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Friday, February 5, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Dealing With the Family's Reaction

Rachael writes:
We decided that no matter what we name our baby, we weren't going to tell anyone the name until the kid was born. My family has a habit of ruining names for mommies in the family, and our name choices, while not the most unusual, were not very common either. I wasn't sure if they'd like the names or not, and inevitably there would always be someone who said, "Really? You're naming your baby ______? Why not _______?" So we just wanted to avoid it altogether. So, since we weren't spilling the name, we went ahead and found out the gender, just to give everyone something to get excited about, and we found out it's a GIRL! Yes, everyone is very excited. I get emails periodically from my mom and my aunts that say things like, "I know you already have a name, but here's my list, just in case," - which is fine, I don't mind that at all. My question for you is - do you really think that waiting until the baby is born will help ease the shock of a "non-traditional" name? All this time I've been telling myself that no one will care what the name is when they're holding that beautiful baby, but now that we're closer to "go time," I'm not so sure! And how do you deal with a family who has made trips to the hospital for the sole purpose of getting one of their own to change a baby's name? I'm just wondering what you and your readers would do with this situation. I mean, we have to tell them the name eventually.....right?

Oh dear. It's true that not every family will respond well to the Surprise Name Reveal, even if they have the darling baby in their arms when they hear it. Some families are opinionated, and outspoken, and aren't as easily squelched as others.

One option would be to get it over with ahead of time in the hopes that you wouldn't have to deal with it in the hospital. I mean, I know this leaves you without a reveal of any kind, but perhaps that would be better.

Sometimes cheery frankness can help. "Okay, guys, at this point we're NOT going to change her name! Enough! Now hold her so I can drink this beer." "Now DON'T come all the way down here just to try to change my mind like you did when Michelle had her baby! The name is SET IN STONE. But do feel free to come all the way down here to bring me doughnuts." "If you think you have something negative to say about the name, do please remember that I will resent you FOR ALL TIME, and still the name will be unchanged, and when she is older I will tell her you don't like her name and she will resent you too." "Uh-uh-uh! I sense you are about to say something unpleasant about the non-returnable name. Here, put a doughnut in there instead." "*clap clap* All right! It is time to move on to the acceptance stage!"

Everyone share stories: How did you brace for possible Name Complaints from friends and family? Did your ideas work or not? And what did you do if they didn't work?


JCF said...

Ooh--great question! I was just wondering to myself how to deal with family members who get upset that we are not sharing the name ahead of time! My family doesn't sound nearly as difficult to deal with name-wise as yours, but we didn't keep it a secret the first time and got a lot of negative comments from a handful of people, so we decided to keep things a secret until after the birth from there on out. I'm currently pregnant with my third, and my MIL and SIL are steamed that we don't tell them our list.

If I were in your shoes, I might say something BEFORE the birth like, "We just want to let you know ahead of time that the name we chose is not terribly common and we recognize that some of you might not like it. But please remember that WE love it and that it is the name of our daughter. Please be respectful. You will not change our minds and only stand to hurt our feelings if you share negative thoughts."

What I tell my MIL and SIL is that we don't ever have a name solidly chosen before the birth and that we like being surprised both by gender and the name on the birth day, as well as surprising others. That's just what we're doing. Sorry.

MelissaInk said...

I think the surprise name reveal works well for most people. However, your family doesn't sound like most people :)

I think JCF's advice sounds very solid - let them know ahead a time that they may not like it, but you and your husband love it. We're not changing our mind. That's that.

My mom and my husband's family didn't care for our first one's name (which we told everyone ahead of time), and we didn't change it. It was ::our:: name for ::our:: children. Their annoying comments didn't get us down and now no one says a thing about it. As a matter of fact, I'd say all of them think it's pretty cool now.

If/when we have a third, we will not be sharing the name with our families until the birth day. Now that we have two named, they sort of know what to expect - something a bit left of traditional, probably not something they would choose (or even think of), but something they'll learn to love.

Wow, can't wait to hear the updated on this one!

Michelle said...

Here's my story...

With my son, we shared our ideas and got VERY negative response for my first choice (Connor.) So for my daughter, I decided like hell was I telling anyone the name. For months and months I held out, until my mom casually mentioned that my cousin (who was due a month before me) had chosen the name Lyla. We had the name Lila picked literally before I was ever even pregnant, so of course I was devastated.

