Your Baby's Name Is Not a Battleground

Filed under: Relatives, Baby Names

Last time, I wrote about the desperate need for baby name manners among strangers. Today, I'd like to bring that closer to home. The most heated -- and saddest -- baby name conflicts I hear about happen within families.

Name choices are personal and powerful. They can strengthen bonds, but they can also drive wedges. When broader family conflicts are at work, they can even be used as weapons. The deeper problems are far beyond the scope of a baby name column. But within my name realm, I make this plea to parents: Whatever your family issues may be, please, never put your baby's name in the middle of them.

Every child deserves a name given in the spirit of love, one that will build bridges, not burn them. It's not fair for an innocent child to grow up with her name standing as a symbol of resentment. It's not responsible of you, as a parent, to knowingly give her a name that will hurt those around her. And if others do make the mistake of choosing a hurtful name, it's up to all of us grownups to look past the name and accept the child behind it.

Here is a sampling of letters I've received, as a reminder of the effect that callous name choices -- and overreactions to them -- can have. Let's all try to do better. (All names that follow were changed to protect the children's privacy.)

"My husband left me when my baby was 2 months old. Later I discovered that he's living with his affair of many years and he named my daughter after her name. Could I legally change her name? It is an agony to call my baby her name."

"We were in the long process of foster-adopting our 2-year-old daughter Victoria Rose (who had lived with us since she was three days old) when my husband's brother and his wife gave birth to their daughter and decided to name her Victorya Rose. Since the fathers are brothers, our girls have the same last names, too. My mother-in-law said she didn't intercede on our behalf because the newest granddaughter was 'blood related' and 'we weren't sure if you were keeping her.'"

"My sister had a child named Matthew. My friend started seeing my ex brother-in-law. She got pregnant and my ex brother-in-law did not marry her. She knew my sister had a Matthew with the same guy but she had the baby and named him Matthew. So now we have half brothers with the same name!"

"I had picked out my baby's name first. She was born one month before my cousin's. She named her baby the same name. I was angry and foolish. My cousin died shortly after, and her baby girl was left with no mom at the age of 4. I felt so guilty for being so petty."

If you have a baby name question of your own, Ask the Name Lady.

Related: I Gave My Baby the Wrong Name!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.