Baby Names

This whole move from Leesburg, Virginia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania got me thinking a lot about life, and what my purpose is.  Our identity as a family, and my own as an individual, felt like it had been broken down to its most basic elements, and I felt like a kid staring at a pile of mismatched Legos, not sure where to begin. 

Seemingly out of no where I was reminded of something that had happened to us the summer before we moved.  And thinking back through this experience, I received a revelation about my own identity.

During the naming of our first three children we had navigated the same waters that every parent experiences when trying to name their child.  Selections that sound angelic to one parent remind the other of some childhood bully or bizarre family member, or that strange neighbor who used to pretend no one was home on Halloween. 

The process for our fourth was predictable:  I would pick a perfectly legitimate name and Maile would roll her eyes and groan and go on for twenty minutes about this girl in high school with the same name that drove her nuts.  Maile would suggest an adorable name but this sudden urge to throw up overcame me as I told her the story of this kid in the third grade who got sick and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. 

Eventually though, for our first three kids, we were able to agree.  When they came screaming into the world the nurse would make the first proclamation:

“It’s a boy!” she had said for our first baby, or “It’s a girl!” she shouted for babies two and three.

Then, after the craziness calmed down, usually the question would come up:

“Do you have a name picked out?”

We’d look at each other, feeling tossed about by emotions, as if we had just been lifted up in a hurricane and set back down on our feet, and then Maile would say the name we had agreed on, announcing it in a firm voice, daring the doctor or nurse or midwife to say something other than “I have been delivering babies for fifty years and that is the most unique, beautiful name I have ever heard.” 

But by the time we were on baby number four Maile was out of names and tired of the process.  We would lie in bed at night and I would ask the question.

“So, think of any names for this one?”

“Ugh, I don’t even want to talk about it.  It just stresses me out,” she’d say just before rolling over and groaning.

“But we have to pick a name.  You do know that, right?  They don’t just come out with nametags like Cabbage Patch Kids.”

“I know,” she said wistfully, as if that sounded like the best idea in the history of childbirth.

But I wanted to talk about names.  I love names and everything that goes along with them.  I thought it was a huge deal, time was passing, and I didn’t want one of our kids to be walking around the house without a name.  I imagined that if you didn’t name a child then pretty much anyone could call them whatever they wanted.

“Hey, you!”

“Hey, blonde-haired kid!”

“Hey, kid that looks like Maile!” (all of our children look just like their mother).

When Maile was about 6 months in, I could hear the tick-tock of time running out, so I asked her the question again.  As usual, it was late at night, and we were in bed.  She was surrounded by a wall of body pillows that helped her gain the optimum sleeping position for a woman with a growing stomach.

“Want to talk about names yet?”

Same response:  a groan of protest and a roll to the side so I couldn’t see her face.  Except this time, after her normal answer, she rolled back over, then sat up straight, emerging up and out from her pillows, a gleam in her eye.

“I’ve got an idea.”

Uh-oh, I thought.

“Why don’t you name this baby?” she said.


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14 Replies to “Baby Names”

  1. I feel like I just reached a “To Be Continued” on a good show and now have to wait until next week. Is there a Netflix version of your blog where I can just stream ahead to the next episode?

    Thanks for getting me interested.

  2. aw man, i didn’t win. ;)
    also i agree with Andi completely.
    and i wish i could attend that writing workshop you posted about on FB.

  3. My wife and I went through similar conversations when naming our four kids. All of our children’s names have biblical meanings, but we also had to figure out first and middle names that “worked” together and sounded good with “Palmer”.

    Each one involved a lot of research and negotiations. By the time we got to our fourth child

    (to be continued)

      1. Just messing with you Shawn, but the rest of the story is pretty anti-climatic.

        By the time we got to our fourth child (there is a five year gap between our third and fourth) all of our good name ideas had been used by people we knew. It took us forever to finally agree on Zachary Ethan.

        I had a crazy idea to get tattoo with my wife and kid’s names in Hebrew as an armband. I wanted to get it the day Zachary was born. Since I had to get the names translated into Hebrew, the urgency of that is what finally pushed us (me) to decide on a name!

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