You Can Call Him Al – Or, You Know, Whatever

Last week Alex started swimming lessons.

I know. It’s a little late in the summer. I have no excuse. I hang my head in shame.

The first day of lessons passed without incident. Alex seemed to love his teacher right away – she was oh-so-sweet, and the little man couldn’t wait to go back the next day.

On the second day of lessons, D. wanted to take the boy to the pool so he could check out A.’s mad swimming skillz, and aside from A. having a bit of resistance to a move they call “the spider,” everything went well.

We were understandably pleased.

On Wednesday I was delighted to take Alex to his lesson since, as we all know, I can’t get enough of SITTING OUTSIDE IN THE STIFLING HEAT. But when we got to the pool, the sweet teacher from the previous two days was nowhere to be found. Another teacher, Miss Emily, was there instead, and Alex, in his typically shy fashion, walked up to her and said, “Hey. My name is Alex.” After a few pleasantries, they hopped in the pool and got started with some kicking.

I was only halfway paying attention to what they were doing because I was making a to-do list in an effort to distract myself from the realization that THE HEAT, IT JUST MIGHT KILL ME, but you can imagine my surprise when, a few minutes later, I distinctly heard Miss Emily say, “Okay, Howard. Let’s work with the kickboard.”


I sort of shrugged internally and decided that it had to be a one-time slip-up – after all, there’s no telling how many kids cross her path in a day. Plus, she had such a huge smile on her face that it was hard to fault her.

But then:

“Great job with the kickboard, Howard!”

Which led me to an all-but-certain conclusion:

My child’s swimming instructor believed that his name was Howard.

I mean, it’s a perfectly lovely name, but, you know, NOT HIS.

Being the good Southern girl that I am, I offered correction via the semi-passive-aggressive route: by offering a little parental encouragement from my lounge chair. I said, “Way to go, ALEX” as loud as I dared, but I didn’t want to go overboard, lest the other mamas get the impression that I am a woman who attends her child’s Mother’s Day Out programs and mouths the words to the Thanksgiving songs while simultaneously offering cues for the next round of hand motions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

And since the next few laps were uneventful, I thought maybe the issue had resolved itself.

Until Miss Emily asked Howard if he wanted to swim to the deep end of the pool.

Clearly we had a misunderstanding.

At the end of the lesson, I really wanted to set the record straight. The only problem is that as a result of All The Southernness I have a very difficult time being assertive, because what if it makes the other person uncomfortable? What if the other person thinks I’m rude?

I know, internets. I KNOW.

So I walked up to the little man and his teacher and said, “ALEX, have you thanked Miss Emily for the lesson?”

“Oh yes ma’am, Mama,” he replied.

“Well, ALEX – let’s tell Miss Emily good-bye!”

The very picture of Southern parental subtlety, I was.

The next day D. took swimming lesson duty again so that I could take care of some bloggy business, and when he came home he gave me a re-cap of the lesson over lunch. He was almost finished with his chicken tenders dinner (oh, we eat fancy around here. REAL fancy.) when he said, “Hey – here’s something sort of strange. Do you know what I think I heard Alex’s swim teacher call him during his lesson?”

“Oh, no. HOWARD?”

“Yes!” he answered. “Where in the world did ‘Howard’ come from?”

At that point I told him the whole story with which I have already bored you.

Alex didn’t have a lesson on Friday, but several times over the weekend D. and I told him that if his teacher calls him ‘Howard’ when they’re in the pool and we’re not nearby to correct her, it is perfectly fine for him to say, “My name is not Howard. My name is Alex.”

When I gave Alex these instructions for the forty seventh time, he looked at me and said, “But Mama! My teacher calls me Howard ALL DAY LONG!”

So yesterday morning, D. took Alex to swimming so that I could try to get some writing done. When they got to the pool, the little man marched right up to his teacher and said, “My name is NOT HOWARD. My name is ALEX.”

Only he said it to the first teacher. The oh-so-sweet one. The one who has never had a second’s trouble remembering his name.

And praise the Lord, she was back at the pool today.

But tomorrow? If Miss Emily is his teacher again? I’m going to make Alex a big ole “NOT HOWARD” sign. Or maybe I’ll just draw a name tag on his chest with a Sharpie:


And in little tiny letters underneath:

“My mama is sitting over there in a lounge chair. And she’s hot. So I bet she’d really appreciate it if you called me ‘Alex.’ Because IT’S MY NAME.”

