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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Baby Naming Issue: Naming Tradition Disagreement

Ashley writes:
My due date is January 16, 2009. We're having a boy, and we're having a hard time compromising.

Up until the news of it being a boy, we'd always talked about naming our son after my father and my husband (Bo Morgan). The problem, however, is my husband is a Jr. He'd never wanted to do the "III" thing until now. I'm demoralized that my father's name is no longer an option and really don't want the confusion of another John in the mix when we live within a 3 mile radius of one another and spend a good deal of time together. I've suggested calling him John Morgan, Jack, and I may mention Trip.

Am I being unfair to inhibit the family tradition, or should my input be just as important? I've thought about baby names as long as I've thought about my wedding day.

Please help shed some objective light on the subject and point me in proper etiquette's direction.

Oh, Ashley, this is SO TOUGH! In high school I dated a boy who was a III, and his grandfather had deathbed-style forced my boyfriend (who was ten or eleven years old at the time) (at the time of the grandfather's deathbed, not at the time my boyfriend was my boyfriend) to promise to name his son IV. But I HATED my boyfriend's name, and also I think it's WRONG WRONG WRONG for people to think they have the right to name other people's children (which is what earlier generations are doing when they try to name anyone except their own children after themselves), and also I think the almost exclusively MALE thing of "handing down The Sacred Name" is egotistical and stupid, especially when it gets carried to a DEATHBED SCENE extreme. As if their own name is such an HONOR as well as a DUTY.

Um, opinionated much? I actually LIKE naming traditions and family names; what I don't like is the situations they create. My husband's family has a naming tradition, and when my husband's parents broke it (they named my husband a name they chose, rather than following The Tradition), my husband's grandfather refused to acknowledge the new baby. He kept that crap up for A YEAR, and continued to act coolly to his son/daughter-in-law until his death. I mean, can you imagine?? Creating a family feud because you didn't get to choose to name your grandson after yourself? ICK!

Where was I? Oh, yes. We don't have quite that situation here, do we, but we do have a difficulty: your husband wants to name his child after himself and his father, and you would prefer not to because you prefer a different name and because of all the confusion it creates to have three people with the same name. Totally understandable. I swear, one of the (many) reasons my relationship with my high school boyfriend didn't pan out is that I wasn't willing to deal with the naming tradition thing.

As far as the etiquette of the situation goes, you and your husband are the only two people who are involved in naming this child. While various issues might weigh things in one direction or the other, let's assume the responsibility/privilege of choosing the name is 50-50. In my opinion, his 2-generation naming tradition doesn't do anything to give his name choice more weight than yours: this decision still belongs to both of you, not to his parents and his grandparents (the ones who chose his and his father's names). Basically the situation here is that you'd like to name the baby after your father, and he'd like to name the baby after his father.

And speaking of etiquette and The Right Way, a little-known and rarely-used rule is that suffixes (Sr., Jr., III, IV, etc.) are not permanent. In theory, they are used only for living holders of the name. So when your husband's father dies, your husband should be John Morgan Sr., and his son should be John Morgan Jr. Only popes and kings are supposed to keep their suffixes. Not that anyone follows this rule (it makes paperwork difficult, and also presents a challenge when people don't die in chronological order), but I like to mention it futilely whenever the subject comes up, in the hopes that the rule will come back into common usage and perhaps lower the pressure to have a III or IV or VIII or whatever.

Back to your situation (I do seem to keep wandering off), I can think of a few possible compromises:

1. Name the first boy after your father, as discussed, giving him a different middle name than Morgan (perhaps your father's middle name, or perhaps another name). Agree that if you have a second son, the second son will be named John Morgan III.

2. Name the first boy John Morgan III (perhaps calling him Trip, Trey, John Morgan, J.M., or Jack, to lessen confusion). Agree that if you have a second son, the second son will be named Bo, with a middle name of your choice.

