We were standing in front of the chilly Ben & Jerry's glass, staring down at the fogged-in flavors. My older son had just finished his lengthy request for a scoop of vanilla in one of those criss-cross cones, you know, Mom, the big one with the thing that looks like a waffle, what's it called, oh yeah WAFFLE CONE, and my 4-year-old -- who was too shy to talk directly to the friendly girl behind the counter -- tugged on my pantleg until I bent down to listen to him. "The whistlepig," he whispered dramatically, "wants chocolate."

I straightened back up and started to relay his order, but she interrupted me with a grin. "Chocolate for the whistlepig," she said. "Got it."

So, yeah. My child has the most ridiculous nickname in the world, one that sounds like a bizarre rodent superhero: THE WHISTLEPIG. His brother? Well, he's known as THE PEANUT BUTTER MOUSE. Or sometimes THE MEEP-MEEP.

All I can tell you is that I didn't plan it this way.

Riley -- my 7-year-old -- earned his moniker a couple years ago when we were talking about getting up at night to avoid accidents. "What I need," he said plaintively, "is a tiny little mouse that sleeps in my bed with me and wakes me up when it's time to go."

"A pee mouse!" I said.

Somehow from that, a nickname was born. Riley was the Pee Mouse. My younger son, Dylan, became the Whistlepig, in honor of a Curious George episode he was fond of.

The Pee Mouse and the Whistlepig had many adventures together until Riley decided "pee mouse" sounded a little too silly, but "peanut butter mouse" would be okay. He also said that at least half of the time, he wanted to be referred to as the Meep-Meep. You know, after the Road Runner.

Dylan remains the Whistlepig, complete with third-person referrals to himself as such. "The whistlepig is hungry," he'll tell me. Or: "The whistlepig wants to go to the playground!" When he's feeling particularly generous and pleased, I'm sometimes a whistlepig too: "The mommy whistlepig is playing with the little whistlepig!"

I love these goofy nicknames because they're like shorthand for how we feel about each other. No one uses these names when they're grumpy or in trouble. ("THE WHISTLEPIG AND THE MEEP-MEEP NEED TO GO TO THEIR ROOMS RIGHT THIS INSTANT OR ELSE!") They're the baby-talk equivalent of a hug or a wink. They're the out-loud version of the secret hand squeezes we all give each other when we're out in public:

Three squeezes means I love you.
Two squeezes back means how much?
One final long hard squeeze means THIS much.

I suppose the Whistlepig and the Peanut Butter Mouse will eventually fade away. Maybe something new will take their place, but maybe not. Maybe -- probably? -- they'll decide they're too old for goofy nicknames. Will I remember, years from now? Will they? Ah, I hope so.

(THIS much, my beloved boys.)

Do you have silly nicknames in your family? Tell me about them!


Image via Linda Sharps