What’s worse: Announcing your baby’s name to ho-hum or negative responses, or having your child come home from school in tears because of name teasing? What about when your adult child uses his or her middle name because the first name you chose isn’t “good enough” anymore?
These examples of Birth Announcement Letdown and Baby Name Regret are equally bad, if you ask me. They occur when parents don’t do their “homework” and pick a name without considering if it will ultimately work for their child. Books like 5-Star Baby Name Advisor and The New Baby Name Survey Book (Meadowbrook Press) help parents avoid the practical problems that lead to Birth Announcement Letdown and Baby Name Regret.
Birth Announcement Letdown happens when you proclaim your baby’s name to your relatives and friends and immediately get the sense that they don’t love the name as much as you do. You can tell a lot about a name by listening to their knee-jerk, unedited feedback. When you choose a great name, people will say, “I love it!” or “I wish I’d picked that for my baby!” When you choose a less-than-great name, though, people will pause to make sure they don’t say something rude. They might just say, “Oh.” Worst of all, you may receive disbelieving feedback if you pick a name that’s too unique. Think about your own reaction to odd celebrity baby names like Apple. I’m guessing you mumbled, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
You can brush off negative feedback if you suspect it’s nothing more than personal bias (maybe Grandma is miffed you didn’t name your daughter after her). More often than not, though, you should pay attention to not-so-great feedback. For example, you’ll know you picked a name with practical problems if someone asks, “How do you spell that?” or “Is it a boy or a girl?” or “How do you pronounce that name?”
Whereas Birth Announcement Letdown happens immediately, Baby Name Regret may not occur until years later. As time goes by, your child will use the name you’ve selected in a variety of situations—everything from the first day of kindergarten to a job interview. Even if you initially get positive feedback with the birth announcement, your child may discover later on that the name is hard to live with.
If your child’s name is difficult to spell and/or pronounce, it will cause needless irritation every time he or she corrects a teacher, classmate, or future employer. Your child may eventually become resigned to introducing herself as “Sara without an h” or writing her name “Alicia—there’s no ‘e’ in it.” Names that are too formal or too informal can also cause lifelong problems. A formal name like Honor (Jessica Alba’s daughter) may be cumbersome for a little girl, while an informal name like Maddie (Jamie Lynn Spears’ daughter) may be silly for a grown woman.
If you pick a name at the top of the popularity charts to help your child “fit in,” you may be surprised when he or she later complains about sharing the name with several classmates. On the other hand, if you pick a unique name on the theory that it will make your child feel special, he or she may feel like an outsider with a strange name that’s the subject of teasing at school. And of course, if you don’t give much thought to how ingenious children can be about name teasing, you will be caught off guard when your son comes home crying because someone called him “Luke the Puke.”
Perhaps the most insidious cause of Baby Name Regret is when you or your child discovers that the name has an unfavorable first impression. You may not realize it, but people form an impression based on the first thing that pops into their minds when they see or hear your child’s name. When people think of the name Marilyn, for example, they picture a blond, sexy woman like Marilyn Monroe. Is that the impression you want for your daughter? Even if your child’s name isn’t associated with a celebrity, it still creates an immediate impression. A name like Myron has a nerdy come-off your child may or may not be able to shake throughout life.
If you want to prevent Birth Announcement Letdown and Baby Name Regret, there’s no substitute for doing your homework: reading books that specifically deal with practical issues like 5-Star Baby Name Advisor and The New Baby Name Survey Book. It’s the smart new way to select a name for your baby. These books actually do your homework for you. All you have to look up the names you and your partner like best—and then be willing to reconsider your choices based on the practical advice you learned. In addition, you can also pre-test names on friends and acquaintances so you or your child won’t discover a name’s problems too late. With these simple “assignments,” odds are high that you will pick a name you, your child, and everyone else will love.
© 2008 Bruce Lansky
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