Thinking about baby names? Me too. I’ve spent countless hours scouring the internet for helpful tips to help me name the bun in my oven. The problem is that all of the articles out there don’t really cover the points of consideration that concern me. So, for all of you moms-to-be that want to hear it like it really is, here are six things to keep in mind before you make the first decision that will impact the rest of your babe’s life.
To Mini-Me or not to Mini-Me
When I was in middle school I knew a kid who was a junior the third. I grew up in a middle class suburb not far from New York City. There were no blue bloods intermixing with us, Junior the Third, seemed so unnecessary to me. They could have named him “muffy” for all that did for him. Over the course of time I met a lot of juniors, and people with numbers in their names, and I always felt kind of badly for them. I think people should have their own names. My parents gave us their names as middle names, which I think was nice because that allowed us to develop our own identities. One thing to keep in mind, according to an accountant friend of mine, there are many instances where the credit of the “senior” can be negatively impacted by the credit of their “junior” because the names are exactly the same.
A Cultural Experience
The Taino Indians were the indigenous people of Puerto Rico (and the Dominican Republic). The female form of their name is Taina, which is my name. My name has caused me so much strife over the course of my lifetime. First of all, no one can pronounce it. No matter how many times I say “Tie- eeee- nuh, like hyena” people invariably say names that sound like Tiana, Tina, Tatiana (which has more syllables than my name), or some other butchering of my name. Whenever there was a substitute teacher I would wish I could turn invisible until after attendance was called, because I knew I’d have to correct her pronunciation and all the Jills and Jens would laugh at me.
The second problem with my name is that it is a clear cultural marker. My high school boyfriend went home to his parents to tell them about me and their response to my name was “how black is she?”. Clearly this is a racist response, but the truth is that people made assumptions about me the moment they heard, or read my name. All the stereotypes that come with Puerto Rican people get piled upon me. Despite the fact that I am incredibly well spoken and educated, people who hear my name before they meet me expect a brightly dressed, thick accented, stupid, knife wielding girl with giant hoop earrings, spandex and red lipstick. I know that my name has prevented me from getting job interviews. I once submitted the exact same resume in my maiden name, and my married name with the name Ty instead of Taina. I got called within 24 hours with the Ty resume.
This is not an attempt to persuade you against giving your child a beautiful cultural name. Now that I’m older, I love my name. It’s beautiful and unique and full of history. I wouldn’t give myself any other name. I don’t care that people mispronounce it. I truly believe that my name has made me work harder to break down stereotypes, which is something all of my people should be working towards. My parents gave me a name that has developed character within me. I do urge you, however, to take these things into consideration. If you aren’t willing to support your child when he comes home crying from a day of being teased at his name, maybe a cultural name isn’t for your kid. You need to arm your child, early on, with an explanation they can confidently deliver to their peers. They need to love their name as much as you did when you gave it to them.
“Y” the “I” ?
Some people, in a desperate attempt to differentiate their child from the herd do something that I just can’t understand for the life of me. They take perfectly normal names and swap out letters with “i”s and “y”s. I don’t get it. I think it’s silly. There really isn’t a good enough reason for this. Don’t do it. If you didn’t like the name Mike, swapping the “i” for a “y” doesn’t make it cooler.
Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortening Shortening…
I have a serious problem with this issue. There are lots of parents who want to control their child’s nickname. “Let’s name him Robert and we’ll call him Robby!” You also get, “We can call her Joan and then she won’t have any nicknames”. This is so far out of a parent’s control. My parents named all of their kids so they wouldn’t be able to have nicknames. My eldest brother has a one syllable name, but the middle brother and my myself have both been nicknamed. The truth is, kids will find a way. So don’t try to exert control this way.
Now, there is another facet of nicknaming that parents DO need to be concerned with, and that is whether or not the name you’ve chosen can be easily used against the child. Be creative. Try rhyming words. Consider your child’s initials, and make sure you’re not inadvertently spelling out any naughty words.
Don’t get all bent out of shape on this one. If there is one certainty in this world it is that kids will always find a way to make fun of each other. One of my nephews was teased with the taunt, his name “cherry tomato head”, and I assure you his name sounds nothing like cherry or tomato.
Try to remember that you can’t protect your kids from everything, and that a little teasing does build character in the long run.
Jobs for All
Consider the generation swings. When my parents were young the world around them was full of hippie love and liberal values. So, names like Sky, Moon, and Love began to seem more and more acceptable, but a generation later we’ve found ourselves slanted towards more conservative ideals. Days of serious work hard, play harder ideals have been ushered in on the fading ideals of 1960’s era optimism. Materialism has taken the place of idealism, and people require more skilled jobs to obtain the bling they desire. Jobs are requiring higher levels of education, and in order for someone named Moonblood to get taken seriously for a position as a Financial Analyst, or Junior Associate at that law firm, he’d really have to have stellar qualifications. That’s not to say we shouldn’t expect our kids to be stellar, but should the decisions you make based upon your youthful whims really dictate a serious disadvantage for your child? Ask yourself, would your child’s explanation of their name’s origin start off with “Well, my parents were hippies…”?