Dear Swistle: You’ve helped me name two of my kids: the oldest and the youngest! Middle, as per usual, named himself. I’m done having children so I never in a bajillion years thought I’d be writing to you again. Here’s the thing, though. Marina Lynn, (our youngest, now four months old) though she’s obviously a Marina, has gotten a nickname, pronounced REE REE. The nickname came about as we watched her smile and giggle at us. It just stuck! “Hi REE REE!” we say. I think I started it. But now that this nickname is gaining traction I don’t know how to spell it. Is it Ree Ree or is it a RiRi or a Reeree or a Riri? Honestly? I don’t like any of the spellings! None of them jump out at me. And then I panic a little bit! Why didn’t I predict this contingency? What will we dooooooooo? I would ditch the nickname except for the fact that it’s sticking. Just heard my middle child call her Riri. (RiRi, Ree Ree, Reeree). Why am I panicking about this? Oh, I don’t know! Why do name freak-er outers freak out about names? THAT MUST BE THE REASON. I guess I’m feeling pressure to pick a spelling that is the BEST spelling in case it sticks all the way to high school. I thought you might be interested in tackling the subject of nicknames for a second and musing about it. And maybe, just maybe, we could do a poll?
I vote for not deciding now. The child is four months old; if the nickname sticks around long enough for her to need a consistent spelling for it, she will pick what she likes. So many babies have baby-talk nicknames along the lines of Ree-ree, Nee-nee, Sissy, La-la, Boo-boo bear, etc., and most of those nicknames drop by the wayside, or are only used in spoken language—or, if they need to be used in writing, the chosen spelling evolves. Ree Ree may be very temporary, or maybe she’ll grow up and be known to all as Ree, but at this point I would say there is no need for any of these three things: (1) panic, (2) regret, (3) a final decision. Let Marina handle this one if needed, when she’s old enough to do so. If you find you need a written form before then, pick your least-disliked of the ones you don’t like. I personally am a fan of Ree Ree, but I think it matters approximately zero at this point.
If I had to guess, my guess is that you are panicking about this because you have three young kids and one of them is a tiny baby. There is probably quite a bit of life-rearranging and adjustment going on right now, and probably not very much sleep. I think too that baby-name people tend to be PLANNERS, and we don’t like SURPRISES with the names we choose. If it makes you feel better to figure out a spelling, then I say continue to work on it—but it sounds like it’s making you feel worse. I don’t know if it will work for you, but one of my own favorite Coping Thoughts (it will not surprise you, I think, to learn that I frequently struggle with this exact type of panic/regret/must-decide-NOW situation) is “It’s okay to let this continue for now without a decision.” It would be absolutely fine to spell it an assortment of ways for now, and let a favorite spelling emerge with time.