Shannon is not a name with any obvious nicknames, so I have never experienced firsthand the sort of identity issues that come with nicknames. But in observing others with nickname-having names, I find there's a continuum. On one end is the Cindy who is never, ever called Cynthia except in the most formal of records. On the other end is Robert, who you can call Bob in social settings, but who is Robert on his Facebook account, his outgoing voicemail message, and the nameplate outside his cubicle. And everybody falls somewhere in between. Plus there are the people who never want to be called by a nickname: My name is Patricia, and you may not call me Pat.
As you can see, there are a lot of issues surrounding nicknames, and I wasn't sure I wanted my kid to have a nickname-able name. On the one hand, it's nice to have the option of what to be called in formal vs. informal situations, and a formal name conveys a certain gravitas. Additionally, since you have a name your whole life, it's nice to have the flexibility of a kid-appropriate version of your name (Tommy) and a respectable adult nickname (Tom). (Though in the case of many traditional male names, I find that about half the people keep the kiddie version of their names until they're too old, and the other half get saddled too young with a name that suggests a middle-aged CPA.)
On the other hand, nicknames present a lot of awkward social situations. It's hard for Richard to tell his boss that he doesn't like being called Rick. Or Rebecca has an aversion to Becky because that was the name of the annoying girl in first grade.
In the end, there are pros and cons to nicknames. But I decided not to consider issues of nicknames when naming my child, and instead just focus on the names that Bill and I could agree on. (Or actually, that should be name, singular, because we could only agree on one.) I reasoned that you don't have much control over what others end up calling your kid anyway, because you always run the risk of your kid getting called something completely unrelated to his actual name, such as Sparky. As the baby-name book actually warned, Dwight Eisenhower's mother named him Dwight so he wouldn't be called by a nickname, and everybody ended up calling him Ike.
In the end, we decided that we would call Nathan by his full name, but if he eventually ended up being called Nate at school, we wouldn't have a problem with it.
But then he ended up being called Nate at school, and I kind of do have a tiny problem with it.
See, when I picked Nathan up at school yesterday, the teacher informed me that he was now Nate, because a new student named Lathan had joined the class, and there was too much confusion between the similar names.
Now, I think part of my problem was just with the whole presentation of the thing: "Hi, we've decided to change your child's name." Another part of my problem is that the name Lathan is a stupid, made-up bastardization of a real name. I have talked about this particular name before. And also, given that Lathan is the newcomer, why does Nathan have to change his name? Why can't Lathan just be called Late?
Nathan himself has no problem with the whole situation, because last year his preschool teacher jokingly called him Nate, in an effort to make him crack a smile once in awhile (remember, he got needs improvement on "I am cheerful and happy at school"), and so it became a bit of an inside joke between them.
And since Nathan isn't upset about the whole "You are now Nate" thing, and since I am not going to complain to a teacher unless I feel my child's actual physical/emotional/educational welfare is at stake, I'm just going to stand back and see how this all plays out. I figure the teachers have taken enough flack from the other parents, and I really just want them to like me. (I've talked about that problem before, too.)
But still, it's weird, right?