you were certain everybody was noticing and heaping shame upon you. If you were at school and walking alone, you were certain every single classmate thought you were a loser loner.
No? Just me?
Well, the happy news is I got over it after high school. I realized that I’m way too into my own world and thoughts that I don’t really even notice anybody around me. And I assumed it must be pretty much the same for everyone else. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I think it’s fair to assume that the people I pass in public each day aren’t giving me a second thought — probably not even a first thought. We’re all too busy and self-absorbed!
But lately, I’ve been feeling a bit self-conscious when out in public with my 2-year-old. Sure, she causes the occasional tantrum scene. Just the other day, she screamed at me in the party store because she was trying to rearrange the Angry Bird cups. “JUST A MINUTE, MOMMY!” she screamed over and over at me while the cups refused to stay in the places she deemed most appropriate.
But that’s not why I’m self-conscious. Every kid has meltdowns — it’s not a reflection on me or my parenting.
No, I’m self-conscious because she now insists on being addressed as “Hippo.” Just a few weeks ago, she wanted to be called Monkey, and threw fits of epic proportions if anyone dared address her by her given name.
Then one day, I said she and her sister were “hungry hippos” while they were scarfing down their snack. It was just an innocent use of alliteration. But the 2-year-old latched onto that one and wouldn’t let go. She declared herself to be Hippo forevermore, even when I tried to convince her that monkeys are so cute and fun.
I’ve tried to grant her this deepest nickname wish, but because she so fiercely trained me to address her as Monkey, I’ve called her Monkey out of habit in the store a few times. “Come here, Monkey. It’s time to go.”
But every time I do, she stomps her feet, screams and cries, “I’m not Monkey! I’m a HIPPO!”
“OK, OK, Hippo,” I whisper, looking around me for disapproving looks. “Come here, Hippo. It’s time to go.” She then comes running, happy as can be.
I’m back in my adolescent days, feeling like all judging eyes are on me. Are people going to think I’m body shaming my toddler? Luckily, I can probably count on the fact that everybody else is lost in their own worlds, and won’t notice the strange woman wrangling her children by addressing them as some of the biggest mammals walking the earth.
The 5-year-old, by the way, wishes to be addressed as Polar Bear.