In our best fantasies, here’s how we name our babies:
DAD — Perfect. Now why don’t you let me rub your feet?
In reality, discussions go more like this:
DAD — Blech. I hate those kind of frilly names; if we have a girl, I think we should name her something cool, like Harley or Parker. And if we have a boy, my mother says we have to name him after my father.
MOM — Your mother’s not naming our baby. And your taste in names sucks.
Usually, after nine months or possibly ten, the parents manage to arrive at a name they both can live with. Why does baby-naming inspire such deep feelings and strong arguments in a couple who may have an easy time getting along in so many other ways?
For one thing, choosing a name can tap into deep, previously-unexplored issues about family, tradition, gender, image, one’s very identity. It may be the first important test of control and compromise. And the problems around choosing a name can feel all the more disturbing because you think it’s supposed to be so easy and fun.
Lately, it seems I’ve encountered several parents who found unconventional routes to arriving at the right name. If your name discussions with your partner more closely resemble the second example above than the idealized first, you might want to try one of these avenues:
TAKE TURNS — Assuming you plan to have more than one child, you can agree to take turns choosing names. How much power you give the other person to weigh in or veto your name ideas may vary, ranging from a kind of president-vice president arrangement to one of you wielding complete baby name power. Think of it this way: At least one of you will thoroughly love the name.
DIVIDE BY GENDER — In some families, she names the boys and he names the girls or vice versa. This can work especially well if one or both of you have strong feelings about names for one gender but not the other.
HAVE ONE PARTNER NARROW, THE OTHER ONE CHOOSE — Here’s how it works: You make a list of ten names you like. Your partner gets to pick one, whichever one he or she chooses. If your partner can’t pick one from your list, then he makes a list of ten, and you pick. Alternate until you find a name you both can live with, or until you give up and move to one of the other strategies.
LIMIT THE CHOICES TO FAMILY NAMES — Rather than choosing from the enormous and ever-expanding universe of possible names, some couples agree they’re only going to pick names from their families. These might include first, middle, and last names, which can give you enough choices while keeping the discussions manageable.
LET SOMEONE ELSE DO IT — I met a woman recently, the mom of twins, who let her parents and in-laws each name one baby. It gave the grandparents an important and exciting way to be involved, and lightened the psychic load for her and her husband. While this runs counter to all conventional baby-naming wisdom, it might make sense if you trust your parents’ taste and you don’t have any clear preferences.