My first two babies—both boys—were easy enough to name, and my husband and I agreed that the names Aaron and Sam were perfect. But our third boy was harder, especially since I’d pretty much settled on Anna or Emma. When it became clear that my baby girl was a boy, we bandied about Jake, Jared, and Sean, but just couldn’t come to a decision.
But then my hubby stunned me by suggesting the name Ben. He had to be kidding! Didn’t he know how much I’d adored a boy named Ben in college (as well as his name)? I would never have presumed to suggest the name myself, though it was a favorite ever since Ben Cartwright days.
I felt it was my duty to remind him: “Um, Hon, you remember Ben from college? You don’t really want to name our baby after him?” I hinted that the name might stir some romantic ghosts, but Mitch just shrugged and pointed out that I didn’t marry the guy. In fact, my husband seemed so levelheaded about the whole thing that I figured I’d just go with the flow.
A few of my girlfriends raised their eyebrows as if maybe there was something twisted in this, and my mom was a little concerned. She took me aside and pressed, “You’re sure you want to name the baby Benjamin?” She didn’t come right out with, “You never name a baby after your old beau!” but I know it was on her mind.
So feeling slightly naughty, and possibly even a bit traitorous, I went along with the idea. I did wonder if I’d pine for my former lover when I held little Ben in my arms, but it didn’t happen. And I didn’t think of that slim, sexy guy when my baby Ben started teething, or having a tantrum. My baby Ben’s slate blue eyes didn’t look anything like the elder Ben’s (anyway, they’ve now turned hazel) and when my son grew older, screaming “BENJAMIN!” up the stairs when he was late for dinner didn’t make me hot for my old flame.
I don’t even think of my old boyfriend now that my son is nearly the age I was when I first met the original Ben (nineteen) though he’s surely just as attractive. That Ben—a religion major– loved Martin Buber, Bach, and classic cars. My Ben plays heavy-metal guitar, drives my Dodge Caravan, and hasn’t even declared a major.
My offspring is so different from my old bf that I’m not even tempted to equate the two. And even if they’re alike in some ways, so what? (They’re both smart and skinny, but then, so is my husband!) Besides, I often called my baby Ben those endearing terms mommies use, like Benji, Bubbela, or Benny-Boop. I can’t even imagine calling my intellectual old boyfriend Little Bipper while patting his diaper!
So not to worry. If anything, young Ben, my boyfriend’s namesake, has helped me get over the past.
Kathryn E. Livingston has been writing on parenting topics for more than two decades. Her latest book is All About Motherhood: “A Mom for All Seasons” and Other Essays.