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"I can't believe you did that!" said the man before me. Children ran around the teenagers playing basketball, and Equis sat in his stroller staring up into the sunlight.

I was confused. "Did what?" I asked, as he handed my son's newly-printed NYS Safe Child Card back to me.

"Tried to combine your name and your dad's name to make his name." He looked at my son with a sad smile and shook his head. At first, I smiled back and laughed, assuming he was joking. When he continued to shake his head, however, as I explained the reasons as to why I named Equis the way I did, I cut the conversation short and pushed my stroller away from him.

Any negative commentary on my son's name always shocks me. I was raised to be polite, especially when broaching a sensitive topic: it is kind to tell someone they have spinach in their teeth; it is helpful to tuck someone's blouse tag back in; and it is loving to hand a stick of gum to a friend if they really need it. IT IS NEVER OKAY TO TELL A PARENT YOU DISAPPROVE OF THEIR CHILD'S NAME (no matter how ugly, weird, non-Biblical, "un-American" or long you think it is).

I found that even the Baby Name books and sites had frustrating advice for parents-to-be: ... 
1) Choose a common name that people won't have trouble spelling; 2) Choose a name that starts with an A (like Adam or Andrew) because children with A names tend to get A grades in class; and 3) Choose a boy's name that people perceive to be masculine and strong (like white Presidents Washington and Kennedy) so your child can succeed in life.

My Baby Naming Project goals were profoundly different from such suggestions. Firstly, I wanted my son's full name to be meaningful while uniquely reflecting his Yemeni and Puerto Rican heritages. I also determined that his name should somehow include my father's name; and I preferred that it match my own name by starting with an X and having a similar meaning.

Telling people my name ideas, though, was always a gamble against my sanity and pride. Only a few people, including my best friend, were extremely supportive, encouraging me to choose his name as I wished. Mostly, though, people either loved my son's name or hated it. Although people's reactions to his name were based in their personal life experiences as well as social and cultural biases, all of them felt that their opinion was an objective truth. Typical conversations proceeded as follows:

Person 1 - "Ew, no, you know how many people are going to mispronounce and misspell his name?"
Me - "You're right, but people mispronounce and misspell my name too. I still love it."
Person 2 - "Wait, why aren't you giving him his father's last name?"
Me - "It makes my life easier."
Person 2, confused - "Okay..."
Person 1 - "But why don't you name him something more common? You should give him a biblical name like Michael or David!"
Me - "I don't want teachers to have to call him Michael M. to distinguish him from Michael Z. in class."
Person 3 - "Just don't name him after a fruit or something. Papaya Maldonado would be too weird."
Person 2 - "No, no, something unique and Greek like Icarus."
Person 1 - "I still think Michael would be more appropriate..."

The discussion would inevitably continue without me. I would simply become silent and smile to hide my exasperation.

When others judge my naming decision now, even after my son's birth, it deeply upsets me because I know how much TIME and THOUGHT went into selecting my son's name during my pregnancy. I spent months poring through a thick, sour-smelling Baby Names book borrowed from the New York Public Library. I clicked through the Baby Names website for days, taking hours just to get through the A names. I stayed awake throughout summer nights, contemplating various versions of my son's name as he pressed painfully against my sciatic nerve. I swam my swollen belly around a NYC public pool, repeating these versions aloud to hear how they sounded in the evening air. I reminded myself, "A name is a gift for life! It will forever shape his identity! People are going to judge him based on his name!" Honestly, it was a harrowing decision.

I wrote a letter to Equis when I was about six months pregnant, explaining the name conundrum. In closing, I wrote: "I just hope that no matter what names I ultimately choose, YOU like your name, your full name, and are happy and proud of it. No matter what, you should wear your name with pride because, believe me, it will be carefully chosen (and chosen with love) after all these months of agonizing."

Thirteen months later, this letter accurately reflects the way I feel about the conclusion to my Baby Naming Project. If someone does not like it, they can keep their unkind comments locked inside, or they can fully expect me to walk away from them. Equis' name is too important to me; and he'll probably agree it is epic.
 


Comments

07/07/2011 8:40pm

Amen! It's really not okay. Trying to name a baby is stressful enough. Currently pregnant and had no trouble narrowing down to a name my husband and I loved (Emily). However I decided on a not so traditional spelling to incorporate my mothers name (Millie). We are spelling our daughters name Emillie and the wave of people who feel the need to provide unwanted opinions is insane. "You should really choose a traditional spelling", "It will confuse her when she is learning to spell", "Children will make fun of the spelling", "People will not know how to pronounce it.". UGH! Its so annoying! People need to worry about their own children.

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04/22/2013 7:08am

Too bad! People really should mind their own business. Naming a child is the parents' responsibility. No one else's.

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Siouxxsie
07/15/2011 1:19pm

So long as there is meaning in the name for you. We give our children certain names for certain reasons.....I absolutely love your son's name, personally. I have my reasons for why I gave my children their names & I don't care what other people think. I love the names & my kids like them too. At least we didn't name them Orange or Beefsteak. I must admit some names I've seen are pretty 'tough', but it's not my child so it doesn't matter. Some people, I tell ya!

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04/22/2013 7:10am

Thank you, Siouxsie! My mom knew a child named "Naughty." But who am I to interfere with a parents' "creativity?" haha. I love what you say about "so long as there is meaning in the name for you."

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Hadassah
07/21/2011 5:15pm

I agree with Krystal and Siouxxsie, and would like to add that if everyone was named one type of name, the world would be so boring! Why rob children of names with rich cultural tradition just because they're hard to spell or "weird"?

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04/22/2013 7:11am

Exactly! A name is yours for life. It should be meaningful.

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04/22/2013 5:06am

The discussion would inevitably continue without me. I would simply become silent and smile to hide my exasperation.Your opinion has really satisfied me, thank you.

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