Unless you’re one of those
annoying people who’ve had their child’s name decided since they were twelve, chances are this may look familiar: Fiona Mary
Sofia (too popular)
And on and on. Names written on scraps of paper. Names on your phone and laptop. Dogeared baby name books on the table and websites bookmarked on your browser. It can get borderline obsessive. Obviously, it’s for good reason. Your name at birth is a blank slate. You go your whole life writing its definition. It’s the title of the story of your life.
No pressure, right?
It’s fun, though, the whole naming thing. You dream the perfect one up, thinking for sure it’s the one. At this point, you become a salesman. You present it to your spouse, often with a backstory, and you reveal the name with the most endearing, eloquent, oscar-worthy articulation.
We all know what happens next.
And just like that, the gavel hits the block and your perfectly crafted name is gone. Poof.
The extreme subjectivity of names is actually very telling. Our personal experiences give unavoidable potency to certain names. Maybe you had an ex with that name. A bully in school. A high school crush. There’s a million inescapable reasons why we love or hate a name. But the name itself? Just a word.
Before I get too far, I just want to say this is not a name reveal post. We’ve chosen a name, but we’ve realized that discussing it before the birth can be troublesome. That’s because a name without the presence of a beautiful newborn baby is just an idea. People love babies, people debate ideas. The natural tendency for some is to tell you why they don’t like it and then offer suggestions of names they like. Trust me, it’s hard enough to find a name you and your partner both agree on. Involving anyone else in the matter is an unnecessary complication.
That complication is again due to the potent subjectivity of names. And so the naming of children ultimately and unavoidably reflects the namers, not the named. Consciously or unconsciously, we endow our children with monikers that reflect who we are.
This is especially true of first-timers. It’s incredibly hard to imagine what it really means to have a child. Giving this imaginary thing a name then becomes the summation of you and your partner’s mutually agreed upon world views and cultural beliefs. It’s the manifestation of a decision made in the face of the ultimate, ongoing question: How do I best prepare my child to successfully maneuver through the world?
But a person’s name doesn’t affect a child anymore than the parents that named them. Even if given the strangest name in the world, we can safely assume the strange parents that chose it have far more influence on the child than the name itself.
This revelation is at once comforting and frightening. Comforting because it relieves some of the stress in finding the “perfect” name. It’s just a word, and the definition of that word is unique and ongoing. It’s frightening because, more than a name, your every move as parents has lasting influence over your child. Your every word, every action, every decision has a lifelong impact toward the outcome of their life.
No pressure, right?
So keep the naming part fun. Review your lists and make your case to the grand jury that is your spouse. Because after you sign the birth certificate containing that perfectly alliterate, carefully crafted name, there’s eighteen years of the hard, truly influential stuff waiting for you.
How did you decide on the name of your child? What was the process like? Share your story in the comments below.