But we both went ahead with our names and that was that.

I definitely think that the bursting into tears upsetness I had staved off any negative comments from my mom, but I really didn't want to entertain them. Funny enough, she's already asked what names we're thinking for future children, and I cautiously revealed one and got a bad reaction. So, that just deepened my resolve to keep the name a secret next time (though probably not the sex.)

I say wait and announce it in such a way that makes it CLEAR that you do not want to hear any dissenters!

beyond said...

When my SIL announced her baby's gender and name when she was 5 months pregnant, I caught myself thinking: "Such a sweet name!... but so darn popular... wow...I would never choose a name in the top 20 for my kid...!" Of course I didn't say anything, heaven knows everyone can name their baby what they like, but that proved to me that everyone has an opinion of some sort when they learn of a baby's name, even zen old me.
Most people I know announce baby's name at birth. You're in a tricky situation. perhaps if you tell them before birth, they will have time to accept the name (and respect your wishes not to be belligerent about it) when you're in the hospital. Because that would be an awful time to have to deal with confrontational family members.
Good luck!

Clare said...

Could you give your relatives a list of names you are considering? Your choice to include the name you've actually selected or not! We did that when people asked us what name we had picked out: "Well, we haven't decided on anything yet, but these are some we like...." Of course, they will still offer their commentary, but if you don't give them the "real" name, they won't be able to say anything negative about it. And you'll still have indulged their need to discuss your name choices.

d e v a n said...

By the time I'd had my 3rd and 4th babies, I had learned my lesson about sharing names. We wrote on the family webpage that we had decided on a name and it was FINAL and that we welcomed all SUPPORTIVE and nice comments, and no others. Thank you very much.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I'm not married/pregnant yet, etc... but I've just made the conscious decision to keep my future name choices within the realm of what my mom will be okay with. She once told me, "if you name your child something 'made-up' I'll just call it a different 'normal' name anyway".

Mostly, this plan works for me because I actually like the same style as her -- but every now and then I test the waters with names I like to hear her reaction. I wouldn't let her stop me from naming my child what I want to name it, but I figure I'll just prepare myself now to make life easier on us all.

For example, my boyfriend is Polish and sometimes he mentions SUPER POLISH names that are like, so not heard of here in Canada (he was born here, but his parents were immigrants in the 1980s to Canada)... so I've already let him know: we can choose a name that has a Polish version, but we need a Canadian/regular sounding name or else my family will be having none of it! LOL.

Anyway, that's just my little Family and Naming Issue.

I don't know what the right answer is for you, it's so dependent on how your family is -- but mostly, you just need to be strong in your conviction that YOU get to choose YOUR baby name because they got to choose YOUR name/their own names! I think being strong-willed is what it takes.

Anonymous said...

I would try to give them something ahead of time, just to ease the shock. So pick a list of five that are all similar in style that includes your selected name and say something like "oh we've narrowed it down to these five" (or three or whatever number you feel comfortable with). That way, when you do announce it, they won't be SHOCKED but will be all "oh I remember that one was on your list." The hardest part of this is accepting whatever they say about the list of potentials and the comments that could be said about the name you've picked. But if you truly love the name and are set, then that won't be a problem.

We just had a baby named in our family and NO ONE was fond of the name but I think it did help that we knew it was in the running.

Erin said...

Oh! I almost never comment here, but THIS topic: I have EXPERIENCE!

My parents did NOT like the names we chose for either of our boys (Calum and Emmett). My mother, when I finally confronted her about it said, "Well, I'll get used to it, I GUESS." (EEEEK!)

And you know, they DID get used to it. And now they actually love the names.

My only real advice is HUMOR. I laughed at them for being so squeemish (sp?) about the names. It made it easier for me to deal with their semi-disapproval. And now it makes for a pretty decent family story.

Lara Jane said...

Like Erin, I have experience.

I've told this story approximately 6834729 times on NE-related forums, but here it goes again.

Everyone hated our choice, which we announced to our immediate families and then widely at our baby shower. Not to mention, I worked in a department store at the mall when I was pregnant, and everyone who asked the time hated it, too.

Literally. Everyone. Hated. It.

The reactions we got? "Ew, that's a name for an old man!" and "Do you want him to grow up to be a farmer?" and "What a nerdy/dorky name!" and of course, "You're not really going to give that name to your sweet baby, are you??" My mother vowed to call him only by his middle name.

