7 Ways You Can Get Your Baby's Name Wrong
I don't usually talk about "bad" baby names. Names are chosen with great thought and care, and a choice isn't wrong just because it doesn't suit your taste or mine. Yet I've talked to enough anguished parents to know that it's possible to for a name choice to lead to painful regrets. The usual misstep isn't bad taste, but a bad decision process. Here are the most common mistakes that can lead to namer's remorse:
1. Talking yourself out of your own taste. Parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to be creative with their name choices. I've heard plenty of wistful moms talk about lifelong favorite names they abandoned out of fear that they're not original or distinctive enough to impress people. Listen to your heart. If you get a happy glow when you hear a particular name, chances are others will too. What better start in life could a child have than a name that makes people happy?
2. Putting the middle name first. "We're using the middle name Morton after my grandfather. What first name goes with Morton?" Red alert, red alert! You're doing this backwards. You're not going to use that middle name on a daily basis, and frankly, you don't even like it. (If you did, you'd be using it as a first name.) So put the middle name aside until you've come up with a few ideas you really love, then it can serve as a tiebreaker. Don't count on a middle name to fix a tough first-last match, either. At the end of the day, Reed Alexander Snead is still Reed Snead.
3. Not doing your research. The most common source of name regret is unhappy surprises. I've heard from parents who had no idea that Noah had become such a popular name, or that Aurora was the name of a Disney princess. As a result, they chose names that were very different from what they were looking for. For confirmation of the cultural impact of a favorite name, check in with other parents of small children, or with Namipedia or -- if I say so myself -- the Baby Name Wizard book.
4. Thinking an unusual spelling makes an unusual name. There's nothing wrong with customizing the spelling of a name in a way that looks attractive to you. But do it because you like the effect, not just to make your child stand out. A Jaxsen will still be confused with the Jacksons and Jaxons in his school -- even more so, because all of their names will end up misspelled. Similarly, if you want a unique name and are tempted by Aarya, be sure to look up the popularity of spellings like Arya and Aria for a better sense of how distinctive the name will sound.
5. Over-focusing on the "sibset." To you, your kids are a set. You see them together, and say their names together. But out in the world, they're individuals. The impression each child's name makes on its own matters more than how well it coordinates with your other kids' names.
6. Not picking up the phone and asking. Will your cousin think you're a name thief if you choose the same name she did? Will your divorced dad feel slighted if you choose a name from your mom's family tree? The best way to tackle interpersonal name questions is head-on. If you ask in advance, you can explain your thinking and present the issue in a positive light. Plus you'll show that you care about the person's feelings, which is the most important part of the message.
7. Imagining you can control the name. Baby name decisions belong to the parents, but the names themselves belong to the children, and the world. That means that your little Nicholas will end up answering to Nick, no matter how much you loathe that name. It also means that a name with an unconventional spelling or pronunciation will be mistaken constantly, and you'll have to be patient and cheerful about it. Be honest with yourself. If you can't stand the idea of the likely corrections, confusions or nicknames that come with your favorite name, it may be best to look elsewhere.