It started with Bugs, short for Bugs Bunny. Mychal had huge blue eyes that popped open when he was surprised and delighted by something and so Tim started calling him bugs. The problem when you refer to your child as bugs you can get strange looks so somewhere along the line it became Bub, Bubs or Bubba. A term of belonging, love and intimate connection and hearing my son’s use it with their children always makes me feel like we hit the mark, the exact intention we had when using those terms. Even more fascinating when I hear my DIL’s also use it. The passing down of valuable things always makes me stop and take notice.
It’s not just the term itself that hits the mark it is the tone, the love, tenderness, warmth and affection.
It can mean…
I like you (sometimes more important than I love you)
You are fun
Cute you are just so cute
I am delighted with you
You are my kid
I see you
We are sharing a moment of something wonderful
The tone can contain concern, compassion and support.
It can mean…
Can I kiss it and make it better
Are you ok
I am disappointed too
I wish I could fix it for you
I am standing with you
I am here for you and whatever you need
It’s all in the tone and the way the child feels when they hear that name that is used to communicate something endearing to them. How old they are doesn’t matter either. On Sunday my 29-year-old Son was at our church to do some video work for our Pastor and when I got there and he came out to see me I hugged him and said “Hey Bubs” and held him close. Sometimes just a simple greeting and sometimes a greeting to communicate so much more, this week my younger Son lost a dear friend and all I want to do is hug him and say “I am so sorry, Bubs.”
It communicates all the things a Mom’s heart feels.
Given names especially when the middle name is tagged on for emphasis is about another kind of tone and emotion and that is a whole other side to parenting but this “Name” that was created for use in our family is all about communicating approval and the tone in which it is used cannot be underestimated in its importance.
The clarity of that is crystal clear now that my sons are using it with their own children. And now we as grandparents are establishing that connection with our grands because calling Judah “Bubs or Bubba” is so natural to me I don’t even think about it and for Olivia I have adapted a more feminine version “Bubba Girl” and Meghan is “Baby Bubba Girl” which is quite fun to say. Tim and I even refer to each other as Bubs sometimes in a way that claims intimacy of relationship. It is our way of saying…We belong to each other…All of us belong to each other.
I didn’t realize what we were creating when we started, I just wanted to snuggle them, hold them close and show my affection in a way that was specific. It is easy with toddlers or babies to use physical affection in an effective way to communicate comfort and acceptance but that gets more challenging as they get older. We are huggers and we hugged regardless of their age and still do but a 16-year-old boy isn’t going to let you snuggle with him.
That’s when I realized what a great tool this had become to communicate the right kind of tenderness in a way that was needed and appropriate. It is important to distinguish the difference between hugging a teenage son and saying only to him “Sorry about the loss, Bubs.” And screaming it from the stand onto the Football field, I screamed lot of things from those stands but never that.
Now my Sons are men, with adult responsibilities and families of their own but still when they face challenges, hardship and troubling circumstances and there is nothing I can do to fix it, make it easier, or change it what I have left is prayer and emotional support that often starts with “Hey Bubs…”
Building solid foundations of belonging and acceptance into our kids is often rooted in our words to them and the tones in which those words are wrapped. What we are called and how we are called it leaves an indelible mark. A Mark that maters, really matters.
Names shape and mold.
Names provide and protect.
Names build and bond.
Names establish self-esteem.
Names create legacy.
Last week I picked Olivia Jo up from home and took her on a Mimi date. We ate dinner out at one of my favorite grown up places and she devoured the Mac and Cheese. We went to the Mall and walked, played and bought a princess cup at the Disney store because it was on sale, and pink with princesses on it, which to a woman who had sons is a treat I can’t even describe. And then I took her home, when we got there Allison was waiting in the garage with the door open so we could avoid the rain. I lifted Olivia out of her car seat and her little face lit up when she saw her Mama and Her Mama’s face lit up right back and she said “Hi! Love Bug.”
I smiled to myself here we are full circle back to “Bug” “Love Bug” spoken with all the tenderness a young Mom has for her child.
What’s in a name used to communicate affection? Everything