I love your blog, and thank you so much for being such a voice of reason in the baby naming madness!and
My husband and I are hoping you can help us find a name for our son, who is due in about three weeks. There are a WHOLE bunch of issues. Let me try to unpack them....
So to begin at the beginning, my name is Olivia and my husband is Charlton. We go by Liv and Charlie.
We are super hippie dippy ish, as my 12 year old would say (she came back from some sort of drug awareness day at school and asked us how much weed we had smoked) and that's part of the issue, kind of. Our kids have my last name (Hawke) in part because of the hippie-ness, in part because his last name rhymes with an insult (f-er) and in part because I'm an only child and he has two brothers. the kids do have his last name as a second middle name.
We have four spectacular daughters: Adelaide Miriam, Samantha Irene, Georgia Isabel, Eleanor Miranda. they sometimes go by Addy, Sammy, Georgie, and Ellie but its not how they are introduced or anything, more like family/friends. We love that they have long formal names plus fun nicknames.
So here's the real problem: my parents are dead, so the problem is really my husband's family. They are super traditional and they are all SO EXCITED that we are having a boy. I think that they think that we just kept having girls until we finally got a boy, which is so not even a tiny bit true. We love having girls. We think it will be fun to have a boy because it will be interesting to get to parent both, but its not like we KEPT getting pregnant so we could "finally get our boy" as my FIL says. We just wanted a big family! (and this will be our last child because we agreed on five, NOT because we are "finally getting our boy."
so anyway. in Charlie's family the longstanding tradition is to give the firstborn boy (which this is) is to name is Charlton-Absurd Middle Name That Is The WASPiest Name You Can Imagine-Last Name That Rhymes With A Playground Insult. (Charlie is a fourth). the trouble is we don't like any of those names. Charlton is all NRA-y (see hippie dippie) the middle name is absurd, and this baby's last name will be Hawke, like the other kids. His parent aren't happy about that either.
but there is a LOT of pressure to Do It The Right Way, which means giving the baby this name we don't like. and the other thing is, both of us kind of feel like we don't want our girls to think for even a second that they aren't valued, or that The Boy is somehow better than them beacuse he has a penis, or WHATEVER. and although they all have middle names that have meaning to us--special friends, or influential people--none of them have family names. and I love my husband and would love to honor him with our son's name--but I don't exactly want to honor his father/grandfather etc, and also I HATE the name, and he isn't fond of it either...but it would mean so much to his parents. Ugh. No idea what to do.
So....what on earth do we do here?
(you can probably get a sense of our style from the girls names but some boys names we both like are William, James, Henry, Isaac, Edward, and Sebastian--though a couple of those are out so we dont repeat initials).
wow, i wrote you a lot. feel free to edit and delete parts!
and THANK YOU!!!!
I have one more....data point! The baby is due next week (eeeeeeeek) and my husband and I are just not sure what to do. My MIL called me last night weeping because she says that the idea of not having a grandson named after her husband makes her too sad. Which...what? On the one hand, wtf. On the other hand, I actually LIKE my MIL most of the time, and even though there are lots of things about us she doesn't approve of she has been really kind to me, especially as I don't have a mom anymore, and she is a really great grandma to my girls. So...what on earth do I do? We are kind of thinking about using Charlton as this baby's middle name but we don't LIKE it that much and also then we again have the issue of not wanting the girls to feel like they were undervalued because they ddin't get a family name.
I asked Addy (12) what she thinks yesterday and she says that it would bother her some not to be named after either parent if her brother was but that she'd get over it....
Thanks for any help!
I really see the pressure here. I see why it will be difficult not to name your son after his father. I can see why your in-laws are so invested in it, and so upset about it. It's a painful situation all around, especially since no one wants to hurt anyone else.
But neither you nor your husband wants to use the name. The pressure does not trump that. You may CHOOSE to allow the pressure to trump that, if you wish, and some families do make that decision. But it comes down to this: there is no way for everyone in this situation to be happy, and the job of naming the baby is yours and your husband's.
Furthermore, you've already decided to give your children your husband's surname as a second middle name and your surname as their surname. Changing now would only make sense if you'd had a prior plan---something like "All the girls will have my surname and all the boys will have yours." Changing for the fifth child in order to meet your in-law's preferences seems wrong, and confusing.
