Both times I was pregnant, my husband and I easily agreed upon possible first and middle names for girls (using the American format of first name, middle name, last/surname). So, of course, we ended up having two boys for whom we had no ideas.
When we learned we were having our first son, I asked my husband if he wanted a namesake, meaning our son to have my husband’s exact name in its entirety.
I grew up around the tradition of naming children after parents. My brother is actually a “third,” with my father being the “junior” and my grandfather being the “senior.” Having a son and father use the same form of the same name can be confusing. However, there is something special about the tradition of keeping a family name alive. If my husband wanted that father-son bond, it was fine by me.
My husband’s family keeps names alive in a different way…
They flip-flop, using a name as a first or middle name in non-consecutive generations. My husband was named after his grandfathers, one, who shared the same first name as him ,and the other, who went by the name even though it was, in fact, his middle name (still with me?).
In the end, we decided my husband’s first name would be our son’s middle name. So, we still needed to figure out what to call the little guy.
Naming your child is such a personal thing. Everyone has their own ideas, opinions and biases. And while personal, it becomes fodder for public commentary rather quickly. I am guilty of this too. Once you are pregnant, people want to know if you have picked out names. And often, it seems they don’t just want to know if you have name, they want to know what it is so they can make their own judgments on it.
Now, I am not cynical. I don’t say this with negative connotations. I’m making a neutral observation. It’s human nature and very common in the society in which I live. People can’t help but be curious, especially other mothers of any age. We all want to know the who/what/why of your name choice, and then we try to mask any feelings other than utter adulation at your decision.
It’s no wonder that I know several women who have decided to keep their name picks top-secret until the birth. It’s hard enough deciding what you think fits your most precious little baby, let alone hearing everyone’s reactions to it.
I suppose the most important reaction to gauge is the one coming from your partner. Starting the process of picking your child’s name can go smoothly or bumpy. For some, it’s like that moment when you first register for dishes before your wedding. You both are standing in Crate & Barrell with price scanners in hand, aiming at totally different stuff, only to turn around and react in horror that the other is about to scan THAT?!?!?!?
Naming can be like that too. One of you offers up a sincere idea, and the other thinks it’s a joke, later becoming baffled that this serious suggestion came out of the person he/she has shared a home with for years.
My husband and I first decided on our naming philosophy. We wouldn’t use a name that already had strong connotations for either of us from a prior life experience. We also didn’t want anything where the pronunciation could be confused too easily or was just begging to be mocked (my husband is great at putting himself in an adolescent mindset and thinking of every derogatory rhyme for any given name).
We didn’t want to get too trendy with a boy name but had a hard time thinking of basic names that weren’t overused. And, I liked the idea of a formal name that could be shortened into a nickname, since I never had that.
About midway through my pregnancy, out of nowhere, I thought, “Nathaniel.” It was multi-syllabic and traditional (in our American context), and he could go be “Nate.” My husband liked it, and as my pregnancy wound down, we made it official. I told everyone and received positive feedback that, I believe, was genuine.
With our second son, we really struggled figuring out a name. Once again, we had the middle name down (we decided on my maiden name) but had no ideas for the first name. I wanted a shorter first name, since my maiden name and our last name would be a mouthful. My husband was trying to really think outside of the box, but I felt strongly about having some sort of symmetry between our sons’ names. I didn’t want #2 to have a super trendy or bizarre name when #1 was simply “Nate.”
It came down to 2 weeks before the due date with no name in sight. We sat down with a computer and baby name books, starting over from scratch, and we kept going until we came up with “Wes.” It was a simple name with which neither one of us had any prior associations. And, while I thought it would be straight forward for folks to swallow, we still get our share of “Why isn’t it Wesley? “ or “do you call him West?” or “oh…like Wesley Snipes?” Um, no…just Wes.
In the end, we learned that we define our names for ourselves and those in our lives, so our Nate and Wes are the only ones of their kind as far as we’re concerned. Wes is too small to chime in yet, but thus far, Nate likes his name, although he doesn’t ever want to be called Nathaniel. Maybe it’s because I have that awful mom habit of only saying his formal name when reprimanding him.
How did you decide on your children’s names? What are the traditions in your culture regarding naming children? Did you and your partner set certain rules for picking names? How did friends and family react to your choices?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara B. of Washington (State) USA.
Photo credit to the author.