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Naming Your Baby is a Privilege And a Joy

It’s easy to mock the frenzied baby-naming efforts described in Alex Williams’ “Baby Names That Shout Out;”  the books, the naming consultants, the spreadsheets with categories for government trend data, celebrity-naming fads and cultural nuances. Why give  so much weight to a name,  and put so much effort into it?

We parents who played that game can offer some objective reasons. Names matter, they have racial and cultural overtones that make first impressions before we ever appear in person. The latest study to make headlines like “Does Your Baby’s Name Determine Their Success Later in Life?” suggested that people with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to be elected or promoted.

But maybe the real reason soon-to-be parents spend so much time on name choice can’t be objectified at all. Naming a baby is, quite simply, fun. It’s a wonderful chance to imagine her (or him) in the future, introducing herself, having her name called out as she heads onto the ice for a hockey game or at graduation, coloring it across a school folder.

All those names, and all those possible first impressions, give parents free rein to do something we’re really not supposed to do: impose our own expectations and dreams on our children. We might never, ever push an actual child into a drama class, but there’s nothing wrong with debating how her name will look on the cover of a playbill before she’s even born.

When that baby is born, as she grows up, answering roll calls and forming her signature, she’ll take over that name and make it her own. She’ll use her initials or her middle name. She’ll pick up a nickname, or just outright change it. The name you loved may not be how she sees herself, or it may ultimately be just right, but almost certainly not in the way you imagined it.

Read More:KJ Dell’Antonia,

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