And then:

“Thanks a whole bunch, sweet thing. You have a super great day.”

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  1. Maybe she’s a huge Howard the duck fan.

    Being a swimming teacher and all.

    You know, water.


    Someone throw me a life preserver.

    I’m quacking up.




  2. You are so funny. One of my co-workers and I read you on a daily basis and could hear her laughing from across the room. Thanks for being one of blogs that make us laugh out loud. (the other one is bigmomma)


  3. Too funny. Poor Howard, I mean Alex. My kids get called other names all the time, even by relatives we don’t see often enough. Eme is constantly called Amy or Emma and Skyler is called Tyler. All very nice names, but not their names.

  4. I’m laughing out loud, because I can just imagine Miss Oh-So-Sweet’s absolute confusion when a little boy walks up to her and tells her what his name isn’t.

    So precious.

    You tell Howard that there’s nothing wrong with being called by another name. Maybe he’ll like it in time. :-) Kidding.

  5. How funny! (Not that she called him HOWARD instead of ALEX, but the whole post in general) My son’s name is Ryan and I have to correct many who think it’s Bryan. Of course, since I’m raising a nice Southern gentleman myself, he quickly corrects them on his own. Just like when people ask how old he is and he tells them, after they look startled, he says “I know, I’m big for my age.” Such a shy one.

  6. that’s a hard and awkward situation. especially if you’ve taken measures to correct the teacher. my daughter went to soccer camp once and her teacher (older macho jerk) kept calling her amanda when her name was danielle. no matter how many times she or i tried to remind him of her rightful name, he couldn’t or wouldn’t remember it.

  7. That is just too funny. Howard. Hmm…

  8. Oh, that is sorta funny, but realy sorta irritating too. And I so am with you on the not wanting to be assertive thing – just hoping the situation will resolve itself. But, it appears you’ve done all you can to subtly tell the lady HIS NAME ISN’T HOWARD!!! So, now it would be perfectly acceptable to do the sharpie on the chest thing…or you write it on his floaties or something. :)

  9. Howie would be an excellent blog code name for Alex – ‘cept it’s kind of hard to start a code when we all know his real name already. UNLESS you’ve actually fooled us all along and his name IS NOT Alex?? hmmmm…

  10. I teach swimming lessons and a)I APPLAUD you for putting Howard/Alex in swimming lessons late in the summer. There is nothing worse than trying to make a gold medalist swimmer from a guy who is having his first water experience of the season and isn’t real sure it’s a good idea to be in or not. Later in the summer, everyone gets their money’s worth. b)do not feel guilty for correcting Miss Emily (or you could always teach Howard/ Alex to call her “Miss Lisa” just for funsy!) Miss Emily needs to get a clue and certainly needs to know his name!

  11. The whole wrong name thing gets to me too – even if it’s just a mispronunciation. My best name thingy has got to be when we were having our 3rd’s infant baptism – our minister knew us well and was just talking about our family to the congregation before we came up front with the baby. He finally said ‘(blah, blah, blah)– ya’ll come on down with JT’ THAT IS NOT MY CHILD’S NAME!!! Smart mama that I am, it took me a minute to realize he was calling my child by his initials (I know, it took me a minute to figure it out – when I was supposed to be paying attention while he was being baptized!) But even family members asked later about why the minister had called him JT. What’s even funnier is hubby caught on right away – he’d said he’d thought about wanting to call him JT once we’d picked out the name before birth, but knew I’d never go for it, so he’d never mentioned it to me!

  12. Are you sure she just wasn’t using Howard as a figure of speech? You know, like “You’re doing a great job with that kickboard! Howard you feeling about that?”

    Oh c’mon now…

  13. I’m sorry…but that is THE FUNNIEST story I have heard in a while!! I just wish I could be there to witness Alex letting her know HIS REAL NAME!! :-)

  14. Alex… Howard… Alex… Howard…

    So close. Except not.

    Maybe she is a little hard of hearing.

    I say, monogram his swim trunks with a prominant A. Unless his middle or last name begin with an H, in which case that might just confuse the matter. How about a personalized sunhat.

    Which would be more traumatizing? Being called by the wrong name a jillion times or being forced to wear a big floppy sunhat with his name boldly embroidered on the front?

    Yes, a waterproof name tag is definitely the way to go. Just get one laminated and put it around his neck. :)

    Poor Howard.