My husband, who initially disliked the name (which we discussed and chose before we got married, around 3 years before our nerdy old farmer was born), kept me steady through all the criticism. After all, I never cared what people thought of me up to that point, why should I let their opinions sway one of the most important decisions of our lives?

So we stuck to our guns and I'm so glad we did, because I can't imagine any other name for my dude. And yes, he's a little bit nerdy. And if he wants to be a farmer, that's fine by me. Of course, he will be an old man someday, Lord willing. So his name is golden. :)

The one annoying part? He'll be 10 this year and I am hearing his name all over the place for new babies and toddlers. So all of a sudden it's good enough? Bah. I just keep telling myself that we blazed a trail! :)

Lara Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lara Jane said...

oops. I see typos!

"...everyone who asked the name hated it, too."

And we had 3 baby showers. Where we cringed uncomfortably while people discussed the names they thought we should be giving him instead. LOL

Lindsay said...

I also rarely comment, but have experience here as well. I did the same as others and gave a list of five names including the one that we chose. I emailed the list out and said, "feel free to guess and have fun with it, but I don't want to hear what you like, don't like; which name was the name of a mean girl at your cousin's elementary school, etc."

it worked for me!

g~ said...

I find that the "well, it could have been MUCH WORSE" response semi-effective. You know, the "we could have named her Tequila" response. I also find the sharp, easily-dismissed-as-exhausted-pregnancy-post-birth-hormones response, "WELL YOU GOT/GET TO NAME YOUR CHILD/DOG WHATEVER YOU WANTED/WANT AND I GET THE SAME PRIVILEGE OF CHOOSING THE NAME MY CHILD MAY HATE" in all caps, just like that, with a wounded, tired expression does the trick. We, too, are the in the "no one liked our grand reveal name" camp but NOW, four years later, everyone admits that it suits her perfectly. We also went with a more acceptable middle name to soothe the "unusual first name" wrinkles. Although, quite honestly, no one uses her middle name.

Frazzled Mom said...

To be blunt, your family sounds like a real pain in the arse when it comes to names. Based on what you shared about family members actually going to the hospital in an attempt to change a baby's name AFTER it was born tells me these people are control freaks in the extreme. It also tells me that you will never find a name that pleases everyone in your family and therefore you should give up on pleasing your family and stick to your guns.

With our first, we kept the name a secret from everyone until the birth and I'm glad I did. My MIL kept trying to figure out the name and I know that was because she would have been the one to try to change our minds if she didn't like the name. I'm pregnant again, and this time I've told a few people who I know are laid back, mostly because I'm going with my last choice name this time since my husband seems pickier and vetoed everything and I'm not excited about our choice.

This could backfire though. My grandmother actually told me she WANTS to be surprised and doesn't want to know the name, and that's good because we are using my grandfather's silent first name and I think they will be thrilled with the choice. But one of the friends we told keeps asking "How is Paul doing?" every time we see him. We are having a birthday party for our daughter this weekend, where both my grandparents and this friend are going to be there, and I cringe at the thought that this friend could ask, "How's Paul?" in front of these grandparents.

I say it's always smarter to keep the name a secret until birth.

Bethtastic said...

I'm giggling at the GALL of some people you other commenting friends are related to! Crazy.

When we found out the sex of our two kids, we told names immediately. In fact the way we "announced" it was by doing up a tacky t-shirt with the baby's name and an arrow pointing to my belly (yes, tacky, but I'm a teacher and the students all loved, there's that).

With our first, her name is Tara, I initially sported my pink name shirt at a family Christmas. My rude-but-loveable Aunt immediately said so you have a Terror Pester (that's our last name), she should be an easy child. And I simply said, really? We just announced the name of our first baby and all you can do is say something negative?
And no one ever said anything again. Nor did they ever think of saying anything about our little boy, Tim.

But then again, we didn't pick unusual, trendy, or even terribly popular names.

Still. The GALL of people! :)

Pocket said...

Wow! Great advice. Honestly, I was much more worried about revealing our boy name than our girl name, so I hope that since it's a girl there won't be too much back lash at the hospital. In my opinion, it's the most beautiful sounding name you've ever heard when you say it out loud, even if it is a name that you rarely hear. At least around our area, anyway. We're saving the boy name for a potential second child (or third, or fourth...) so that might be a long secret to keep! I've already told my family WHY we're not sharing the name, so they are very aware that we have no interest in their opinions, suggestions or judgements! I'm sure it will be fine, I just always worry about disappointing someone.

