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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Family Name Obligation

Erica writes:
If a couple has one child and chose to name that child after a parent (the child's grandparent), are they expected to name future children after relatives as well?

To be less vague about it, my daughter is named after my mother who passed away and my husband's mother (she is alive and well). If our next child (who is still hypothetical at this point) is a boy, should we feel obligated to name him after our fathers?

I don't think we feel obligated to do so, but I'm wondering what convention dictates on this.

The short answer: No, you're not obligated, but you're smart to take it into account as a potential issue.

In your particular case, you've made things even easier by using both grandmothers' names the first go-round. It would be a touchier situation if you'd used one grandmother name, and now had to think about the other grandmother wondering if she'd be similarly honored.

If you HAD set up a situation where you'd used one grandmother name but not the other, and you DIDN'T plan to use the other, I'd suggest making that clear early on. Not, of course, by saying, "Just so's you don't get your hopes up: we hate your name, and anyways we don't like you much either." But something more along the lines of discussing the names you ARE considering, with nary a mention of the grandmother's name.

You could even take it a step further, if you wanted to make extra-double-careful-sure that no one would be taken by surprise later: "With Mary Jane, we really wanted to use my mom's name: I was missing her so much, and wanted my daughter to feel a connection to the grandmother she wouldn't know. But with this next baby, we're not planning to use any family names---so the options are wide open!"

Um, that would all be in the hypothetical situation where you hadn't used both grandmother names. In your actual situation, where you're wondering about, for example, grandfather names, it depends on the grandfathers involved. Do you think they might expect it? If you think there's a chance they would expect it, it wouldn't hurt to pull out the "not planning to use any family names" line from above.

Pitch in on this, everyone. Did you use a family name for your first baby, and then feel pressure to use more family names? Did anyone (*shudder*) mention it to you, like that they were disappointed, or that they expected it? Did you avoid using family names because you didn't want to start up those expectations? Did you use another family name because you didn't want to hurt someone's feelings?


Erica said...

Originally, we had planned on only using my mother's name. Then, at the last minute, I threw my MIL's name in, too. Thank goodness. That's one touchy situation avoided. I love the MIL, but not her name. It's much better hidden in with other names.

Thanks for posting this even though there are no actual babies being named currently.

Jana said...

I think a lot depends on the personalities of the grandpas. If they're likely to be offended if you don't use their names then you might want to consider it, but if they're easygoing, then I wouldn't worry about it. Like Swistle, I don't think you're obligated either way, though.

If they're like my mother-in-law, who takes everything personally and never lets you forget about it, then you're screwed. Case in point: we gave our son my maiden name for his middle name since my dad didn't have a son to pass on the name. My lovely mil asked just who in her family had our son's first name - no one, we just liked the name. So Baby #3 (due in 4 weeks/gender unknown) will either have her middle name as a middle name or my husband's middle name as a middle name just to "make things even." Kinda sucks being "stuck", but oh well.

Mairzy said...

I don't see why you should have to name a son after the grandfathers if you don't want to. I'm not aware of any convention that expects it. We named our first daughter in honor of both her grandmothers, but our son's name has significance just to us. And our third child (daughter) is named for a very good friend of mine.

Of course, I love the idea of using family names. If you like the grandfathers' names, then use them. Only, if you do that with a second child, then you might very well feel Family-Name Obligated if it comes to naming a third. I'm all for keeping your options open.

And I basically just restated what Swistle said.

-- Mairzy.

Maggie said...

Sometimes it's a cultural thing, and then it's totally expected. My husband told his mother before we were even married that we would NOT be following the Greek tradition (first boy named after FIL, first girl after MIL, second boy after my dad, second girl after my mom) but even though she knew for years the baby wouldn't be named after her, she was still angry. She will not use my daughters name, but refers to her as "little girl".
At some point you have to make your decision and let it be. You can't make everyone happy, so pick a name you and your husband love and that you think suits your child. Middle names sometimes give you a way to include family, but again, only if you want to honour that person.

Queen of Carrots said...

Actually I think we'll have used all grandparent's names (or at least middle names) and most great-grandparent names in some form when the twins are born. (Assuming Twin A really is a girl.) Fortunately we like the family names. In no case is the child actually called the same thing as the grandparent--either we used the grandparent's middle name as a first or middle name, or we used the grandparent's first name as the extra name. Since DH and I have the same names as his parents, actually calling the kids by the same names again would have been WAY too confusing.

I think my grandfather was actually kind of upset when my brother used Grandpa's name for one of his kids. We did a subtler "tribute" name which he didn't seem to mind. It really depends on the grandparents.

MzEll said...

My Dad's family assumed both my boys would have family names. I just made it into a joke when we were all together. Especially with the second baby. It's fun to remember the names they suggested, and know that my babies are who they are now.

