Karen Green: Out Of My Element


Quit the Name Shaming, Please

Don't like the name somebody chose for their baby? Too bad.

When I was pregnant with my first child (gender unknown), we told my mother that if it was a girl, we were going to name her India. To my husband and me, India was a beautiful, lyrical name steeped in both ancient roots and possibility, and choosing the name for our firstborn child was something we did with the utmost consideration and care. But to my mother, it was a travesty.

India? She practically sneered, Why India? Who comes up with a name like India? We do, we told her, and instantly wished we hadn’t said a word.

Turns out, the baby was born, a girl, and she just was not India. I was a little heartbroken that the name we adored simply did not fit this tiny beautiful creature, but the name she must have instantly came to me. It was one we had bandied around and dismissed months earlier.

She’s Mischa, I told my husband. He agreed. Even my mother was happy with our choice.

It’s so easy to judge parents, but to me, the lowest you can go is to make fun of a child’s name. Celebrities provide the easiest fodder, what with their creatively-nomered progeny (Pilot Inspektor comes to mind), but it certainly doesn’t end there. I have seen friends, relatives, and coworkers wrinkle their noses at a new parent’s name choice. I have even seen a well-known and well-respected member of the online parenting community making fun of a brood of siblings' nature-inspired monikers.

It’s not cool. Stop it.

It’s not easy naming a child, and I don’t think there is any parent that doesn’t take particular care and deliberation in deciding on a name. And once a decision is made, that name is instantly connected to the child itself, and to all the emotions that connect you to that baby when it is born.

If we forget about the fact that what somebody else names their child is truly not any of your concern, we could still argue that every child is unique; why shouldn’t their name be, as well? For kids, popular or conventional is not always better. Let’s ask the 50 gazillion Jennifers born in the 1970s if they thought it was so awesome to be known as Jen S.5 throughout their school years.

I’ve heard adults justify their smug judgment with comments like, That’s a lot to saddle a kid with, or He’s going to hate his parents for giving him that name. Maybe that’s true, but I hope that little Oake and her brother Thalon will grow up in a more open-minded environment where acceptance of something as basic as their own name will not be a consideration to fight for.

There’s a postscript to the story of naming my own child — two years later, we were expecting another baby, and we knew it was going to be a girl. Deciding that we could not be bothered to explain our choices this time around, we opted not to tell anybody our short-list of names. Oh god, you’re not going to use India this time, are you? My mother practically started crying. Oh mom, I told her, smiling sweetly, You’re going to wish it was India.