  15. Okay, I’m still shuddering (if that’s a term) over the whole swimming lesson. Shame? No way! You deserve a metal and a cold drink for being forced to sit in the heat.
    Load up Alex with his name on everything. Alex on the hat, the shirt, the swimming trunks, the eye goggles, and have Alex the Lion towel. MAYBE she’ll get the hint – unless she’s evil like the one we had. Hence the shudder. I should be over it in a few more years. It’s been 5 yrs now and therapy has gone well. :)
    Having twins they get called by the other one’s name all the time and they don’t like it.

  16. howard? who even names a kid howard anymore. she has to know she is totally off base on that one.

  17. Maybe it’s because Alex and Howard sound so much alike. Or maybe not.

    Maybe some kid named Howard is wondering why his teacher is calling him Alex. ;D

    And I seriously would do the Sharpie thing, only just write Alex on his chest. Really.

    Love and hugs,


  18. Too funny!
    Of course, if you have to eventually correct her, all will be fine if you just say, “BLESS YOUR HEART, it is SO cute when you call my son, Alex, “Howard”.” And of course, you will be all smiling and everything….maybe take some cookies for good measure. :-)

  19. Hi…I one of your lurkers…I read your blog all the time and love it. I’ve recently started my own blog and it still needs a lot of work but check it out if you have time…and tell Howard I said hi…hehe

  20. Very funny story! My husband’s name is Robb – not Robert – just Robb. My mother-in-law says she tacked the extra “b” on as a sort of punctuation mark – a *period*, if you will. Still, it’s amazing how many people call him Robert. Sometimes if he knows he can joke with them, he’ll say, “My momma don’t even call me that!”

  21. I’ve lived my entire life with people getting my name wrong (a name which I will not mention here, but it starts with an L). I’ve had to correct people. But, it’s different because the names do sound similar, so I understand the confusion. But, I really don’t get how you turn Alex into Howard. That will puzzle me to no end. And how the teacher didn’t catch on with you yelling (I use that term loosely) your sons name or using it in a sentence when you addressed her. I feel she was not paying attention at all. But you upheld your southerness in a great way. I am proud!

    Georgia Mom

  22. I think the Sharpie solution is the best. And you can even make the ‘o’ in ‘whole’ out of his lil belly button! ;)

  23. It must be a Southern thing because I would have done EXACTLY what you did! God forbid I make someone else uncomfortable :).

  24. Go, ALEX!

    What is killing me is that Howard sounds nothing like Alex.

  25. Emma Kate says:

    “Thanks a whole bunch, sweet thing. Have a super great day.” I almost wet my pants!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Not trying to be the party pooper here, but since it is swimming lessons and all, what if the teacher needed to get Alex’s attention like PRONTO? Calling out “Howard, don’t jump off of the diving board – you can’t swim yet! Howard! HOWARD!!” may not get quite get his attention like using Alex. Not that I think Alex would act reckless, but you know what I mean…

    Debbie Downer

  27. Leanne from Canada says:

    There have been some great suggestions here…how about spelling his name out in sunscreen on his chest…the effect would last through the lessons… good for a laugh, if it weren’t for the pain “A” would have to endure. I must confess I don’t entirely understand the “southerness” of not being able to correct the wrong name thing. The whole story does make me laugh though!!! I’m loving an inside look at what it means to be Southern…my good friend, although she is Canadian, is Southern at heart (she attended Bob Jones University don’t you know), she’s always good for a little teasing!! Keep it coming Boomama!!

  28. I just don’t know about you, Boo Mama. Oh my word, you’re so much nicer than I am. I would have been all over her. I would have walked right up to her and said, “Miss Sally!”

    But I will say, and it’s no surprise at all, you’re raising quite the little southern gentleman there.

    And by the way, there’s no such thing as “too late” to enroll your child in swimming lessons. I’m the former administrator of a recreation district. And we offered swim lessons, at crazy hours, to accomodate parents, year round.

    Good for you! And Howard!

  29. Bailey's Leaf says:

    My child suffers from having been given an old Irish name. A beautiful old Irish name that no one can seem to remember, pronounce or spell. It’s really not that difficult. It is lovely when my child is called Kylie, Kelsey, or Kaylee– beautiful names, none of which are hers. I’ve become used to it. Just don’t call her Howard. :)

  30. You find yourself in strange situations like this when you’re a refined, genteel Southerner.

    The security guard in my building greeted me by the wrong name for years. I didn’t have the heart to correct him.

