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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Someone Just Used the Baby Name You Had in Mind

Delia writes:
I have a question that I am sure you have come across many times before, but I would like to hear your thoughts / your readers thoughts on it. It has to do with naming a child with the same name as one used in your social circle (or close to it). DH & I have been together for 5 years and recently decided to start trying for a baby. In our 1st year together we talked about kids and we decided back then already that if we have a son, we would call him Ethan - we both love the name, it sound good with our surname and it just felt (and still does feel) 'right'. Fast forward to the present and we found out today that some colleagues/ friends that had a baby boy last week have named him Ethan. Now, sure, it's not like we had a claim staked on the name and we didn't advertise the fact that we had chosen that particular name, but it feels like if we were to now name our child the same it would be kind of odd, even be seen to be 'copying' them. That being said, we are not as close with this couple or other friends of theirs that we also used to socialize with as we once were and speak to or hang out with them outside of work (we all work at the same company). I am of the opinion that if we aren't that close then it shouldn't matter, but DH feels the name should be up for review. Should we just abandon the idea of using Ethan and go back to the drawing board, or should we stick with it even if their is a bit of the weirdness factor thrown in?

In your case, I'd say it's pretty clear you can go right ahead and use the name. Ethan is a fairly common name, and at the very earliest the boys will be nearly a year apart, so I don't think anyone will make a connection as they might if the name in question were Edgar. If you feel a little awk, you can spread The Story of His Name: every time you tell what his name is, you can say that when you and your husband were in your first year of marriage, before you even knew when you would have a baby, you decided on Ethan as your boy name. Tell this story with stars in your eyes, and everything's fine: you've made it clear that your choice has nothing to do with anyone else's choice.

Any tips from the rest of you? Have you been in this situation, and what did you do?


Patricia said...

I totally agree with Swistle. I'd let it be known -- casually, with no references to your colleagues' new baby's name -- that Ethan is the name you and your husband have always planned to call your son and then if your first child is a boy, there he is -- YOUR Ethan.

AmyRobynne said...

I agree with that plan, too.

We have a similar situation in that we've planned to name our first daughter Eleanor/Elanor since before we were married 8 year ago. A decade and two sons later, we haven't had a chance to use it. My husband loves the LOTR Elanor reference. A year ago, one of his coworkers (at a school with about 70 faculty) named his daughter Elanor and my husband was devastated. On top of that, there have been at least 4 or 5 Eleanor/Noras born in my local parenting group in the past year or two. Although the name isn't super-high on lists in my state, it's clearly popular in my social circle, which has pretty much killed the name for me. After being one of 4 Amy's in my preschool class, I've always said I needed less common names for my kids. For the past year I've been nannying for a friend's 2 year old, who happens to be named Eleanor, nn Nora. I figure that's my chance to use the name -- I'm moving on to new girls' names, if a daughter is in our future. It seems different than the original poster's situation because we are close to the coworker and the friend I nanny for.

d e v a n said...

Yes, use it! We've had a girl's name picked out for years (we had 3 boys first and are about to have our girl).
Last year a mom joined our mom's group and we see her OFTEN. She named her baby "our" name. We are still using it!

pseudostoops said...

I got my name because 2 weeks before I was born, my parents' good friends had a baby and named her what my parents had planned to name me. First AND middle. Because my mom was attached to the nickname that went with their chosen name, they just chose a variant on that name, and added an "e" to my middle name (anne). But still. I got named because someone else took the name they really wanted! And you know what? Five years later they hardly knew those people anymore. Use the name you love.

Missy ~ said...

My husband and I dated in college and both watched the same soap opera since we were home in the afternoon. There was a character named Carly and we thought that was the best name and always said that would be our daughters name. 10 years later when we found out we were pregnant, we still wanted to use that name, only to find out my cousin just named his baby daughter Karly. We looked for another name and just couldn't find anything that felt right. My cousin lives far away and we aren't close, so we decided to use a name. The few times Carly and Karly have met, they think it's great they have the same name.

I say go for it!

Christina Fonseca said...

Ethan is #3 in popularity in the United States:
I have an Andrew and I am not ever surprised to meet others of any age. If you were choosing an uncommon name then it might make people wonder, but you're safe using Ethan.

Frazzled Mom said...

I can't say I can relate, because once someone I know, even a casual acquaintance, uses a name, it suddenly feels used up to me. But then again, I'm one who would prefer to name my baby Edgar over Ethan. In fact, the second choice name for my 2 year old daughter was Giada. I'm expected my second child, who will be a boy anyway, but if this child was going to be a girl, I just wasn't feeling Giada anymore, not only because I feel if it wasn't good enough for daughter 1, then it's not good enough for daughter 2, but because my daughter now has a friend named Gianna, and to me that's just too similar even if they aren't exactly the same name.

