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Monday, June 23, 2008

Changing a Baby's Name

Isabel writes:
It's Isabel again! Surprise! :)

So there's something Luke and I have been considering for awhile... should we change Brody's name? He's never seemed much like a Brody to us, but now that he's home we really can't deny it. Brody just doesn't fit the boy! We've already looked up most of the process - where we are it's pretty easy, and inexpensive, to do.

We're considering the name "Kemp." It really fits him, and the meaning is fitting - it means "fighter." We'd probably keep his middle name the same - Nathaniel.

We were thrown a curveball at delivery (we thought we were expecting 3 girls!) and didn't have much time to consider boy's names. We're really regretting that now.

So what do you think? Should we change his name? If you think we should, should we go with Kemp, or another name? Should we keep his middle name, or go with another one. Our last name is 2 syllables, starts with J, ends with N.

If you're pretty sure the name doesn't fit, this is the moment to change it: it's early days, and you have an excellent and understandable reason for wanting to do it. Everyone else will probably still be too distracted by the fact of the triplets and by the "two surprise boys" element to really care what you do with the names. If his name doesn't fit him and you decide you want to change it, I think you should do it immediately.

On the other hand, I can understand a hesitation. Announcing a baby's name is a big deal, and it's assumed to be a permanent choice. Changing it at this point is almost certain to result in at least a little kerfuffle: a few people will be disappointed or upset, and there will be paperwork to do (doctor's office, insurance cards, etc.). Some people's relatives would make a stink about it, pretending not to be able to remember the new name, or saying over and over that they just can't understand why you had to change it. But if you change it now, when he is only 2 months old, most people will soon forget he was ever any other name.

I'm in favor of the change in this case, for two reasons: one, you sound pretty certain that the name was the wrong choice; two, I'm very interested in the concept of changing a baby's name, and so out of pure self-interest I'm eager to know someone who did it. Perhaps you could write a guest post on how you found out what would need to be done, and how it went when you did it, and what you thought of the decision afterward, and what other people thought of the decision afterward.

The name you're considering for the rename is Kemp. When I hear that name, I have two immediate associations: Jack Kemp, and hemp. Neither one is, to me, a dealbreaker.

Let's try the name with your other two children's names: Schuyler, Alexander, and Kemp. One problem I see here is that the name Alexander is so much more common than the name Kemp: Alexander was the 15th most popular boy name in 2007, and it's been in the Top 200 almost constantly for the last 200 years (source: Social Security Administration). Kemp, on the other hand, hasn't even been in the Top 1000.

What about knocking his middle name into the first-name position, and using Kemp as the middle name? Kemp is a nice match for Alexander's middle name Kale: Alexander Kale and Nathaniel Kemp. Alex and Nate make nice brother nicknames. And the popularity of the name Nathaniel has been very similar to the popularity of the name Alexander over the years. Using the middle name may also help calm any upset over the name change.

Let's put up a poll for this, over to the right [poll closed; see below]. We'll vote on whether or not you'd change the name at this point, and whether you think Kemp or Nathaniel or "other" is the best choice for the new name.

[Poll results:
Change it to Kemp Nathaniel: 14 votes, 7%
Change it to Nathaniel Kemp: 167 votes, roughly 84%
Change it to some other name: 4 votes, 2%
Don't change it: 15 votes, roughly 8%]

[Name update! Isabel writes:
sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this! As you can imagine, things are pretty crazy with triplets at home!
Anyway, we decided to go with the name Nathaniel Kemp. It's perfect! Thanks everyone for your suggestions!]


K in the Mirror said...

I love the idea of using Nathaniel- and if you do that, there's the option of not having to mess with the change at all. You could just call him Nate his whole life. There are lots of people who go by their middle names.

I'm voting to change it to Nathaniel Kemp, just because you sound like you don't want to keep the name Brody, but if you didn't mess with the paperwork...

Kelly said...

I'm not a big fan of Kemp as a first name. I love Nathaniel Kemp, though. Quirky without being too different, especially when considered with the other kid's names.

Brenna said...

I don't dislike the name Kemp. Never heard it before, but I don't dislike it. First thing I thought of was Shawn Kemp, the basketball player.
I think the name Nathaniel "goes" very well with the name Alexander, and that is the name I voted for. But, if you love the name Kemp and feels it suits him, then go for it!
Congrats on the triplets. What a blessing!

Nowheymama said...

I like Nathaniel, too.

My dad's name was changed when he was about a month old to rename him after an uncle who went MIA in WWII soon after Dad was born. No one remembers that he originally had another name.

My uncle went by Firstname Middlename till he was in first grade, then he came home and said he wanted to be Middlename Firstname instead. My grandparents legally changed his name, and he's gone by Middlename Firstname ever since. People barely remember this, and he was 6? 7? when it happened. I think Swistle is right: do it now and people will forget.
Also, if it's the name you really want, who cares?

