Parents sometimes attempt to name their children into the life they wish for them. If that sounds wrong, consider that it’s only one of a zillion ways we choose for our children: where we live, how we educate them, what our family does with free time, the belief systems we pass on both intentionally and through daily living.
But does it work?
Ample evidence suggests no. At least – not reliably. Religious families have kids who fall away from their faith. Liberal families raise conservative kids. (Hello, 80s sitcom Family Ties based an entire seven-season sitcom around that ol’ chestnut.) From their earliest days, our kids are uniquely themselves – and that’s a gift.
We do tend to make snap judgements about people based on the tiniest of details. Despite my best efforts, I suspect I would react differently to a kid named, say, Legend than a kid called Peter. Because names can be these tiny packets of information. Mostly about the kids’ parents, I suppose. But that’s not nothing.
If Legend gets a different reaction … does that make Legend, over time, a different kind of kid? Do teachers expect him to be disruptive? Do they recommend Peter for the advanced math class over him, even if their grades are similar? Is Legend automatically the cool kid, the one who takes the lead on the playground?
And if so … should it change the names we choose?
My gut tells me that naming is a small part of the values and ideals we pass on. It’s unnecessary pressure to find a name outside of our preferences because, well, those preferences will make themselves known in countless other ways.
And yet … I wonder. What do you think?
- Lists like this one baffle me. Chrysanthemum is recommended, but Olga will scar your kid for life? I don’t get it.
- National Park Names, on the other hand? Yes, please! It makes me love choices as different as Frederica and Cade. And everything in between.
- I’m not sure how wearable these Ladino names are if your family isn’t of Judeo-Spanish heritage, but I’m fascinated by such lists. Also, anything to reclaim Allegra from allergy medicine.
- The latest book I read included a major character named Jane, nicknamed Jinx. Everything about Jinx appeals to me, but it’s just not a name I could give to a daughter. Maybe even as a nickname. See my thoughts about whether a name causes others to treat you differently, above.
- Curious thing: every week, I pour through the search terms that lead readers to this site. (That’s the source of the trending names that appear at the end of every post.) Lately, there’s a steady uptick of searches asking if Rebecca/Agnes/Margie/Marie/Jeannie/Lydia/Peggy are other names for Elizabeth. My theory? LOTS of children were baptized Elizabeth, but called by a different name over the years for so many reasons. And now their descendants are trying to figure out why there’s a mismatch in the records. Officially, none of those names are linked in any way to Elizabeth. And yet … I had a great-grandmother who answered to Katie when she came to America as an Italian Chiara. She’s listed as both in various official records. (Because we live in an age where a missing middle initial on your plane ticket can be a hassle, we forget that, pre-databases, records weren’t the same.) Has this happened in your own family? There must be thousands of stories …
- The New Names Showdown continues, and your vote matters. Weigh in on the Boys’ SemiFinals matches here, and don’t forget to vote in the Girls’ contests here, too.