Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's in a Name?

**Once again, life has gotten in the way of writing about life. So, here is a long overdue entry about choosing just the right baby names.**

There are so many intense and stressful things that go into planning to have children, and for a lot of people, choosing a name is the most intense and stressful. After all, this is the name that your child will likely carry for the rest of his/her life, and if you choose wrong, you could be looking at thousands of dollars worth of therapy. Just think of the people who have chosen names like “Robin Graves” (get it?),  “Adolf Hitler” (that really only worked once) or this selection of names favored (but ultimately rejected) by our Kiwi friends: Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit were disallowed by registration officials. Choosing a name like that is clearly more about the parents, and their desire to be unique or different, than it is about the children. If it were about the children, the parents would have given more thought to what it might be like to go through life with such a name. People are mean. Kids are especially mean. Why set up your child for a lifetime of teasing?

Even if the name isn’t something ridiculous, naming your child after a famous person, or a literary character can have its own issues. I taught a student named Emily Dickinson once. Her dad thought it was clever. She hated it – and hated every time a teacher said to her, on the first day of school, “Oh, like the poet!” or “You know, there’s a famous poet with that name!” How could she not know? She was a writer herself, and a talented one, and her ambition, in high school, was to one day be able to Google her name and not have to sift through page after page to actually find herself. That’s quite a burden to put on a kid.

Then there was the student I had in England named Lizzie Bennett. Now, I know that one won’t be as obvious to some, but she shared her name with the heroine of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice. She didn’t face quite as many frustrations as Emily Dickinson, but she certainly dealt with her share.

It’s important to me not to saddle my kids with names that will prove to be more of a burden than a blessing. I’ve thought about names a lot, and I know my preferences have undergone a change over the years. In the past, I focused on somewhat superficial things, like should I give my kids the same initials as me (a long-since rejected issue)? I also thought about what the names meant, and whether anyone would actually know what they meant. Much time was spent browsing baby name websites, although I’ve thought about it long enough that I actually started with a character naming book that I’ve had for years.

I didn’t take it as far as some, though. A New York Times article from last year detailed the extreme lengths to which some New York parents would go to insure that their children had names that were both unique, and Ivy-league worthy. The article explains the status symbol that a child’s name can be – for the parents – and even describes how some parents have lied about how they came up with the name, if it’s found that others in their child’s playgroup or class have the same name (apparently, Ethans and Ellas are a dime a dozen in NYC pre-schools).

For me, the baby naming process became more heavily influenced by a different factor in recent years. The loss of my parents made it important to me to carry on a part of them. I was unable to do that genetically, but I decided that I could do it in the selection of my children’s names. I didn’t want to simply use their exact names, because I still wanted my children to have their own sense of identity, but I figured I could use names “inspired” by my parent’s names.

I had some choices picked out, depending on whether they were boys or girls, and now that I know it’s two girls (Yay!), I can reveal what they are. My dad’s name was Joseph Patrick, and my mom’s name was Haydée (no middle name). And, of course, my middle name is Marée, taken from “Mary” (Mom had a strong faith in the Virgin Mother), and the last two letters of Mom’s name.

So, little Bedazzler will be named Jocelyn Marée (I liked Jocelyn as a variation of Joseph, rather than the standard feminization of Josephine). And, Sparkle will be named Hayden Patrice (I thought Patrice flowed better from Hayden than Patricia, and adding the “en” onto the “Hayd” from Mom’s name also puts a little bit of me into that name). As for nicknames, time will tell. Jocelyn could be Joss or Josie (I favor Joss), or something else entirely. I have more trouble thinking of nicknames for Hayden, but then again, I may not have any control over what they choose to call themselves, or what their friends choose to call them.

I’m happy with my choices, and I do like the fact that the names stand alone as pretty girls’ names, even without the backstory. The names will be significant to me and my family, and anyone who might be curious. To everyone else, they’ll just be names.