Wait---re-reading the letter, it sounds like you'd give the baby your surname regardless. If your son is going to be a Hawke, then it doesn't matter what his other names are, he won't be a Fifth, and the tradition is broken regardless; I don't see any reason at all to use a first and middle name you don't like just to please your in-laws, when it won't even satisfy their naming tradition.
In fact, I'm ready to make a call here: if the baby is going to be Hawke, then no, don't name him the family names. Your mother-in-law doesn't get to name the baby, even if you love her and even if she cries. She named her own babies, and this is a "put the foot down" situation, similar to if she was insisting you buy a house she liked instead of one you liked, or insisting you wear clothes she liked instead of ones you liked, or insisting on another first/middle name not connected to the family. Perhaps one of her other sons will name a son after her husband. And if not, that is sad for her but that's the way it is: we do not go around pressuring other people to honor our family members with namesakes, just because it makes us sad if they don't.
If you decide not to use the name, and to continue with your household's tradition of the children getting their mother's surname, two things need to happen immediately: first, your husband needs to talk to his parents and tell them that their family name will not be used (I assume he doesn't need to be instructed to emphasize that this is what HE wants, since their inclination might be to assume otherwise); and second, all discussion with the in-laws on the topic needs to stop. If your mother-in-law calls you in tears, she needs to be told very kindly and understandingly that you're very sorry she's unhappy, that you wish this decision wasn't making her so unhappy---but that the decision has been made.
One thing that can make me quite upset about family naming traditions is that they can cause this kind of pressure---and the pressure builds with every generation. And the pressure is unwarranted and unfair: each set of parents gets to name their OWN babies---not the babies of their descendents. Naming traditions allow previous generations to name their own babies AND other people's babies. Furthermore, it makes the decision without the consent of people who will marry into the family in the future---traditionally speaking, the women. If everyone likes this idea, it's fine; but more often, people do it because no one can stand to be the one to break it. It's unfair, and I believe the concept that it is perfectly within the parents' rights to break such traditions should be more widespread.
Your idea of giving him the name Charlton _ucker as middle names might be a way to please your in-laws partway, without it being a capitulation: they're still losing their Fifth, and they lose the first name. It's common for a boy to be given his father's first name as a middle name, and a name you dislike wouldn't be as big a deal in the middle name position; and yet it may help to comfort and please your in-laws who have also gotten caught up in the pressure caused by this naming tradition.
Name update! Liv writes:
Hi again! We want to thank you for all of your help. We SO appreciate it, and the comments were wonderful!
The baby was born yesterday and he's beautiful. In the end we decided NOT to go with the tradition (we would have used my surname anyway, but he would have had the rest of the name--and I think my MIL hoped that he'd drop the Hawke part eventually...) but we kind of sort of compromised on the middle name. Kind of.
In the end, just a couple days ago, we decided that we just felt too weird giving our son the name of one of his parents while NONE of the girls had my name anywhere. maybe we were overthinking it, but maybe not! So Charlie called my MIL and told her that we were not using the name and we didn't want to hear another thing about it, but that *I* wanted advice on what to use as the middle name, My MIL was pretty upset at first, but she called back the next day and told me that she understood (awww!) and asked if we'd consider using the name of someone special to their family. She explained that they had a good family friend, now deceased, who really helped my in laws to raise their boys. He sounded like a great guy and my husband certainly remembers him that way, so I agreed--the name is not QUITE my style, but it's not bad, and it meant a lot to my in-laws and felt like a good compromise--a name that's important to them but doesn't carry on the whole patriarchy thing, and like the girls is named for a nonfamily member who is very important. and then for the first name, we just chose the name from our list we liked best (well, we kind of liked Sebastian best, but REALLY didnt want to repeat initials!)
So our son is Isaac Malachi. We love his name. I like that purely by chance he has I and M as initials, and the girls all have middle names that start with I or M. Not intentional but nice! Addy started calling him Baby Ike and now we are all doing it....
Thank you again SO MUCH. you really, really made us feel like it was OK to do what we wanted to do!