    Sure, it was a little troublesome when clients would ask him for directions to my office. But at least I didn’t hurt the guy’s feelings. THAT’s what counts, right?

    (There’s also an unspoken rule that a security guard with a gun can call a pansy in a suit whatever he wants.)

  31. I’ve tried that subtle Southern approach also. Like in a business setting when I’ve introduced myself as “Stephanie” and the other person calls me “Steph.” Aargh! I hate that! Not that I mind being called Steph but not by someone trying to sell me something.

  32. I’m a southerner at heart too. I’d just count yourself lucky that Alex didn’t decide he preferred the name Howard.

    That would be fun to explain to the family. Or to future teachers.

    “I know his name on the register is Alex. But we call him Howard.”

    “Oh. Is that his middle name then?”


    Maybe you could get a pretty card for him to give to the teacher that explains things.

    If you want to go the calling her the wrong name thing, I’d go with something that is as un-Emily as Howard is un-Alex.

    I vote for Francesca.

  33. Hilarious!

  34. Janet (aka JT) says:

    Maybe the swim teacher calls every male student Howard. Sometimes I call my little Anna Grace “Lurlene” just because I like the sound of it and often feel the urge to shake things up a bit. I also call the boys “Earl” from time to time. Which may explain why my oldest, Austin (or Earl), thought we should name the baby “Harold Jenkins” if it were a boy. And my middle boy, Jackson (also Earl), offered the name of “Dink” for a boy.

    So, if I’m not saying it’s a GOOD thing if the teacher is doing that, I’m just saying that maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there as warped in the head as I am.

    Teaching swim lessons to little boys named Howard.

  35. My stepdad’s name is HOWARD ALEX. I always found it a little interesting because ALEX is sometimes a shortened name for ALEXANDER, but not in his case.

    Anyway, now that you know that really interesting bit of trivia about a family you don’t know from Adam. (Or Howard.)
    I was thinking that Howard, being a nice name, just isn’t hitting the top 100 in popular names these days. Probably not even the top 10,000. It is a very crazy misunderstanding.

    My sister calls me Harold though, and quite frankly, I like it! You know because I am a woman and well, how many woman really answer to that name?

  36. Thanks to you and How–I mean Alex, I just woke my husband up laughing, LOL. Girl, you quack me up! :D

  37. I read this earlier tonight and laughed and totally related. I came back to read the comments. Hooted again when I realized the title you gave this – love ya I think he should call her “Betty”

  38. I mean, Howard?! it’s a fine enough name, but you don’t hear of a lot of four year olds with that name these days.

  39. Maybe she just thought you looked like someone who would name their child Howard and then sign said child up at the END of summer for swim lessons.

  40. P.S. I say you win some sort of award for the title of the post. Hi lar i ous.

  41. How in the world did Miss Emma…or was it Emelia…or Erma? get Howard out of Alex? Can she not read? I mean, come on! The swim teachers have a list of their students and they call them out to the pool by name (at leaSt that’s what happens in Snuggle Bug’s lessons). Hmm!

    By the way, don’t feel bad about Alex being in swimming lessons so late. Snuggle Bug will be starting his next round in mid-August and he might even have another one in September.

  42. I don’t know…Howard is a pretty funny moniker. I say go with Howard.

    I’m smiling just thinkin’ about it. And it *is* a gift to be able to spread laughter and…hilarity, wherever you go. ;)

  43. LOLOL….about all of it…I too was brought up with the southern graces, but I have also dealt with people ignoring and mispronouncing my fairly normal name and when I was about 14 I quit being nice about it. My name is Stephanie but I go by Steff and have for years, but in 8th grade my english teacher (bless her heart) refused to call me anything but STEPHaN until my dad got involved. Apparently when it got typed into their class schedules my name was too long and so it went into the book as G****, Stephan and on the next line had the IE. She was positive I was not telling her the truth about my name. Its no longer something I worry about correcting, I am polite about it, but why should I allow them to feel comfortable at the expense of me feeling completely uncomfortable.


