My first two babiesâ€”both boysâ€”were easy enough to name, and my husband and I agreed that the names Aaron and Sam were perfect.Â But our third boy was harder, especially since Iâ€™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 couldnâ€™t come to a decision.
But then my hubby stunned me by suggesting the name Ben.Â He had to be kidding! Didnâ€™t he know how much Iâ€™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: â€śUm, Hon, you remember Ben from college? You donâ€™t really want to name our baby after him?â€ť I hinted that the name might stir some romantic ghosts, but Mitch just shrugged and pointed out that I didnâ€™t marry the guy. In fact, my husband seemed so levelheaded about the whole thing that I figured Iâ€™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, â€śYouâ€™re sure you want to name the baby Benjamin?â€ť She didnâ€™t come right out with, â€śYou never name a baby after your old beau!â€ť 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 Iâ€™d pine for my former lover when I held little Ben in my arms, but it didnâ€™t happen. And I didnâ€™t think of that slim, sexy guy when my baby Ben started teething, or having a tantrum. My baby Benâ€™s slate blue eyes didnâ€™t look anything like the elder Benâ€™s (anyway, theyâ€™ve now turned hazel) and when my son grew older, screaming â€śBENJAMIN!â€ť up the stairs when he was late for dinner didnâ€™t make me hot for my old flame.
I donâ€™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 heâ€™s surely just as attractive. That Benâ€”a religion major– loved Martin Buber, Bach, and classic cars. My Ben plays heavy-metal guitar, drives my Dodge Caravan, and hasnâ€™t even declared a major.
My offspring is so different from my old bf that Iâ€™m not even tempted to equate the two. And even if theyâ€™re alike in some ways, so what?Â (Theyâ€™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 canâ€™t even imagine calling my intellectual old boyfriend Little Bipper while patting his diaper!
So not to worry.Â If anything, young Ben, my boyfriendâ€™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 isÂ All About Motherhood: â€śA Mom for All Seasonsâ€ť and Other Essays.