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

It's too bad you want to change his name at all, so I first would vote for using Nate but keeping his birth certificate the same. However, it sounds like you're pretty set on getting rid of the Brody part, so therefore...

I voted for Nathaniel Kemp. The name Kemp on its own doesn't really do it for me (I think of a mix of hemp and kelp); but I love Swistle's suggestion here because Nathaniel and Alexander are a better sibling set than Alexander and Kemp would be. There's nothing wrong with calling him by his middle name, so you'd still get to use Kemp.

It's too bad he's not a Brody; I think that name is adorable. But that would be a hard decision; needing to find a boy's name fast like you had to.

Best of luck with whatever you decide!

bethiclaus said...

I voted for Nathaniel, but I think if it were me, I wouldn't change the name at all. A two month-old isn't connected to his name, but family members and friends likely are. I tend to think that children grow into their names.

Cat said...

I voted for Nathaniel Kemp. Nathaniel sounds better with Alexander and is likely to sound more "serious" when he needs it later in life; however, you can just call him Kemp.

Misty said...

My original idea is not so original so I will chime in with everyone else: Maybe you might want to consider not going through the name changing business and just calling him Nate. I love the name Nate.

boy names said...

I think you should change his name, I liked Nathaniel Kemp.

Alice said...

i'm totally of the "if you feel strongly about it, go for it!" camp. he's only 2 months old... any kerfluffle will die down pretty quickly. i'd never heard the name kemp before, but i like it: unique, fun, and strong.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I say go ahead and change it now while it's still relatively easy to do! And I agree with Swistle, Nathaniel Kemp has a great ring to it, and you can call him Kemp but then he has Nathaniel or Nate to use as well.

My husband was Peter James for the first three weeks of his life. His parents decided to change it- he just wasn't a "Peter" to them. Now he's John Howard which of course, suits him perfectly! (It's riot to hear their old tape recordings where my MIL is saying, "Here's Peter crying at three weeks old...")

brooke said...

I wouldn't change the name. Personally, I would just go ahead and call him Kemp. My little cousin is a fourth and the family calls him a name totally unrelated to any part of his name. I think that Brody Nathaniel, nn Kemp is great. Also, on most forms there is a block for nickname/goes by.

Best wishes for you and your family!

Mayberry said...

I did know a family that changed their daughter's name--began using her middle name exclusively. She was probably 6 or 7 months old at the time. Her first first name was "Rhea" and they decided they couldn't handle the "dia -rhea" issue!

Jan said...

My vote is for Kemper Nathaniel nn Kemp. Kemper fits in better with Schuyler and Alexander. Btw, there's a well known triathlete named Hunter Kemper (

Angie said...

Since your baby is so young, I think the short term hassle of changing his name to Nathaniel Kemp is minor compared the long term hassle of keeping Brody Nathaniel and calling him Nate / Nathaniel. My grandfather goes by his middle name (his parent's choice not his) and he says it's a pain. For example when he fills out forms, especially online, he often finds there is no full middle name field, only a field for his middle initial, and he really can't put his middle name in the first name field since it's inaccurate. He says his parent's decision has caused him such life-long grief. And his parent's reasoning behind their choice was stupid. He was supposed to be Donald Paul, but there was another Donald Paul born the same day in the same hospital. Therefore, his parents decided to name him Paul Donald, but call him by the middle name Don. Which is ridiculous since this was some random, strange baby who happened to be born the same day in the same hospital, but families didn't live in the same town and didn't know each other.

Blueberry said...

i do think that if you are unhappy with the name you should change it.

i understand the struggle with coming up with a name on the spot. our second child was born 3 months ago. we didn't know the gender and my husband and i could NOT agree on names at all. one hour before the baby came we had a girls name and of course he was a boy. it took us 23 1/2 hours to come up with a name for him (my husband insisted that he have a name before he was one day old). fortunately the name we picked (chase) seems to fit him quite well otherwise we would probably be in your shoes right now.

i voted for nathaniel kemp because i think it flows a little better than kemp nathaniel. i do, however, love the name kemp and hope you call him that whether it is his first name or not.

Leslie said...

I like Nathaniel Kemp. I agree with others that it flows much better than Kemp Nathaniel, and you can still can him Kemp. My mom has gone by her middle name since the day she was born, and never had a problem with it.

Best of luck, whatever you decide!!!

Melissa H said...

I actually love the name Kemp (knew a girl with that name! but i don't think it's at all girly and even she thought she had a boy name)

ANYWAY, what about just going with nate or nathanial and changing the name order (not even formally...)

Good luck!

Isabel & Company said...

sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this! As you can imagine, things are pretty crazy with triplets at home!
Anyway, we decided to go with the name Nathaniel Kemp. It's perfect! Thanks everyone for your suggestions!