Let's Play: Name That Baby
To tell or not to tell the name before birth
Jessica wrote with a quandary. She's at that mid-point in pregnancy where lots of parents develop their short list of names. This is her second baby (another boy) and she's already used up her #1 boy name (Jackson). She and her husband are batting name suggestions back and forth but some of them have already struck out at the grandparents' houses. She's wondering how to play the name game. Should they continue tossing names around the grandparents or should they keep them to themselves?
You know how it is: you pick the name of your dreams; the one you've been carrying in your heart since you were a child and finally, Finally, you've got a baby on the way who gets to own it. Naming a baby is one of life's true honors. It's a serious task and just about the first bit of parenting you'll do. The name you give your baby needs to be just right. One day, you're sitting around with friends or family and you mention you've chosen the baby's name. Of course, everyone wants to know what it is. This is big news. So, you tell them; laying the name out like a beautiful dress, presenting it like a precious jewel. And somebody says, "What? You can't name him that. I knew a kid back in high school who smelled like urine and picked his nose. No, you want a name like (insert name here:_____).
When I named my youngest, my father, who was older than Moses, figured he had the privilege and protection of age and could dump his opinions anywhere he pleased. We'd already named other daughters and when we picked this one's name, Olivia, we felt it had a lovely lyrical quality that went well with our last name and our other children's names. You have to think of stuff like that. You'll be rattling those names off at warp speed several times a day and it has to flow.
I grew up in a large family and always had a soft spot for Olivia Walton. I also love the character "Olivia" in The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Olivia De Havilland, Olivia Hussey, Olivia in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and, oh all right, I'll just come out and admit it; I was reading a Nora Roberts novel when I was pregnant and the character was named Olivia.
Olivia. It's a great name. Her middle name, Margaret, is after my late sister. We were delighted. Olivia Margaret Faulkner. There! Done. Named. Now, on to other things like raising all those other children. My father, however, didn't share our opinion. I'm not sure if he really didn't like the name or just wanted to be a pain in the butt. "Olivia? That's no good. People will call her Olive. Like Olive Oyl. Like Olive green. No, you want to name her something like Mary. A good solid, no nonsense name. Or just name her Margaret. It was good enough for your sister. It ought to be good enough for your daughter. No Olive."
Yeah, well, guess what? Her name is Olivia. He tried calling her Olive a time or two just to make his point but my husband told him to knock it off. He did, but was the first to nickname her "Livvy." Now, 8 years later, I find myself calling "Livvy" 20 times a day. It suits her just as well as Olivia.
OK, so here's my advice for Jessica. Choose a good name. One that you love; works well with Jackson and has a lot of meaning for you. Then don't tell anybody until it's down on the birth certificate—a done deal. Then the grandparents don't have any choice but to be gracious or annoying. Most will rise to the occasion and be gracious. Before they know it, they won't be thinking about that smelly, high school nose picker. They'll be thinking about their grandchild.
I would also advise that you choose a real name, not one you've made up or intentionally misspelled. But then, that's just my opinion (the privilege of age and all that). Over the years, I've learned to use the edit feature I had installed on my mouth. When patients say something like, "we're naming her Emily—because it's so different," I don't say, "Different? Have you checked the top 10 names over the last 10 years? Emily's number one." Nope, instead I say, "I love that name. She looks just like an Emily." It's harder for me to edit when someone takes a perfectly good name and then spells it funny—just to be different. But, my edit feature works pretty well and I keep my mouth shut.
Let me say one more thing about that though: When you give your child a really unusual or complicated name, they'll have to spend the rest of their days explaining themselves. It will never be easy for them. They'll always have to correct people for saying or spelling it wrong or worse, not being able to remember it. What a complicated way to live.
Don't get me wrong, I stand by every parent's right to name their child whatever they want but think about all the factors: The initials, the nicknames, how it will suit an adult as well as a baby. Then when you pick the perfect one, protect it. Share it if you want but then you'll be inviting other people's opinions. And a lot of them won't have edit features. Good luck Jessica. Whatever you choose, know that more often than not, with two little guys in the house, you'll usually just yell, "BOYS!"
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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