The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


January 26, 2009

Live Reporting from National No Name-Calling Week

Live reporting from my family's experience of National No Name-Calling Week:

MONDAY MORNING (which seems to me to be an excessively difficult way to start something like this...)

7:01 a.m.: Kids are already behind schedule for getting to school on time. I haven't yet had an entire cup of coffee or read the front section of the paper. Name calling could happen any minute.

7:05 a.m.: Brief respite from potential meltdown when Ben comes out fully dressed. He heads for the freezer to find breakfast, which today will be a ham and cheese Lean Pocket. It's a new intact box and, unlike the Eggos that are spilling out beneath the icemaker, moderate effort is required to extract the food. Because of this inconvenience, Ben calls the box "stupid." I make an executive decision that boxes are not included in No Name-Calling Week, and Ben gets off on a technicality.

7:11 a.m.: A crabby Janine appears in the kitchen with nine minutes left before the bus arrives. Tensions are high -- mostly because Ben is in the same room with her and he's breathing. How irritating!

7:13 a.m.: Ben announces that Janine is eating uncooked spaghetti for breakfast. I investigate and find it is true. I'm not happy.

7:13 a.m.: Janine calls Ben a "sucker" and a "tattler." Ben retorts by calling his sister a "gorilla." He is now  referring to her as "Silverback."

Time elapsed for first infraction: 12.5 minutes.

10:45 a.m.: I made "bwak, bwak" sounds and called Jillian a "chicken" in the YMCA swimming pool. Of all the ways I could have messed up, I can't believe my first strike is for taunting my five year old. Bad mommy.

11:45 a.m.: Jillian called me a "raccoon" -- as in "See you soon, Raccoon" -- when she headed out for lunch at Chick-fil-A with her grandpa. Now we're even.


3 p.m.: I'm reluctant to post because I don't want to jinx myself or my family -- but a miracle is happening in my home! We've been 100 percent compliant for a full eight hours now. Morning came and went without incident, and Jillian and I signed a peace accord that we would no longer call each other animals. It also helps that no one has been home for the better part of the day. Unless our two dogs played "the dozens" while I was out, we've been a name-calling-free family. In two hours, though, this may change. That's when Janine and Ben see each other for the first time after a long day apart, and they'll be itching to get their digs in. What's more, their arrival back home will coincide with my Pre-Dinner Freak-Out, my daily ritual of realizing that I have planned absolutely nothing for suppertime.

4:45 p.m.: While driving Janine home from middle school, she called a guy jogging in the super-cold rain a "genius." We now are locked in a serious debate about the differences between sarcasm and name-calling.

5:45 p.m.: I hear a gianormous thud in the upstairs playroom followed by a screech and a cry. Ben fell hard on his bottom because, as he explained it, "Janine is an IDIOT!" I have no idea how this is relevant to the crashing sound from the floor above me, but all three kids are providing minimal details. I once again go over the No Name-Calling Week rules.

6:15 p.m.: Harpo, our dog, is eating out of the trash can. I'm pretty sure the kids didn't hear me name-call him, but it wouldn't be right for me not to fess up. Technically, it was more of a curse than a name-call -- but still, it was a pretty uncool thing to say to a poodle.

10:41 p.m.: Freezing rain is sweeping across Texas tonight and schools already are delaying their start times. If the Austin district cancels its classes, my kids and the dogs will be cooped up at home for the entire day. It's like a perfect storm for name-calling. Instead of blogging, I may need to switch to rapid-fire Twitter.


7:26 a.m.: We didn't get slammed by the winter storm, so school thankfully is in session. This has sharply reduced my family's odds today of name-calling chaos. We're now at the half-way point in our experiment, and I've got a good feeling about the day ahead. Is this just my elation that the kids are on their way to class? Or is this because we're eating our weekly Wednesday dinner tonight at church and the weight of meal planning is lifted from my shoulders?

8:30 p.m.: The kids are in bed and the day's name-calling tally is official. We've had only three slip-ups, each one minor. Ben called Jillian a "buffalo" and a "stingray" (read the wonderful Toys Go Out and you'll understand) and I jokingly called one of Jillian's preschool friends a "turkey." None of those names were truly mean-spirited, so I'm thrilled with the day's results. Naturally, we went for ice cream to celebrate. As we idled in the Sonic parking lot, we talked about the ways that National No Name-Calling Week relates to our faith. The kids broke it down for me in the simplest terms: "It's hard to show love when you use mean words." This slogan is now posted on our refrigerator door. It's a safe bet that we'll need to remember it tomorrow -- and the next day, and the next one, and the next one ...


7:45 a.m.: I added socks into the category of things that are exempt from National No Name-Calling Week after my husband grumbled that there was something "seriously wrong with these cheap socks" as he dressed for the day. Until a sock has fully evolved into a monkey, it hasn't achieved the same consciousness as humans, so it can't be name-called. Duh! I think I learned that back in Sunday School.

8:53 a.m.: As I've always suspected, I am disgusting. Jillian diagnosed/name-called me -- "You are disgusting, Mommy!" was her exact quote -- after she found me in the kitchen eating cottage cheese for breakfast. I kept on eating and pointed to the index card on the fridge with our slogan from last night. But the joke's on her -- she can't read yet. Ha-ha.

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