What’s in a name?

As a little New Year’s treat to myself, I popped over to Josie’s writing workshop – what a brilliant idea – and was slightly horrified to find that the first suggestion on her list chimes with one of my guiltiest secrets.

What do you seem unable to learn or remember, no matter how hard you try?

Erm, well, you’re going to be a bit surprised at the answer to this, but – it’s my children’s names.

You’d think that, after 14 years as a mother, I would have got this bit straight. After all, there are only two of them – we’re not talking teeming multitudes here.

But, no matter how hard I try, even when I’m staring straight at the child in question, I get their names mixed up.


Yes, they are two years apart, they have different coloured hair (one blonde vs. one brunette), different eyes (blue vs. green) and a different way of expressing annoyance at my apparent inability to tell them apart (rolled eyes vs. sulking).  But somehow I still do it. A lot.

I would say, in my defence, though, that other people do have the same trouble. They are often mistaken for twins, despite the two year age gap – ok, usually by people who are either incredibly doddery or who have massive glasses.

But on Saturday, we went to get passport photos taken in the local chemist (did you know, by the way, that the reason you aren’t allowed to smile any more is that the new scanners see dimples as eye sockets and might reject you on the grounds that you are a four-eyed alien?).

Child One was first. She sat, she looked serious, the chemist’s assistant took a pic, then showed it to the pharmacist, who passed it as sufficiently unsmiley. Then Child Two took her place and went through the same motions, the assistant showed the pic to his boss, who said, ‘what was wrong with the other picture? That one was fine.’ ‘Er, it was of a different person,’ the assistant explained.

You see? It’s not just me. Mind you, the pharmacist is not the girls’ mother, who has nutured them every day of their lives and might reasonably be expected to be able to tell them apart.

It’s just as bad when they’re on the phone. Their voices are virtually identical. I have now learned to engage them in conversation before venturing to pin myself down to a name, after tearful times when they were with Mr X and their distant mother had apparently forgotten who the hell they were.

It doesn’t make me feel good. It’s just the way my brain is. Confused, a lot of the time, I suppose.

I do take a grain of comfort from the story of a friend’s father, who would run through the names of his four children and the family dog before making a stab at identifying the child in front of him. Nine times out of ten, the friend says sadly, he had to settle for the dog’s name. Well, I’m not quite that bad. I’ve never called either of my beloved children Mme Bovary, after the cat. Yet.

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