To match or not to match
"But do you think it really goes with Mackenzie?"
"What's a good match for Leo and Max?"
Questions about sibling names can start to sound like interior decoration. A few readers here have worried that parents who search for names that go together are treating children as accessories rather than individuals.
Certainly, some parents do focus on making a matching set. In Victorian times that impulse yielded sisters with names like Lily, Iris, Rose and Daisy. Today it's more likely to show up as alliteration -- the Kaylee, Kaylin, Kayden, Kaycey, Kaydence brood. But most often parents are looking for a subtler kind of match, a match based on the feeling and style of the name. And most often I think the impulse is a positive one.
It's no surprise that I'd feel that way. After all, The Baby Name Wizard is built around the idea of finding names that share a common style. The primary reason for this isn't to guarantee a matching set of kids but to match the parents' sense of style: look up a name you like to find others that hit the same notes. Realistically, if you chose Henry and Julia for your first two kids you're not likely to leap on Cheyenne or Maddisyn for baby #3. But would it matter if you did?
In our daily lives as adults, most people don't know or care what our siblings are called. Our names have to stand on their own as symbols of our individual selves. Yet to some extent, siblings are a set. They grow up together, and as children are often treated as a collective whole. They also compete and compare with one another and are exquisitely sensitive to any perceived inequities.
Imagine you meet a family with four daughters. Three of them, from the time they're born, are always dressed in the frilliest, girliest outfits available. The fourth is outfitted from babyhood in jeans and sweats. I think most of us would find that parenting choice unsettling. It signals to all of the girls that one of them is different, separate, and that the parents have different expectations of her. Now suppose instead that the four girls are named Arabella, Artemisia, Araminta...and Carter. What message does that send?
That's an artificial example, but variations on the theme happen all the time in the real world. How about a family with four girls, Kenzie, Jaelyn, Bailee and Kaiya, and then after them a boy, Douglas Richard Jr. Might those parents unintentionally signal to their girls that they had been waiting and waiting for a boy to inherit family traditions...for a boy to matter?
I'm not about to advocate siblings named April, May and June (or girls named Douglas Jr.) Sibling names can be wildly different and work wonderfully. But the cardinal rule among all sets of siblings is fairness. If you know that an eventual son will be a Junior, I'd make sure that your daughters' names also have some family connection that will feel special to them. If you start out with Arabella, Artemisia, and Araminta, an "A" or a lacy name is a nice signal of sibling connection and togetherness. And if your kids are Erasmus, Brayden, Guido and Harold, well feel free to forget about matching altogether. But if your tastes are really that unpredictable, I haven't met you. Parents are people, and they usually choose names that match their own consistent tastes, values and dreams.