  44. Anonymous says:

    Mandisa’s a comin…

  45. Another 5-little-kiddlings story: Our firstborn, Paul, would give his whole name when asked (our 5 have no middle names–didn’t want to run out of bible names, and who knew how many I would end up having?). So, when we were walking, an old man asked him his name and he said, Paulreese (not the right spelling), and the old guy said, Well, MAURICE, have a nice day! “Crazy ol’ Maurice, eh?” from Beauty and the Beast! With apologies to nice men named Maurice, and maybe even nice babies named Maurice, does ANYONE name a child Maurice nowadays? (And, of course, hubby Gregory becomes “Craig” on a regular basis. Craigory?

  46. I forget my own kid’s names most of the time, they have to remind me. mother of the year right here people! ntw i have been a lurker (I dot like that word makes me seem weird) (and I am not) anywhoo I am tryig to delurk myself from blgs I read regularly

  47. I’m still laughing BooMama…still laughing. I have a great Aunt that refuses to call my little guy, Michael, anything other than Ernie. Ernie?? I’ve tried the subtle passive aggressive route as well with no luck. I gave up on trying and now just embrace the fact the my great Aunt G loves my little Ernie.

  48. Howard? Hmmm…that’s a far cry from Alex. Odd. However, it did make for some bloggy hilariousness. Here’s hoping Miss Rachel, I mean Emily, can figure out Alex’s name!

  49. Oh the Southerness of this post! The other day a lady I work with called me Jessie, though my name is Heather. Did I correct her? Of course not, I just went with it. Then a few minutes later she said, “You’re name’s not Jessie, it’s Heather, what was I thinking?” And I just smiled politely at her and said it was fine.

  50. You should have called her the wrong name and maybe she would have gotten the point when she corrected YOU! LOL

  51. How funny! Being Southern myself, I know exactly what you mean about good ol’ Southern graciousness and subtlety. It can be difficult at times. . .

  52. “…lest the other mamas get the impression that I am a woman who attends her child’s Mother’s Day Out programs and mouths the words to the Thanksgiving songs while simultaneously offering cues for the next round of hand motions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.”!!!

    I love when you talk about all things Southern…I can so relate!

  53. LOLOLOLOLOL….one of the funniest posts ever. I’m sitting at work and just laughing out loud and then reading it again and laughing out loud. When’s the book coming out?

  54. Don’t feel bad about waiting so long for swimming lessons. My son is also four, and we tried swimming lessons at the beginning of the summer. But my little water lover, who wants to go to the pool EVERY DAY, refused to get off the steps. FLAT refused. He told me when the first unproductive lesson was over that he was NOT going back.

    So we decided to wait until fall and take him to the Y. I’m pretty sure, though, that it was because his teacher wasn’t young and cute. If Ariel, the Little Mermaid, had been his teacher, he would have jumped right in.

  55. Now THAT was a BooMama post! I’m still laughing.

  56. That is Funny!

    I had a similar incident where a new Sunday School teacher was calling one of my kids buy he wrong name.

    When I asked my dd why the teacher kept calling her Ashley, she said that she had decided to BE Ashley this year, not her real name.

    It took a while to get across to my then 5 year old daughter that she did not have the power to change her name at will.

    Boy was that Sunday School teacher ever confused. :o)

  57. I think we went to the same motherhood academy…

    Alex is such an unusually hard-to-remember-name, after all. :)

  58. My son’s Sunday School teacher calls him “Reuben.” We tried with all our might to correct her, but now we just go with it. It gives us someone else to blame when he misbehaves. “Well, you know Rueben…” or “Did Reuben make this mess?” It has become our family joke.

  59. Jessica Nelson says:

    Can I just say that you have made my night…I soooo needed to laugh. Thank you. xoxo

  60. Too funny! Just found your blog via “Conversations w/ my Hairdryer” – I’ll be back.

  61. I’m a lurker who loves your blog. (Introduced by my wife)

    This is a bit late, but I go by my middle name – since my father and I share our first name. My first name has a common nickname version, which I NEVER use. I find it SO annoying when a telemarketer calls and asks for (the nickname) – as if somehow that will make me feel like I know the person. I simply respond with, “There’s nobody here by that name.” Gets ’em every time.

  62. OK, I do get the whole southern thing of not wanting to be rude. My mama wrote the book on that. But, I will tell you that it is *humiliating* to realize that you’ve been calling someone the wrong name and no one corrected you because they were trying not to hurt your feelings. Because I have a hearing loss, this has happened to me on more than one occasion, so trust me, it’s not rude!

  63. Oh, and by the way, this post was so funny! Love your “writing” — ’cause I know you have a complex about calling it that, I have to put it in quotes. Hee hee :-)