I’m the only auburn haired kid in the Griffith clan. Oh joy. There’s a variety of nicknames I’ve been bestowed over my life.

Blaze (It was never really vibrant red. Really.)

Freckle-faced Strawberry (yep, I have freckles to rival an Irish person)

Hosemary (curses for my brother’s childhood lisp)

Minnie (as in Mouse—I was scrawny)

Mur (the only one I still like)

RMY (Montana friends’ favorite)

Red (not inventive, but the most prevalent)

Rosie (yech)

Rosy-posy (double yech)

Rose-a-maria (my Welsh-heritage Granddad called me this. Why?)

Trouble (And Granddad called me this. Ahem, this one is understandable.)

Mom fondly yelled out RM, but Dad rarely used any name but Rosemary. My siblings called me many things. And I still have friends who know me as Mur.

The other childhood names … well, many of them were said in ridicule or teasing or sheer meanness. The nickname depended on the when, the where, and for sure, the who. From grade school through high school, I heard them all. Repeatedly.

I wonder if being saddled with those nicknames is what inspires me to bestow nicknames on people who cross my path. 

  • Dad was Daddeo
  • Mom was Mumsey
  • Sister Jackie is Seester or Sacajewea
  • Brother Joey is Wojo
  • Sister Joanne is PKS (punk kid sister)
  • Niece is Bear
Rosemary age 8 - 1967, 3rd grade

There’s one childhood nickname that should have scarred me for life. A couple of beloved cousins—you know who you are—labeled this cute, little, redheaded kid with the moniker, Snotnose 38.

Look at this little freckled face.

What were they thinking?

Kids Bestow Childhood Nicknames

We know kids can be mean. We know that today in our society, bullying has reached epic proportions with the internet exacerbating the problem. I’ve no idea how I would have turned out if my most humiliating moments had been captured on video and sent through cyberspace.

Life was complicated as I shared my less than shining moments with a dozen cousins occuping my stratosphere. Growing up in our neighborhood, Griffith Hollow, nothing was off limits. We tormented each other and played and fought and romped and fought some more. We were friends and cousins and warred with each other and invariably made up.

Jackie and I played with cousins K&J a lot. A year and two older these cousins were the experts on creating adventures. As active children, we ramped up into crazed critters around them. We roamed the woods that seemed massive when we were three and four feet tall. How often we dared and double-dared each other to do any number of swaggering feats. I tried, but rarely won any of the dares. 

I have to blame (applaud) these cousins for helping shape me. For a long time, I was the proverbial fiery, quick-tempered redhead. Somewhere along the way, thank goodness, that went away … replaced with the ability to find laughter in most anything. 

Don’t get me wrong, my temper still flares, mostly over bad drivers and injustices that cross my path (or lane). But these days, my temper goes poof pretty fast and I’m left cracking wise.

I’ve Been a Bully 

I once drove an employee to join the military. He constantly tried to please me (never asked him to) and wore me out. In my defense, a year later he returned to thank me—saying it was the best decision he’d ever made. 

Could I blame my obstinance on the hair color? I’m no psychologist so I can’t say auburn hair caused all my problems. Maybe it’s birth order—being the middle child for the first ten years of my life. You know, never old enough, often too old. Yeah, let’s blame my tyrant tendencies on that.

My niece was a brute to her younger brother. (Only the two of them, so that middle kid syndrome flies out the window!) We warned her that he would get bigger and stronger (before she joined Crossfit and out-dead-lifts her brother). Someday, we said, he will get back at you for the mistreatment. The kid let us down. He remains the gentle soul he was as a child and although he’d occasionally scream, “Zenny!” at the top of his lungs, he never did actually haul off and smack her a good one.

Good for him, but for her? Just kidding, niece.

Learning to Laugh—at Ourselves

Thankfully, wisely, our parents taught their four children to laugh at ourselves—with gusto. They well illustrated it by laughing heartedly at themselves. When I grew up and learned what damaging behavior went on in other kids’ homes, I realized that what I thought had been difficult was nothing. No one escapes childhood unscathed, but our issues were fairly minor. Of the lectures they taught us most subliminally, embracing self-deprecation is at the top of the list. Being able to laugh at ourselves is difficult, but as critical as taking the blame when it belongs squarely on your shoulders. Who the heck likes being wrong or ridiculed? Gee. Not me. Especially at age eight or ten or eighteen or … you get the idea.

Dear parents, there’s a lot to balance between kids picking on each other because that’s what kids do and having someone terrorize your child. Having to worry about childhood teasing escalating into a real bullying is a problem. It’s a challenge to teach children to both defend themselves or others without escalating a situation or becoming the aggressor.There’s a lot to balance there, isn’t that so? I’m thankful that the worst K&J did to Jackie and me were bug related.

That said, Jackie, did you ever get over that fishing worm squiggling on your finger the time they made you stand against a birch tree with your eyes closed?

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Read, Contending with Life’s Bullies