With that said, I think Swistle's advice makes perfect sense. And what pseudostoops said really stuck with me. It must be sort of a bummer to know that your name was influenced more by what someone else named their baby than what your parents really loved.

My own grandfather has a similar story. He was going to be named Donald Paul, and then another baby boy was born in the same hospital on the same day and named Donald Paul. At the last minute his parents decided to name him Paul Donald, but call him Don anyway. My grandfather feels they should have stuck with their original plan if they were going to call him Don. And my great grandparents didn't even know this family.

StephLove said...

I will join the chorus of those saying stick with Ethan if that's the one you love, especially since you are not close to the family in question.

TweePopACap said...

I don't really have anything new to add, but I'll just toss in another vote and say that I completely agree with what Swistle (and most previous posters) have said. Go for it!

Pocket said...

Oh, your story makes my stomach all queezy. I would hate for that to happen to me! My husband and I have had our boy and girl name picked out since we first started dating and I would be devestated if someone I knew used them! However, I would not hesitate to use them myself and I totally agree with Swistle that you should tell your naming story with stars in your eyes! I also agree that ten years down the road you may not even know these people anymore. Also, one more comment to add - we were discussing the idea of 'common' names with our friends Emily and Emily, who grew up together and went to the same school. One of them made this very astute observation..."I've always been in classes or had jobs where there were other Emily's. In the grand scheme of things, it really didn't matter." She totally didn't care that there were tons of other Emily's out there, because that was HER name. It made me rethink my stance on common names, so if you love Ethan, I say go for it!

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Oh yes, still use Ethan! Love Swistle's suggestion of sharing your story about it every now and then, sort of dropping the idea out there that you thought of it Many Years Ago. It's such a great boys name, so go for it!

I'm not married yet (but have been with my boyfriend for 5 years). Within the first few months of us dating, for whatever reason we named our future spawn, LOL. Owen for a boy, Sophia for a girl.

Just a couple of years ago, I reconnected with my mother's cousin through Facebook, and lo and behold -- she has a son named Owen. I just made sure to say it early, to my mom and to my mom's cousin, "Oh! Owen! I've *always said* that if I had a son I'd choose Owen, great name!". That way, if we stick with it, it's already out there that I'd thought of it before. Fortunately I'm really not close to this family member, and our Owen's will be years apart in age (if I even have a son in the future, something else to consider), but at least I've put my side of things out there.

I also had to recently intercept the Sophie thing because my Aunt nearly named her new dog "Sophie", so I quickly Let It Be Known that I'm going to name a future daughter Sophia/Sophie, and I'd love if a dog didn't have that name (this was my boyfriend's late grandmother's name, and it's a definite one for us if we have a girl in the future).

Virginia Ruth said...

Voting with everybody else here. I wouldn't even worry about it. There was a family that my siblings played with nearly every day when I was a kid. They had a Peter, and a couple of years later we did too. It didn't bother anyone, and it didn't even strike us as weird.

Even if this other couple lives under the misapprehension that you were inspired to use the name because of them, does it really matter? It's about you and your family: give your son the name you love.

The Gori Wife said...

I think the year+ age difference is a big kicker. And my kid has a really weird name and even *I* have come across kids with the same name, so it happens to most some time in their lives!

Also, I love the name Ethan. I once had a job with a nametag and was sitting playing with the nametag one day and my thumbs covered up the first and last letter of my name and all of a sudden I realized that Ethan in the center of my name. I was like, 20 at the time and had never noticed that. It was one of my top picks before I chucked them and started down a path of REALLY weird names.

Mama Cass said...

I was actually on the other side of this situation with my first daughter, Hailey. I was friends with a girl, mostly at work, and when I had my first, I quit my job. We rarely talked after that, and if so, it was a quick "how are you" kind of email. About a year later, she had a baby, and named her Hailey as well. Though we never discussed it, I'm sure it crossed her mind that it was the same name, and that we might cross paths from time to time.

I have no idea if my name choice actually triggered the idea for her, or if she'd planned it for years, and it really doesn't matter. The point is, she was picking a name for her of the most difficult decisions a soon-to-be parent has to make, and one that her daughter will carry with her for life. She had to pick the one that was right, regardless of other people. I was not offended at all.

And, funny enough, we actually have begun talking more recently, and keeping up with each other's kids a bit more, so where she maybe thought we would drift apart, and it would be no issue at all, we have drifted together, and now talk about "my Hailey" and "your Hailey"...which is completely fine.

Hailey, as with Ethan, is a common name right now, and for all you know, you will meet another new mommy in a playgroup down the road with her own Ethan, and the Ethans will be best friends. Just the way it goes! (Whew. I had no idea my answer would be so long! Hope that helps!)

Anna said...

I would go with Ethan, you love it so much and you would regret it.