The Lesson That a Trivial Parenting Decision Taught Me: Daddy or Papa?

daddy-vs-papaWhat is in a word? Over time, I suspect that my children will call me a wide variety of things, some of which I’d rather they didn’t. Initially, at least, I have some control over how I am known to my kids and I opted for the less conventional (in my region) “Papa”. I quickly found out that this decision was taken much more seriously by some of my acquaintances than it was by me. Don’t get me wrong, I put some thought into it, but my decision actually seemed to bother some people more than, in my opinion, it ought to have.

Why Papa?

There were a few reasons that made me choose to be called “Papa” rather than “Dad”. The most basic reason was that it was unconventional in my area, so it was just a way of being a little different. This has turned out to work pretty well for me, because when my kids are with a group of kids, it is very easy for me to tell when I am being called because so few fathers are called “Papa”. So I like being unique, and I’m a lazy parent who doesn’t like having to look too hard for my kids in a crowd, but there was a more personal reason for me to go with the more unconventional option.

When I was a boy there was a time that I decided that instead of calling my father “Dad”, I was going to try calling him either “Pa” or “Pop”. My father and mother came into my room one day and I tried it out, and they both really loved it. They tried to get me to say it again and out of embarrassment I refused. It really is a shame, because I liked it and it seemed like they both liked it too. In any case, as a bit of an homage to my father, this is why I chose to be known by my children as “Papa”.

What Did I Learn?

The decision to be called “Papa” by my children was one of my first real decisions as a parent. Clearly not a big or terribly important decision, but I did learn a lot from it. As I mentioned, I took a surprising amount of heat from relatives and friends for making this fairly trivial decision, and this, my friends, is what they call foreshadowing. You’d be amazed at how many of your decisions other people will call into question when you are raising your children. Unsolicited parenting advice abounds, and can come from a close relative or the person sitting next to you on the bus.

In the end, I feel that this early “parenting” decision gave me a little bit of a heads up that it is important for me to be able to let people’s opinions about my parenting style roll off of me. To be sure, this is easier said than done and honestly, I feel that I am still fine tuning my understanding and implementation of this lesson. On the other side of this, I have also learned that I should not offer fellow parents unsolicited advice. The role of a parent is so deeply personal, that it is very hard to say things about parenting without making a person feel criticized. What sort of parenting advice have you had from relatives or strangers? Also, what is the preferred nomenclature (obscure reference to a Coen brothers film) of your child’s father: Daddy or Papa? Finally, what Coen brothers film did I just reference?


3 thoughts on “The Lesson That a Trivial Parenting Decision Taught Me: Daddy or Papa?

  1. Good for you! I’ll bet ‘Papa’ is very convenient at the playground. My 2 year old has already given up on using ‘Daddy’ in busy places and instead hollers for ‘Tooooommmm.’ My son has 2 grandmothers, both of which wanted to be called ‘Grandma’ (instead of Ohma, Nana, etc). This is fine when one of them is around, but confusing when I talk about them. ‘This gift is from Grandma, Grandma is coming to visit, Grandma loves gingerbread cookies, etc.

    As for the unsolicited advice comment – I sort of agree. I’m one of those people that likes to get advice from friends, but maybe not total strangers. I bite my tongue too, and it’s sometimes hard!

    Recently, a lady stopped her car and HOLLERED to me that my 2 week old son was crying because he was thirsty, and I needed to give him a bottle of water? Drive by unsolicited advice is especially annoying!

      1. Hey Alison, that’s hilarious that Daddy is going by his name sometimes! Just recently Jenn and I have occasionally started teaching our kids what our names are, but I don’t think they are comfortable enough with our names yet to call us by them.

        Regarding your affinity for advice from friends, I totally understand that and we like to get advice from friends too, and sometimes it’s okay to get advice from a friend, even when we haven’t asked, but I think you have to have a pretty good friendship and know one another pretty well. The advice that I imagine being annoyed by is the type where your kids are losing it, and you are busy trying to keep things relatively together, and then the all knowing friend, instead of offering to help in any productive way, just informs you of what it is that you are doing wrong.

        To be clear, I love getting advice from you and the rest of the gang, I feel like we are all very much on the same page with our experiences and are all genuinely helpful and supportive towards one another. I think that an important part of getting advice from friends is knowing that you are not being judged, and that any advice that is being offered is coming from good helpful intentions. Anyways, thanks for the comment!

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