Choosing a name for your baby is one of the more exciting and sometimes frustrating things that you must do as a new parent. I’ve been through the process four times now and thankfully, together with my wife, ended up picking the right names each time!
If you haven’t already, you will soon be going through baby name books and on-line name lists. You may have also started to get a stream of helpful suggestions from friends and family. As you go the process of collecting and evaluating potential names, there are a couple of key thoughts that may help you in your selection process:
- If it is a boy’s name your after, then do you want to name it after its father?
Having a junior, a 3rd, or a 4th can be really meaningful to a baby’s father and can help create a magical connecting bond between father and son. There can be truly something special about this if it is something the father wants. If you go this route, though, you may also want to consider wether you will call your child by its first or middle name. Personally, I think simply using the first name is fine, but either way works.
- Do you want honor another family member?
Getting married and changing last names can sometimes leave a small void in a girl’s life. Using either your maiden name, or naming your baby after your parents can be a good way to re-build that feeling of connectedness.
- Continuing, or starting a family naming tradition can be fun.
For example, in some families, all the girls share the same middle name, generation after generation. Again, this is the type of name that can build a relational bond within the family. In George Foreman’s family, all the boys are named George. (Of course George Foreman may get mad at you if you steal his idea so you may want to take a pass on this last suggestion.)
- Does the name have flexibility?
Children often like to change their names as they go through school, and even through life. For example, a name like Robert has many possibilities: Robert, Robby, Bob & Bobby. Boys seem to like to change their name when they grow older as a sign of manhood, allowing Bobby to give way to Bob (if they go into sales), or Robert (if they become a lawyer).
Young girls seem to enjoy changing their name with mood, sometimes several times a day if the name has the built in flexibility. Middle names can help with this.
- Do you want your child to have a unique name?
This is harder than you think because sometimes-unique names go in waves. A friend of mine named her child Brittany because she thought it was unique. At the time, I had not heard the name before. It turns out that they were in the start of the Brittany wave – there were three other Brittany’s in her kindergarten class.
- Is the name going to get your child beat-up at school?
For some reason, guys worry about this more than their wives. While shying away from names like Gadaffi, Sadaam, & Adolf is probably a good idea, you can’t worry too much because it turns out that kids in second grade are clever enough to make fun of just about any name.
The two biggest challenges that I found in naming my children is that almost every name we could think of caused us to remember someone in our past lives that had the name and so there was always some mental association that we couldn’t overcome. The other problem we had, of course, is that my wife and I could not always agree on our favorites.
After going through this process the four times, I think I can share a couple bits of wisdom:
- Prepare a short list and wait
Narrow the list down to a small handful of names and then wait to have your baby so that you can see what it looks like. You may find that when you’re finally holding that little bundle of joy in your arms that it just doesn’t look like a George W. or a Hillary. If those were the only names you had in mind, then you may feel stuck. (If those where the only names you had in mind, then you may have other issues as well.) In any case, narrow it down to a short list of favorites and see which one fits them the best once those cute little eyes are looking right back into your face. Trying calling them by the different names and see which one feels right. And don’t worry if your spouse’s favorite choice is the same name as the kid in fourth grade who stepped on your lunch box. Once your baby has the name, they will re-define all those mental associations into something wonderful.
- There is a fallback
On our last child, my wife and I sat in the hospital for an hour because they would not let us leave until we decided on a name. My wife and I both had favorites. In the end, we went with my wife’s favorite (pretty much a given), but when we had her baptized, we added in my pick, and so my last daughter has two middle names: talk about flexibility!
- Don’t neglect the important stuff
Finally, it turns out that as new parents our focus was entirely on the things that make the least difference in our children’s lives. Choosing a name for your child is fun, but it does not do anything to help prepare you to raise children to become the people that you would like them to become. You may be worrying about what name to give them, but if you don’t want your child to end up being called that depressed kid, that problem child, or worse, inmate #15323, then as a couple starting out as new parents, you need to really start thinking about the more complex aspects to parenting – now! Your success in parenting really comes from the accumulation of minor decisions you make each day and it is important to have in the back of your mind the foundational wisdom that will help keep those decisions moving you in the right direction. This is why I wrote Essence of Wisdom for Parents: to bring to the forefront of your mind some of the important aspects of raising your children while keeping the joy in your marriage.
Doing a great job raising children isn’t any harder than doing a bad job, in fact, it’s probably easier and it’s certainly less stressful.
So have fun picking out the babies name but also take the time with your spouse to read and learn about the simple little things that will help guide your daily decisions and before you know it, you’ll find yourself arm-in-arm with your spouse at your child’s graduation, and you’ll be saying to them: (Your childs name here) I’m so proud of not only what you’ve accomplished, but who you’ve become!