Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's in a name?

How in the world do people name their children without have a complete nervous breakdown? I feel like this (and every other decision we have to make involving pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting) is the biggest, most important thing I've ever had to do and the consequences if we get it wrong... well, I don't know what they are, but they are hanging over my head, nonetheless. A name, a car seat, a parenting philosophy... it's all so overwhelming.

Names in particular are so important to me. I have a "weird" name. I also had a weird nickname as a kid. I love my weird name. Maybe it's because of the millions of times my dad told me how much thought he and my mom had put into choosing it, and the reasons the had, and so on, but I'm so glad I'm simply Astrid, and not Jessica R. or Jenny, because there's already a Jen and a Jennifer in my class/workplace/whatever. And yeah, it was often pronounced incorrectly or completely misheard, and yes, there were a couple of weeks in third grade where the older boys called me "ostrich," but none of that really matters. What matters is that my dad thought it was really important for his daughter to have a strong feminine name, one not too dainty or diminutive. What matters is that I was the only Astrid around, and my name was mine, all mine, and almost nobody has any preconceived notions about who I am or what kind of person I should be. I get to make that first impression.

We talk so much about teasing when we talk about names. When we talk about anything, really. Don't name you kid after a fruit, she'll get made fun of.  You have to circumcise your son or the other boys in the locker room will bully him. Your daughter will have a hard time making friends if you send her to school with a pita and hummus instead of a PB&J. I think the moral here is not that we can protect our kids from taunts and bullying by normalizing everything about them, but that our children will be teased no matter what we do, and that shouldn't be a good enough reason to name them John, or preform elective cosmetic surgery on a newborn, or whatever. And I think I'd so much rather be Astrid/Ostrich than Sarah number seventeen.

So my kids are not going to be Aiden or Emma, or whatever is at the top of the charts right now. But I think picking a unique name is so much harder than just going with the flow, or following some family tradition, or what have you. When you have all the freedom in the world, you can become paralyzed with indecision and get completely overwhelmed with all the choices, not to mention the lifelong consequences they'll have for your children.

We have a little less than six months to figure it out. Let's hope that's long enough.

1 comment:

  1. I have a hard enough time naming pets to even imagine picking out a baby's name! The tricky thing is that you have to get the name right. It'd be nice if you could change the child's name after you find out what his or her personality is like--then the name will make sense. Good luck!



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