July 22, 2014

Choosing A Name For Your Child


Choosing Your Child's Name

I was in my early 20s the first time I decided on a name for a daughter if I had one. I wasn’t even married, but I knew the name I wanted for my daughter. She would be named after my mom and my grandma. Mind you, my grandma was still alive and naming a child after a living relative was never going to fly.

Flash forward about 10 years and when I got pregnant my grandma was still alive so I had to figure out a new first name for a girl. And because I wasn’t sure if it was a boy or a girl I needed to come up with a boy’s name too. CycleGuy and I needed a name that met all kinds of random criteria. It had to be at least two syllables. It couldn’t be something easily shortened. If it was shortened it had to still be a cool name. It had to be a name of a family member that passed away. And there were other much more random name-selection rules. Like it couldn’t sound stupid with her middle name and the monogram couldn’t be something that could hinder her growing up.

All of this because the name I had always imagined for my daughter couldn’t be used. While her middle name was still in play, since my grandma was still alive her first name could not be Marshon. Marshon was my grandma’s made up middle name. Yes, made up.

My grandma was born in 1920 and was not given a middle name. When she married my grandfather and got her new documents and updated her social security card she added a middle name for herself. And I’ve always thought it was a strong and unique name. It was only a few years ago that I found out she made it up. It’s a good thing even 80-year old brothers will tell their sister’s secrets.

So, I’m without a first name for a girl and I have no clue what I’d name a boy. For a girl my list of name options was very short. I’d thought of Emma, my Auntie, but her granddaughter had recently used it. Also, it was becoming very popular. Another thing on my “can’t have” list for names. My grandma was pushing for a variation of Harvey, my uncle. I adored my uncle and he was super cool, but I couldn’t think of a good girl name from Harvey. And calling her Harvey, as interesting as that may sound, was not able to pass my “doesn’t sound stupid for a girl” test. I also wasn’t feeling it to name a boy Harvey.

We came up with a boy’s name pretty quickly though. We would use my stepfather’s name, Charles, as the middle name and the first name would be Preston. No one is named Preston, but it was a name that was somewhat like my grandfather’s and it met all our criteria for a name. So, we had a boy name but not a girl.

Because I’d already used my mom’s middle name I didn’t want to use her first name, Eileen. I kept feeling I needed a stronger name. Out were my grandma’s sisters Minnie and Betty. They didn’t do much for me. And my uncle Herman told me that if I couldn’t figure out a name from family that it would be OK. Still, I really wanted to honor my heritage.

CycleGuy was named because his mom liked the name in the baby-name book. I was named after my great grandmothers. It’s not like we’re trying to maintain some family tradition, but it’s a lot of responsibility choosing your child’s names. And with most of my family gone and CycleGuy not all that connected to a family name, choosing a name for our daughter seemed harder than it really should be.

It took several weeks to decide on her name. Once I heard it though, I knew that was HER name. We chose my grandfather’s name, with a slight variation. He died about a year after I got married, but it seemed perfect as soon as we said it.

Yes, we gave her a man’s name. When I found out I was having a girl, it really clicked that we chose the right name. And while she was nearly 2 weeks late, her original due date was on his birthday. I took that as a sign.

The funny thing is that she has a lot of my grandfather’s traits and tendencies. The hardest part of naming BabyGirl after my grandpa was for my Grandma to hear his name again after being widowed 7 years.

As the years have gone by, more and more she shows me that we picked the right name. It’s the little things. My grandpa had a love for tape, as does BabyGirl. My grandpa loved to travel and read, things BabyGirl has enjoyed from very early on. And her sense of self. She’s a lot like my grandfather.

I love hearing stories of how people named their children. The stories are always fascinating and give a great deal of insight into family dynamics, heritage, and culture. It’s a big responsibility to choose your child’s name. Somehow, though, most names tend to be exactly right.

How did you choose your child’s name? Or, if you don’t have kids, have you thought about names for them if you do have them?



Kim July 22, 2014 at 2:57 pm

It’s so interesting learning about people’s names and naming traditions. We gave my oldest son a middle name based on his grandmother’s maiden name. However, at his bris, when we asked the people he was named after to speak about the names, we learned (only then!) that her maiden name was not an actual family name, but one borrowed from a neighbor after her family came over from Ellis Island. At least we have the backstory that goes with it now. As for his first name, E was named after my maternal grandmother. It wasn’t until I asked my mom to talk about her mother at the bris that I realized what a poor relationship they had! I guess there is a downside to keeping the name a secret until the baby is born.

Sara July 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Kim, it’s interesting that they borrowed a neighbor’s name. While maybe not the warm and fuzzy backstory you’d hoped for, it’s definitely good to know. And they both show strength. To come to a new place and make your way and try to fit in. And you must have had a good relationship with your maternal grandmother to choose her for E. There are many in her generation that had challenges with the relationships with their children. I imagine it has a lot to do with how different child-rearing was during the 40s/50s as opposed to the earlier decades.

Thank you for sharing your story, Kim.

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