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Family Names: All-of-a-kind baby naming

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Guest blogger Dionne Ford swore she’d never do what her parents did: give all her kids names starting with the same letter.  And then she discovered the up side of coming from a family with a unified name theme.

When I was a kid, I hated my name, not just because it rhymed with peon and my teachers couldn’t pronounce it, but because it made me an amorphous indistinguishable entity from my siblings. We are all Ds; Debra, Diana, Derick, Daniel and Dionne. And if that wasn’t enough, we have matching middle initials – Js for the oldest boy and girl, Ls for the rest of us.

Tongue-tied at almost every meal just asking one of us to pass the salt, my parents often resorted to addressing each of us by D. I grew up thinking my parents couldn’t remember my name.

I swore I’d never play such a cruel joke on my own kids.

When I met the man I married, I didn’t think much about the fact that his name was Dennis until things got serious and I introduced him to my parents. My mom joked when she met him that he’d fit right into the family. Being prone to signs and superstition, I looked up his name to see if we were perfectly matched. Not only did we fit, our names meant the same thing – male and female modernized versions of Dionysus, the god of wine. People called us double D and to poke fun, we signed Christmas cards D squared, just like my favorite band when I was in high school. The D thing seemed fated.

But I was determined to end the insane alliteration when I got pregnant. No child of mine would bear the D name. If we had a boy, and we were sure we were having a boy, we’d name him Quincy or Clancy. We’d give him a D middle name just to mess with people. We barely bothered with girl names because we were having a boy.

So, when our first daughter arrived on March 1, her sex was as surprising as the name we picked for her – Desiree.

As my feet and fingers swelled beyond recognition in my last trimester and my mother and sisters showered me with frequent family advice and baby gifts, D names started appearing on my list of “Names Under Consideration” in my pregnancy organizer. My husband and I would initial our favorite choices (using middle initials for clarity of course) and surprisingly, I was the one who wrote down Desmond and Desiree. Despite how insane I thought the D thing was, I had to admit it also provided me some sense of security.

I’m the youngest of 5 kids. My four siblings were all born less than two years apart but I arrived nine years after my brother, the baby until I surprised everyone. My oldest sister is 14 years older than me and when I was a toddler, people used to think she was my mother. Because of the big gap in our ages, I always felt like an accident and not really a part of my family. As annoying as it seemed to be named after a singer just because “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” was a big hit at the time and my parents were running out of D names, it was also kind of comforting. In my name at least, I knew I belonged.

I wanted that for my girl. My husband and I had heard the Dalai Lama speak in Central Park when my daughter was just a watermelon-shaped protrusion in my belly and he’d said the most important thing a mother could do for a child was to let it know it was wanted. French for desire, Desiree would know it every time we said her name. When her sister was born three years later, we didn’t want to leave her out of our unintentional club, so we named her Devany. (We now sign our Christmas cards D4).

Like my parents, I often call my kids the wrong name, or Boo or Nunny, or Sweetums, but I never call them D. I want them to know I remember their names, even if I can’t keep them straight.

Dionne Ford is a freelance writer and regular contributor to NAACP’s blog, thedefendersonline.com.  She lives with the other 3Ds in New Jersey and blogs about her family history at dionneford.wordpress.com.

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