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What’s in a Name: When Your Kid’s Name Feels Wrong


Disclaimer for the teenage (probably angst-ridden) boy of mine who may someday find this on the dark recesses of the internet: I do not regret your name—I hope you don’t either. Plus, you were a far easier infant than your siblings, so don’t let this tarnish the stories of your babyhood. Perspective, please. 

As for the rest of you, well…

I have a serious mom confession to make, and it’s one that seems a bit taboo: I struggled to get used to my baby’s name. 

There, I said it. Can I peak out from behind my hands now? Have the looks of horror and primal gasps passed? 

I get it, this probably seems like a crazy thing to admit, but, based on my guilt-ridden middle-of-the-night Google searches, it appears I’m not alone. So stop clutching those pearls because you may need them for a fancy FRG event someday, and besides, someone close to you might be hiding the same secret. 

To be fair, a few months ago I probably would’ve had the same reaction if someone told me that she wasn’t crazy about her own child’s name. In fact, I’ve never forgotten the college class where a girl told us her parents legally changed her name when she was six months old. Apparently, it was the result of a trip to the grocery store where her mom overheard another child’s name called out, and began sobbing with regret for the name she had already given her daughter. I’m sure my jaw dropped to the floor.  

Rest assured, this case is not nearly that intense, but I do remember thinking how absolutely bonkers it was to have nine months to chose a baby name and then mess it up. I mean, it’s one of the first, most important duties as a parent, right?

Here’s the thing, though, my husband and I both loved the name we chose. We loved it almost from the moment we found out I was pregnant—so much so that it was the only boy name we ever seriously discussed. 

Girl names, on the other hand, were a nightmare. There was a long list of potential choices, all of which we liked but weren’t sure we totally loved. 

That boy name, though. That was a totally different story. We felt confident with it and openly revealed it to anyone who asked.

We played around with nicknames, and I was careful to choose a middle name that would allow him to go by initials at some point if it was a better fit — but mostly we were smitten with what we had chosen. 

I even made sure it ticked all the boxes. It flowed nicely with our last name, our other kids seemed to like it (although the 4-year-old has recently voiced his own doubts, proclaiming his name should definitely be Happy, instead), and I could imagine saying it over and over for years to come. I tried to picture him at each stage of life, considering whether his name could grow with him from a baby to an adult. 

After all of that, the verdict was clear: his name had been decided.

On the day he was born, we signed off on the birth certificate papers without a second thought on his name. Nurses traipsed in and out of recovery room, and each time they said his name, it felt right. 

The only problem was, it didn’t feel right when I said it. It felt foreign coming out of my mouth, like when you look at a word too long and it no longer makes sense. Sometimes, it felt too harsh—a sensation I hadn’t noticed over all the months of consideration. 

There was no single moment of realization, no “oh-my-goodness-what-have-we-done?” Rather, the uneasiness crept up slowly as the chaos of bringing a new baby into the world began to subside. 

I noticed I was calling him “the baby” more than his actual name and found myself reading others’ faces for clues about their feelings on it—something very out of the norm, for me. It was an unnerving feeling — that of uncertainty where there should be none. 

All told, it took about two months to start feeling confident in his name again, a process just as gradual and inexplicable as the initial uneasiness.

Though I had never articulated it up to that point, one day I casually mentioned to my husband that I finally felt more comfortable saying our little guy’s name out loud as I glanced up sheepishly to catch his reaction. Imagine my relief when I realized I was not alone. We had both been holding in some odd sense of shame over something we couldn’t control. 

Looking back, I think that strange transition period was due to a couple different factors.

First, our son was named after a family member, a departure from our first two children. More specifically, he was named after my great-grandpa, a man I remember as being incredibly calm and gentle. After a very intense first year with our second child, I was hoping that our third might inherit my grandpa’s traits along with the name. So far, it appears to have worked! But I wonder if associating his name with someone else I love made it more difficult to adjust. 

Furthermore, this pregnancy was the only one in which we didn’t find out the gender ahead of time. While the delivery room surprise was an experience I will never forget, I think it may have played a role in our name issue.  Having that knowledge with my first two pregnancies gave us a head start in a way—as if we used up all that transition time getting used to their names before they were even born. 

Besides, those early weeks are always such a haze. I loved the kid fiercel,y but I didn’t really know him. Nobody does right away. Like all good things, it takes time.

Before long, that squirmy infant of mine grew plump and happy. Both his features and his personality became clearer, pulling his perfect name right along with him. 

How about you? Have you ever experienced something similar or did your baby naming go off without a hitch? 

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