3. Toss out both grandfather names and pick something else.

Let's take a vote, calling the choices "Option 1," "Option 2," and "Option 3." The poll is over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results (163 votes total):
Option 1: 33 votes, roughly 20%
Option 2: 38 votes, roughly 23%
Option 3: 92 votes, roughly 56%


Jenni said...

My understanding of this is the mother-to-be wants to use her father's name and that is the uproar here. It is BOTH the parent's decision in naming this child. It shouldn't be his choice vs. her choice.

This is the exact reason my husband and I decided long before we were engaged to toss out any names of a child which is the same as family, friends, or could even be closely tied to anyone.

I say, toss out grandpa's name (I think dad's names always gets to stay in the mix as well as mom's) and start all over.

ZestyJenny said...

I personally think the husband should have less than 50% say because the baby gets his LAST name already, AND he is not carrying and birthing said baby.

Kathleen aka Coffee Mom said...

ha ha- I so agree with Zesty Jenny!

Swistle said...

Zesty Jenny- Ha ha! GOOD POINTS.

Patricia said...

I voted for option 2. If they're going to follow the tradition of using the name John Mason III for any son, then it seems to me they should follow the complete tradition and give their first son that name. I can understand Ashley's disappointment, but I can also understand why John has changed his mind about the name for their son. It's one thing to speculate about names for a possible child and another to know that you *really* are going to have a son (or daughter) and begin to think of that child specifically. John was given the same name as his dad; apparently he would like their son to be named in the same way. It doesn't sound like any third party is pushing John to do this.

Ashley asked if her input should be just as important. Of course it should be, but also her understanding of how much it means to her husband to give their son the name he and his father share. I think this might be a good time to agree that she'll have the final say on the name of their next child, of either gender.

Like Swistle, I like naming traditions and family names and far prefer them to random names, especially when it means a lot to one of the parents to use a family name. In this case, both parents have a family name in mind. The best compromise may be that the first son will be named for the husband (and paternal grandfather who has the same name) and if they have a second son, he'll be named for the maternal grandfather.

Patricia said...

As for what to call John Morgan III if the baby is given that name, I think I'd stay away from Trip now that it's become a 'star' name following the birth of Bristol Palin's baby Tripp.

I like Ashley's idea of calling the baby John Morgan (maybe Johnny Morgan when he's small). That would distinguish him from his dad and grandpa. Jack would also be a substantial nn. (Jack has been the top UK boy's name for more than a decade.)

Susan said...

How about naming the baby "Bo John Morgan?" The full name of the father would then be included -- as two middle names. The baby wouldn't be a "junior," but that would be the only compromise the father would have to make. The baby would thus be named after both grandfathers and father. Besides, "Bo" is a cool name!

Frazzled Mom said...

Oh what a pickle. I was reading your request and wondering, "How in the world will Swistle tackle this?"

I like naming traditions but ONLY when they create a sense of family pride and not a family rift! With that in mind, option 3 seemed like the fairest option to me. My big problem with options 1 and 2 is that we all know there very well may not be a second boy. Therefore I would find the promise of bestowing my family name on the second son not much of a consolation prize. I say just throw out all family names and give your son a different name.

If you do got with John Morgan III, I much prefer Trey or Trace over Trip. Besides being the Palin grandbaby, Trip reminds me of either tripping and falling or tripping on acid - not good images.

Frema said...

I agree with Frazzled Mom. Naming traditions are nice when all parties are in agreement that it's the most desirable thing to do. I don't know that the husband's wish to follow tradition should be more important than what he and Ashley originally talked about. I understand why he changed his mind - like Patricia said, it's different when you're talking about a hypothetical baby versus an actual one - but I don't think traditions should be held to the level that they are. I actually prefer "random" names for first names because they allow for variety in the naming pool and a little more individuality. I also agree with Frazzled Mom that saving a name for a hypothetical future boy is kind of a crapshoot. There's no way to guarantee another child will even be born, let alone a boy.

So... I guess I'm going with Option 3. When it comes down to it, nobody should be pressured into agreeing on a name for their child.

Anonymous said...

