You helped us name our last baby (Baby Girl or Boy Young), and I know you are a much busier girl these days, but I'm hoping you and your readers will be able to help us with our current name dilemma.
We are adopting a five-year-old boy from Eastern Europe, and we have definitely decided to keep his first name as his first name, though we will probably use a different nickname than he currently goes by. Our plan for the past few months has been to give him a middle name that we have always wanted to use for a boy (we have four girls) but probably wouldn't now because we have already used the same initial for one of our daughters. It seemed like a perfect fit. We both love the name, we love the meaning, we love how it sounds with his first name. Why look any further, right?
Here's the hitch. My mother-in-law has mentioned to both hubby and me that she feels it would be a shame for our little man not to have a family middle name, since all of our girls have a family name either as a first name or a middle name. I know this isn't her kid to name, but I do appreciate her input, and she makes a valid point. Will our little guy feel like we don't really accept him as part of our family if he doesn't have a family middle name?
It had crossed my mind before she brought it up (twice), but I rationalized it away, thinking that his first name reflects his heritage/where he comes from (like a family name does for our girls) and his middle name will be our gift to him - something we love and that is very special to us. Each of our girls has one family name and one name we just loved; we aren't into giving him two middle names, so one or the other has to give, right?
If it helps to talk in more concrete terms, his first name is three syllables and starts with N. The middle name that is *the* name we've always loved for a boy is Barnaby. It means "son of encouragement", and while I generally agree wholeheartedly with your take on names and meanings, this meaning seems pretty well-agreed-upon and also so very perfect. The main family name that has come to mind is Dickson, which bears some resemblance both in sound and meaning to his current middle name. Maybe that way he gets a middle name that is a cool sort of bridge from where he came from to the rest of his life, but we just don't love it like we do Barnaby.
I guess this is as much an adoption psychology question as a name question, but I trust you and your readers will have some valuable insight to share anyway. Thank you!
Oh, what a VERY INTERESTING question!
My FEELING is that, in general, if there is a good story for why each name was chosen, children won't have that "left out" feeling: that is, if three girls have L names and the fourth girl gets a N name but the parents talk about how they fell in love with the name when etc. etc. etc., all the children will likely feel well-contented in a way they wouldn't if the parents shrugged and said, "I dunno, we just ran out of L names."
But you're right: an adoption situation makes this a much trickier dilemma.
Here is one way to spin the story for even a non-adoption situation, though it makes a few assumptions we wouldn't want to make too firmly. The gist would be that a girl might decide to give up her family surname when she gets married, so it's nice for her to have family middle name as well; but boys almost always keep their family surname, so.... I mean, I'm not sure how you'll end that sentence, and it can be a bit of a minefield when we're talking about what children might do with their names later on, but that would be the concept: that the divide is between the girl names in your family and the boy names in your family (just as any family might use common names for boys and unusual for girls, or family names for boys but not for girls, or father's-side names for girls and mother's-side names for boys, or M names for girls and J names for boys, or WHATEVER), not between the non-adopted names and adopted names. Possible future complication: if you have another boy later on.
I think the concept you've already come up with is much better: that his first name IS his family name, or serves the same intention as the girls' family names. When telling the story, I would snip the part about not being able to use Barnaby because it repeats an initial, and just focus on how it was a name you loved so much and were dying to use and wanted to make your gift to him. This avoids tricky girl vs. boy issues, and also wouldn't be a problem with any future boy: your naming style becomes consistent as soon as you say that you choose one name you love and one name of significance (rather than "a family name").
But I also admit a bias based on nothing but personal preferences: I think Barnaby makes a great middle name, and "Dickson" is a little awkward. Not DEALBREAKER awkward, but changes in slang terms has caused many a Richard to change his nickname to Rich.
Well! I don't know! This is definitely a pickle! What do the rest of you think?
Name update! Jodi writes:
I wanted to update you on our sweet little boy from Eastern Europe. We actually had to name him (with very little warning, while in the backseat of a car) on our first trip to his country about seven months ago, but I wanted to wait until he was home to update so that I could send a picture. He is finally home!
Thanks largely to the response from your readers (escpecially the ones who have some experience with adoption), we decided that he did need a family name like all of his sisters have. His name is Nikolai Dickson Y. and we're calling him Niko. I love everything about his name, and I am thankful for your and your readers' help!
In the meantime of our long wait to bring him home, we also managed to add another family member in the usual way, and we even named her without anyone's help! Her name is Coraline Audrey, but had she been a boy, hubby says he would have pushed for Barnaby, so I guess we're not ready to slide it to the middle name slot yet after all.