Heather said...

I'm Jewish and we only name after relatives who have passed away. I lost my mother when I was 18. When my first was born, I wasn't yet 'ready' to use my mother's name. We chose a first name for my son based on what we liked. It happened to start with a 'G'. We 'backed' into an attribution for a grandmother of mine whose name started with a G. His middle name is a name I've always loved that happened to be my husband's grandfather's name. So, both sides of the family. With my second, it was a girl and I was ready to share my mother's name. So my daughter HAS my mother's name and her middle name is my husband's grandmother's name -- again, both sides of the family. And as dumb luck would have it, my son is named for my paternal family and my husband's maternal family, my daughter is named for my maternal family and for my husband's paternal family -- we got all four sides! BUT, our goal was to match initials, not to go for complete name usage. It just so happens that three out of my kids' four names are exact. But naming my son Gertrude just wasn't an option!

d e v a n said...

We decided not to use ANY family names so as to avoid hurt feelings. Mostly on my MIL's side, because if she even THOUGHT that a baby was named after someone on my side she would be forever resentful that we hadn't used one of HER side's names. So, no family names at all for us.

Drew said...

My mother-in-law threw a bit of a fit over this issue with our children. Our first three children incorporated names from both of my parents, and my husband's father. When baby #4 came along and we announced the name, she was very disappointed to find out that we didn't choose her name. That meant she was going to be the only grandparent not to have one of the grandchildren named after her...that hadn't occurred to me, so we actually did acquiesce and use her name.

Mairzy said...

That's an interesting tidbit about the Greek tradition. I can see why it would be upsetting to the MIL who assumed she'd have a granddaughter named for her... but everybody's got to learn eventually that the only children they have naming rights to are their own. (There, that took care of THAT problem, didn't it?)

It was nice to see in Drew's comment that you incorporated the MIL so she wasn't left out -- a little painless generosity on your part. A bit sad in another comment that you can't use any family names at all. Obviously family names would be an easier issue if family weren't involved.

-- Mairzy.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

In my family, all of our middle names are family names. However, there isn't any resentment because no one ever views it as "choosing someone over someone else".

It's just a tradition - pick a first name you love, and then go through the list of family members to pick a family name that matches the first name you love. LOL. You try grandparents first, but if it doesn't fit right, you keep moving on through the uncles and aunts.

I'm Stephanie Mae (Mae = maternal great-grandma). My brother is Michael James (James = both my maternal and paternal grandfathers, who were both alive and well when he was born), and my youngest brother is Scott William (William = my Uncle Bill; maternal side).

I look at it the same way. When I have children, I will pick a name that's already in the family for a middle name - but mostly it's just about picking a family name that matches well with the first name you like, in my opinion (unless you really, really want to honour a particular family members as I might with my grandfathers).

Par exemple, I will not be using any of my boyfriend's male family members names for any sons I have (we'll go with my side, my dad or brothers - all three of whom have perfect "Middle Names" that match a wide variety of first names - David, Michael and Scott haha); as he is Polish and his family members are named such names as Zygmunt... lol. NOT MY STYLE.

Clarabella said...

My son is named Sean William: Sean= dad's first name, William=paternal grandfather's first name. We call him Liam so he has his own name, since there is already a Sean and two Bills (Dad's brother too). My son's father's family is very Irish; my family is German.
My family in no way cares that we chose Irish names for our firstborn. We used a tradition from MY family to name the first son after both the paternal father and grandfather, so we incorporated both sides in a way.
For my own reasons (translate: not because of pressure from my German family), I plan on giving my second child a German name. But since that child is as yet hypothetical, I really hope this blog is still around when he/she comes along. I can't wait to see what the Baby Name Wizard has to say about giving an Irish-named boy a Germanic-named sibling!

baby boy said...

I think when you choosing a family name for one baby you not obligated to the other.

Anonymous said...

Going anonymous, just so I won't be tracked here. Our eldest daughter is the 8th generation on my mother's side to have the middle name "Jane." My MIL's name happens to be a modern variation of our daughter's first name, but that is *Total Coincidence*.
Our son has two very old "family names" from my husband's side that no one has used in years, so he's not named *for* anyone. We just liked the names.
Daughter #2 is named for our maternal grandmothers, but again, this is more because we love the names rather than because of a sense of duty. Also, they go well with the other kids' names.
I don't think the grandfathers will care, and if they do, so what? Don't name your child something you don't like just to keep the peace.

Anonymous said...

P.S. My husband is named for his dad's two friends who drove his parents to the hospital. His mom admitted later that she never really liked his first name because she thought it was kind of wimpy. What kid doesn't want to hear that?