Terms of Endearment

For my grandmother, it was “Sausage.”

“Hello, Sausage!”

“Dinner’s ready, Sausage!”

“’Ow do, Sausage?”

It never failed to make my brother and me giggle, so we got a dose of humour with each dollop of love.

It’s not a term of endearment I can use readily, not least because I’m vegetarian. Somehow, that term of endearment needs to be uttered in Yorkshire, within plain sight of a dry rock wall. I do use it, and when I do, though it might not roll off my tongue, it does bring back fond memories of my grandmother. I’d like my children to hear it so that I can give them those memories, too, but, sadly, it always sounds a bit false to me, a bit forced.

Terms of endearment should roll off the tongue, and I like to use them a lot.

“Hi, Love!”

“Good morning, Sunshine.”

“Sleep tight, Sweetie.”

I even call them Schnuggiewookems, in a pinch. This is particularly popular in front of friends. Or at hockey games.

But the word I use when they are hurt is Lambie.

Each of my three boys was brought into the world with the help of the same midwife, who had the gentlest hands of any person I have ever met. Truly, it felt like a blessing to be touched by this woman. As it turned out, each of the boys was also ripp’d untimely from his mother’s womb, as Shakespeare said of Caesar, so although she did not deliver them, she was the first to hold and examine them and care for them in their first six weeks. Newborns aren’t terribly fond of being examined in their first six weeks, though, and they squawked like stuck pigs when she unwrapped them from their swaddling. That’s when the terms of endearment kicked in. She had a voice to match her hands, and she would coo and sympathize and talk to them right through the exam.

“Oh, Little Lamb, I know it’s cold. Nearly done, Lambie.”

Her voice soothed us all as she saw them through those overwhelming newborn days of disorganized brains and flailing limbs. She tamed the chaos of the newborn world with gentle touch and gentle words.

So now, whenever one of the boys is hurt or upset, that’s the word I instinctively reach for. It’s a realization that just came to me today, how I hold my midwife’s word in special reserve and how each time I say it I think of her. And my boys and I both get a bit of balm from a word that makes us think of sympathy and healing and being held in good hands.


12 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment

  1. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I call my toddler “Boo” and “Boogaloo” — turns out that many kids are nicknamed “Boo” and many dogs…


    Still searching for the perfect endearment that is as meaningful as yours. Then again, my father called all the kids “Rover” when he couldn’t think of our names in the heat of the moment — which made everyone laugh — so perhaps there is a family history doggie-endearments.

  2. My grandfather called me “poopdeck” after the deck of a ship. No idea why. But it was the name he only used on me. None of my cousins. When I was a teenager I HATED it (of course) but now that he uses it on my boys it’s become special. It’s funny how that works out…..

    • Poopdeck! I can see how that might grate a bit in the teenaged years. I bet the boys love the hidden toilet word. I know mine would. My husband told my son off the other day for using “bathroom words,” and he said, “But, Dad. We ARE in the bathroom.”

  3. Another beautiful post, Nathalie. The part about your midwife brought tears to my eyes. I have a number of generic terms of endearment I use for both my children, but each child also has one of her own that arose from particular aspects of the newborn days.

  4. Beautiful, Nathalie. I have endearing names for all my boys that just came about so naturally that they have “stuck”. Little, Cakes and Lovie.

    I am not sure if they will appreciate being called these things when they 6 feet tall and towering over me but they will always be their special names to me.

    • Cakes! I love it! Yeah, see the problem with individual names, though, is that you then have to keep the real names AND the terms of endearment straight. My poor kids get called several siblings’ and cousins’ and fictional names before I ever swing round to the right one. If I added individual terms of endearment to the mix, it would take all day to hail the right child.

      • I’ve never registered this before, but now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever mixed up the endearment names. I wonder if it’s because their real names are more arbitrary–something that we deliberated, debated, discussed, and decided upon before they were born–whereas their endearment names developed organically, without conscious thought or decision, and reflected a particular characteristic. I remember their real names feeling a bit artificial in the first few days, when we were getting used to them (we didn’t find out the sex either time, so although we had names chosen before birth, we didn’t know who was in there until the Big Reveal). There was no adjustment period for the endearment terms, and I wonder if that’s why I’m less likely to confuse them–they ARE those names more than they are their given names?

  5. I pretty much stick with “Bud” or “Buddy”.

    Not very cute or endearing, but may have more endurance through the teenage years.

  6. I love this post. It occurs to me that I may go days without saying either of the boys’ names independent of a nickname or endearment.

    My boys are, randomly, “Love”, “bunny” or “bunny-rabbit”, “boo”, ‘sweetheart” “you!” and very occasionally, each others’ names. Sebastian is quite frequently “Sea Bass” (a daycare nickname that seems to have stuck) or “Mooney”, which was Daniel’s nickname for him when he was little. Daniel is also “Daniel Bean”, Bean being the nickname we had for him in utero, before we knew whether he was a “Lima” or a “Garbanzo”.

Comments are closed.