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.
This is a subject that everyone has different ideas about. I had three boys and deciding on a name was difficult every time. Both my first and second partners were very traditional in terms of names they wanted, nothing fancy or trendy allowed. My first son was going to be a Matthew right up until he was born and then my partner decided he should be an Adam instead, which I really liked. He got my partners first name Stephen as a middle name.
Second son was with my second partner who already had an Andrew and when I mentioned that Adam should have been a Matthew he decided that’s what we should have (go figure that one) We gave Matthew his fathers name Peter as his middle name.
All good until along came my third son and we had run out of choices. The midwiife actually handed my husband a baby name book after I delivered my third son because we just could not decide on a name that we both liked. Third son ended up being a Michael.
Adam is Adam, Andrew is Andrew, but Matthew gets called Matt and Michael gets called Mica. So we have two A’s and two M’s. His, mine and ours.
All of my husbands’ three boys have his first name as their middle name which can be a bit confusing and I’m sure I’ve confused you all totally by now with all the boys. Good thing I didn’t have any more because the poor thing probably would have been nameless. I do have a swag of unused girl’s names though.
My grandson has ended up with Jayden Lukas Kruz, not named after anyone and a name that seems to roll off the tongue.
Thanks for sharing your naming stories, Fiona! I love the names and your statement, ” So we have two A’s and two M’s. His, mine and ours.”
I really thought we’d be in the same boat as you with the names book at the hospital after the birth of our 2nd son. I had my short list, my husband had his, and we just couldn’t seem to match up. If we end up with another boy, I have no idea how we’ll come up with a name!
We named our daughter after what my MIL had wanted to name my husband. My mom helped me pick a pretty middle name. When we founf out we were having a boy next i thought my husband would want his first name to be our son’s middle name. But it turned out both he and my MIL said NO, that’s end that tradition now (some negative connotations). But my hubby did have a strong opinion on a frist name. So I seized my opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do, have an initial name, such as AJ. My hubby agreed so I researched names and their meanings and come up with one we both liked.
It’s so fun to hear how people come up with their choices and who is involved. I think it’s cool that your and your husband’s mothers gave input and that you also got to have your abbreviated name in the mix. Thanks for your comments.
For us it was easy. The day we found out I was pregnant with our first was a bittersweet day: it was the same day we found out that my father-in-law was dying of cancer. It seemed right for us to name our child after him. Funny story about that: when we told my father-in-law about being pregnant, he was lying on the couch, at that point barely able to function. We showed him the ultrasound picture and said, “If it’s a boy, we’re calling him George.” For a moment we saw a flash of my father-in-law’s humour, and he said with a grin, “Ah, don’t do that to the poor child!”
My younger son was named after my Dad, who died about a year before he was born.
What a heart warming moment during a difficult time for your family. I love that your father in law could still offer his humor even when feeling so poorly. Now that’s spirit!
And it is so wonderful that your fathers names live on with your sons. Thank you for sharing your stories.
My mother-in-law bought us a baby name book and we spent lots of time going through it! We were going to name our first Hailey. The name was set. Then, we realized that my husband and I pronounce the name differently. He said it more like Hay-lee in a British accent and I pronounced it Hail-lee in an American accent. We just gave up and picked a new name!
That is so funny! Part of the reason I wrote about naming is because of all the interesting and unexpected things that come up as part of the discussion. Thanks for sharing!
With both pregnancies, I “knew” the sex of the baby before it was confirmed medically. So at about 2 months pregnant with my son I said to my husband that I have always liked the name “Jonathan”. His father’s name was John, so that was decided (before the sex was ever confirmed)…but my husband wanted our son to have his father’s middle name as well “Henry”, which I didn’t like, and I wanted to honor my grandfather. So while in the hospital, filling out the papers he gave in and we used my grandfather’s name as our son’s middle name. When I was pregnant the second time, the name Gabrielle came to me (again before we confirmed it was a girl), and when I told my husband, he liked it as well, but asked “what if it’s another boy?”. I assured him it wouldn’t be :). I kept thinking and coming up with other names, but didn’t like any as much. We used my grandmother’s name as a middle name.
How cool that you just knew the sex of the baby?!?! That makes the story of their names coming to you so special. It was meant to be! Thanks for your comments.
actually tara, i didn’t think of this before, but in the jewish tradition it is considered bad luck to name your child after someone still living. that is why the names flip-flop generations.
How interesting! Again, I love learning about these cultural traditions. While I like to march to the beat of my own drummer, I have such a soft spot for ritual and tradition, especially when it comes to family. Thanks for your comments.
I love these name stories 🙂 and your absolutely right people tend to judge the name you’ve chosen and it can be so hurtful – I have done it myself before I experienced it, I wont ever do it again !
In Norway you can wait a few month after birth before giving a name … some parents like to see if the name will fit the baby …
It was not our case 🙂 We decided before. I loved calling her by her name while she was in my tummy ! We needed something easy to pronounce in all european languages and I had letters that appealed more than others “L”s and “M”s for ex. We also honoured my husband’s grand mother. We decided on Ella.
Your feedback about waiting a few months is so interesting. I can see the idea behind it, but for me personally, I am too impatient ;-). I love the name Ella, and I love that you honored her great-grandmother. Such a cool way to connect them! Thanks for your comments.
Our boys have simple first names due to our Dutch mouthful of a surname – also Craig is a tradesman and I am an academic, so we chose names which we think could fit comfortably in either camp. They are all named after a family member too. Love those traditions.
Thanks for chiming, and I like your point about names fitting in both tradesmen and acadmic camps. My mom talked about that alot too in choosing names. So interesting!