The countdown that is all over the news is now here- the big date November 3rd. For me, it is all summed up in one simple word- "belonging." I aspire for my children to have inclusivity in their DNA, to feel that they belong and welcome diversity. Now, I know that will never be 100% for everyone at all times, that’s just the world we live in. But, we should aim to cultivate that environment for all those around us.
Similar to the recent videos related to name pronunciation, my name has been mispronounced my whole life. I know it is different outside of “mainstream names” that I used to see on key chains growing up but does that mean people shouldn’t try to say it? Please watch the insights from Shyla.
My name is Lakshmi- properly pronounced “Luck-shme”. As an elementary school child new to the US, I used to cringe when a substitute teacher came into the classroom. Does anyone else know that feeling? They would just look at my name and not even try to say anything and just say—oh this must be you. Yes- because in that environment, I was the one that looked different. I sometimes preferred they didn’t say my name versus all the variations of my name they would say which then led to my classmates making fun of me. But what hurt me the most is—some would not even ask me how to say my name and just called me “you with the hard name”. This actually led me to even mispronounce my name over the years because it was easier for others.
To name a few of the “bad name experiences” that stand out the most are Lakashmi, Latchme, and my new personal favorite is Lakishmaya from last week. My children heard a woman call me that and she didn’t even care that she said my name wrong. I tried to correct her but she was not even listening. My daughters were disappointed and thought it was not right. I explained to them that this happens and not to get upset. There may be more times this happens- but we should always try to correct them and also when we see a difficult name- let’s make sure to ask the person how to say it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, for every “bad name experience” I had there are also so many “great name experiences as well.” Many people have complimented my name and always ask me the meaning of it. As Shyla said- “Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth in the Hindu religion and also the name of my paternal grandmother.” While I was not always comfortable saying my name as a young girl, I am so proud and honored to have my name and it brings me so much joy when people ask more about it.
Lakshmi’s Learning- So, based on my life learnings and the recent interaction my children had witnessed, here is the message from Shyla to our children. While there are people with names that may be harder to pronounce- try to do it. Or- teach children to ask, “I am not sure how to say your name and I don’t want to say it wrong, can you please help me pronounce it?” Please do not say the name wrong with no apology and then not care to properly pronounce it. A name is special to an individual, especially a child. It’s the name given to them by their parents OR can have a meaning in their culture/family and it hurts when people don’t try. Regardless of what outcomes we face today and whatever you believe- I hope we can all agree that we should strive to embrace diversity to make people feel they belong, and that can be as simple as a proper name pronunciation.