Sarah said...

I think a nice easy way out is to choose a common/familiar/family middle name. Bonus points if it's one your family suggested. Then they'll comfort themselves by saying, "Well, she can always use her middle name!" And then they will leave you alone.

K said...

I just had my first baby about 4 months ago. We named her after my husband's grandmother (her first name even though she goes by her middle name) and my own grandmother. We wanted to surprise them with the name when she was born so we only told a few people. And they knew it was a surprise. (We also didn't know the gender).

Anyway, I was afraid that we'd get funny looks and negative comments but we've only gotten good feedback. It helps that she's named for two people. Everyone loves that.

I think you should tell your family that you are not interested in any of their negative comments before you have the baby. I would've been very upset if I'd been told anything ugly on birth day.

Anonymous said...

No one liked our son's name, Derek, when he was born 7 years ago. I just smiled and told them all, "It's the one name hubby and I didn't fight over so I l-o-v-e it!"

But sometimes, honestly, I think it might not be a terrible thing to get a little bit of feedback from loved ones. My s-i-l chose the name Beaux for their youngest son. Right after he was born I commented, "You might want to consider the spelling -- they might call him 'Bo-ax' because they don't know." She hadn't considered that and (thankfully because not even her husband liked the name!) they decided to go with a completely different name that fits my nephew to a T. I felt bad about being the big-mouth, but it was said with love, I don't think they resented it, and it turned out okay in the end.

No matter what, this is YOUR baby. Swistle's suggestions were fantastic and had me ROFL. :-)

Brittany said...

I think you should give them a list of names with a few on there that are really crazy. Ones that you know they will absolutely hate! That way when you tell them the real name you picked, when the baby is born, they will just be relieved its wasn't one of the really horrible ones!

Anonymous said...

We have experience here too, my son's name is Chuck and my husband and I LOVE it, it suits him perfectly, but almost everyone else does not. I really don't care but sometimes I do feel badly for him. His actual given name is Charles so that in the future if he wants to go by something else he has that option, but I am always amazed by the comments I get from people about his name. The most common one is when people ask what his name is, and I reply 'Chuck' they say, 'Chuck, really... but so what do you actually call him?' It always amazes me. My answer every time is an incredulous 'um, Chuck, that's his name'.

My MIL insisted on calling him Charlie for the first month of his life, she even introduced him to her friends that way. I just ignored it and told everyone that his name wasn't Charlie, but it was Chuck and that if they didn't like Chuck they could call him Charles (since that is his actual given name) but nothing else was acceptable. My father now calls him Charles and my MIL has given him the nickname of 'Goober' - I have NO idea why. It is frustrating because I want to say to them, how would you like it if I just decide to call you something completely different than your actual name?!! But the best revenge for me is when they are trying to get his attention and calling him names other than Chuck, he doesn't realize that they are talking to him so he doesn't react. That makes me feel good since they eventually have to resort to saying Chuck to get him to look at them!!

We waited until after he was born to reveal the name, but as you can see it didn't necessarily help us. I reasoned that once the baby is born and named, there is no way of changing it (without some serious paperwork) and so people would have to like it. I think though, no matter what you pick, someone won't like it, so you might as well go with something at least you like so that when you have to defend it, at least you have a good reason.

Good luck!

Sara said...

This post could easily be about my husband's family. We told them what we were going to name our daughter waaay back when we first found out we were having a girl, yet AT THE HOSPITAL, they were STILL mispronouncing it on purpose, & laughing when my husband's eight-year-old cousin said it was weird, & that SHE preferred another name. UGH.

We just plain. Old. Ignored. Them. Every time. Corrected them. Told them it was a beautiful name. Told them they were acting like idiots by mispronouncing it over&over again. & informed them that they were not going to give her a nickname, & we were not going to acknowledge it if they tried to give her a nickname.

Sheer stubbornness won out. Cards come to our house with her beautiful full name addressed on them, & we've never heard a nickname (even though my mother-in-law tried to suggest an "alternative" nickname to what would be the standard nickname for our daughter's name...suggested this AT MY BABY SHOWER!).

It MAY have helped that we used my husband's paternal grandmother's name for the middle name, & she is commonly called by both her first&middle names.