Yes, traditions are only good if BOTH parties wholeheartedly agree that it is their desire to follow them. Being talked into naming your child something only leads to regret. I vote that it would be better to pick a totally new first name, perhaps incorporating a family middle name. Don't let anyone pressure you into naming YOUR child something you don't love, especially your inlaws. My inlaws won't use my child's name (it's not the tradition required one) but that's only two stubborn people in a world of hundreds who call her by her real name, so I figure I still won.

Frema said...

Anonymous - How terrible that your in-laws won't acknowledge your child's real name! I don't even know how I would react in a situation like that. It wouldn't be pretty!

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I vote for choosing a brand new first name (option 3).

I'm not a fan of Jr.'s, III's, etc etc. And I really don't like it if it's not a choice of BOTH of the child's parents. You BOTH have a say in what this child is named, and so if you cannot agree then I feel the "veto" option has to be there, and you're just going to have to pick something else altogether. I think if one concedes to the other, it can later lead to some hidden resentments, and I think marriages need to avoid those tiny resentments. So you might have to veto and compromise in a way to avoid this.

And I love what Zesty Jenny said... they already get your husband's last name, and YOU do all the work having this child, you DEFINITELY get more of a say than him. ;-)

sarah said...

we are expecting a son on jan. 14. my husband is a III. the baby will be a IV, but he will go by a nickname that is different from the other 3 people who share the name. i like naming traditions and told my husband it was up to him whether the baby should be a IV or not.
my brother is also a III, and he decided not to name his son the IV.
if both ashley and her husband are not on board with the idea of a III, i think they should come up with a new name altogether.
if there's room for compromise, maybe they could name the baby John Morgan III but call him Morgan. at least then there wouldn't be as many John's to keep track of!

Anonymous said...

I find traditions that require a child to bear ALL the names of the paternal grandfather rather obnoxious. In most families, ALL of the children will already be named after the paternal grandfather by way of the surname. The first name AND the middle name to boot are just too much to ask unless mom and dad both love them.

Joanne said...

I think it's insane to name your baby something that you are not on board with. I think it can only lead to misery down the line. HOWEVER if you can get beyond it for the love of your husband, I say do it. I would not be able to, and this is why we threw out all family names before we started naming our kids, BUT I admire someone who could.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm one of the few in the world who feel that it's a great name. I have two close friends who just under went this same situation and they decided if the baby was a boy to give him the name of his father and call him by the middle name so there is no confusion. I'm sure a nickname wouldn't be out of the question. And I think fathers should be involved in helping name the child. I mean after all their sperm was the deciding factor here. Let's face it. Not everything in the world needs to be about the femenist movement. And don't get me wrong, I'm all for it, but you know what? It takes 2 people to create a life and 2 to raise it. Why can't the 2 name it???

Bottom line, Compromise folks, it's a wonderful thing!

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I did say the decision should be 50-50. And what's "compromise" and "the 2 name it" about having the father use the name the mother doesn't want? I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say. What compromise are you suggesting?

Patricia said...

It seems to me that this is not about naming the baby after one grandfather or the other, but about the baby's dad reconsidering and deciding now that he'd like his son to have the same name he has, thus naming him in the same way he was named (after his father). I agree with Anonymous that dads play an essential role in creating and raising a child and should have equal say in naming the child. In this case, John wants John Morgan III, while Ashley wants Bo Morgan. Naming the baby John Morgan III and calling him "Morgan" could be a compromise. Another compromise might be choosing a non-family name both parents like for the first name, with John -- after Dad -- for the middle name.

Sarah said...

Swistle--I believe that would be the compromise known to women around the world as "giving in."

Anonymous said...

I voted for option 2. BUT only if both parents are on board. (I think John Morgan is a great name, and I like the idea of calling him Morgan).
Do not name your baby something you don't LOVE. You only get so many babies to name, and you have to live with it forever. I would hate to regret a name or giving in. My sister 'gave in' and 16 years later she still talks about the name she didn't get to use. But now that I think about it, my mom had 6 kids and still talks about a name she didn't use. So maybe there will always be a name you love that you don't get to use. :)