Memory Lane: The Name Game

In honor of all the soon-to-be Twitter parents I know who are picking a name for their first or second or fourth babies.

Picking a name for a child is fraught with the possibilities of familial conflict. I must say that Dan and I were (are) pretty lucky. Although my MIL had names for all her grandchildren picked out, she knew full well that her children and children-in-law were going to name their kids.

(To wit, here are the names my MIL picked out: boy names were John Phillip and… ah! I can’t remember; girl names, Savannah and Philadelphia (yeah, IDK). Then she met my grandmother, and decided either I or my SIL had to have twin girls that we would name Olivia and Olympia.)

Obviously, none of these names came to pass. If my own parents had strong opinions about what we should name the children, they never told us.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel, Dan and I did not find out the sex of the baby. (I suspected he was a boy from the get-go, though.) When we talked names, I said if L’il Bean was a girl, I wanted to name her Flora Marie or Maria. Flora was his grandmother’s name, and Marie is the middle name of all the first-born girls in my family. I don’t remember any of the boy names we talked about; we didn’t pick Gabriel until we were in the hospital.

So: Flora became Flora. We went to Dan’s father when we found out she was a girl and asked for his blessing. Flora was his mother’s name; she died when he was 5 years old. We didn’t want using the name to be a source of pain. Of course, he was honored that we asked him, and said, “Of course.” (Looking back, I suspect that if I knew using the name would’ve caused a problem, I would’ve avoided it.)

When I was pregnant with Kate, and we found out she was a girl, I told Dan I wanted to use my father’s mother’s name (Kathryn). I said using it as a middle name would be fine.

But we couldn’t decide on a first name. I wanted to steer clear of very Italian sounding names because we already had one of those. I would’ve loved a Colleen or Irene (or Noreen or Maureen), but it was too rhymey with our last name. We briefly discussed Aubrey and Audrey, Gianna, Siobhan, Giada, and more.

Then suddenly, we realized that we were facing (another) induction, I distinctly remember turning to Dan and saying, “We need to pick a name!” I don’t remember who thought Kathryn would be a great first name, but we agreed on that point almost instantly. I think I proposed another family name (passed from his maternal grandmother down to his sister) that sounded perfect with Kathryn, plus we’d be keeping up with another naming tradition.

(My mother at first was not very fond of this choice. “That’s not a name!” she said when we told her.)

Also, Kathryn became Kate within about an hour of her birth.

And then our pregnancy with Le Bud. One of the reasons I was so happy he was a boy was because I didn’t think I could come up with another girl name. (Mentally, I put Danielle and Gabriella on the list.) When we first talked about names, I thought Michael was too “common”. I wanted Nathaniel, but we both thought that was too long (again, I don’t know). My brother and SIL (who have four boys) had taken up a lot of boy names! Dan’s other top pick was David, which I didn’t like for our son at all. (Again, don’t ask me why. M’s got two Uncle Daves, so it’s not like I dislike the name in general.)

Obviously, in the end, I came around to Michael. It was my Pap-pap’s middle name; Dan has an uncle and a cousin who are named Michael, so it straddled both families. We used my dad’s (and my brother’s) first name as a middle name.

In contrast to Kate, Dan and I continue to call him Michael, although we recognize that others do (and will) call him Mike. People call Kate “Katie” too. I mean, what are you going to do? Protip: Think of possible nicknames and initials before you name the babies! Poor Flora doesn’t get a nickname, although my brother is working hard to get Flo to stick.

During the process of all these name games, I think Dan’s favorite thing to do was to read baby name books. He had a blast sitting in the midwife’s waiting room reading out names and their meanings. We also loved watching sports (football and hockey, mostly), and trying out some of the more outrageous names with our last name. Ultimately, though, we never really fought about what to name our kids, and, as I said, our families never appeared horrified with our choices.

How did you/are you picking names for your offspring? Traditional, family, saints or sports?