A 3-year-old’s Name Remorse
Much has been written lately about the pros and cons of using a unique name. People choose to do it for a variety of reasons – family heritage, creativity, believing it will provide an advantage later in life, to show others our beliefs and hopes for our little ones, or in some cases–mainly celebrities– for the limelight. But then there is the downside – possible mispronunciation, other children poking fun, feeling different or standing out in the crowd.
Back in 2009, my husband and I were oblivious to all of this as we approached naming our first child. When we found out we were having a girl, we were very excited. We did the usual – bought a few name books, perused the internet, spoke to family about ancestors, in an attempt to carry on a tradition, but it was quite difficult finding something that we both liked.
It wasn’t until I was about six months pregnant that I came across the name Isla. It was unique, it was different (I’d only ever heard it via the funny actress Isla Fisher), and most of all, it was…. beautiful. It also happened to mean “Island” in Scottish, which is part of my heritage. How perfect!
But then the negative thoughts trickled in: “Will she hear it pronounced Is-la? Will other kids joke about it? Can it be made into a weird sounding rhyming name – my best friend’s last name was Bartling, and you can probably guess that she was called “Fartking” all the time!”. My name was constantly spelled wrong when I growing up – I would get M-e-g-a-n, M-e-g-y-n, M-e-a-g-a-n, and so on, and my husband’s name is Ashley, so you can imagine the grief he got! But we both turned out fine, so eventually the beauty and history of Isla outweighed the negatives, and it became our unborn daughter’s name.
The weeks passed, and I was now 8-1/2 months pregnant. We needed to come up with a middle name that would be equally unique. After combing the books and internet again, and trying unsuccessfully to combine the names of our late grandmas Shirley and Rita (and only coming up with the oddity of Shirita), it suddenly made sense to name our daughter the one thing that our late grandmothers had both given us unconditionally: Love.
Isla Love was born 13 minutes past Halloween on November 1st, 2009. The first tiring days turned into months of her teething, learning to crawl then walking and talking and soon our little girl’s personality started to show. She was 3-1/2 yrs old when she came to me and told me that she wanted a more normal name like Amy or Kate.
I didn’t know what to say. While both of those names are lovely, I was shocked at her dislike of the beautiful name that her father and I had spent so much time coming up with. Sure, there was the occasional “Is-la? Is there an Is-la here?” at the doctor’s office, but that was not enough of a reason for a name change!
So I set out to see if there were any children’s books to help me help my daughter feel good about her name. I found nothing. Having been an avid writer when I was younger, I set out to write a book to help my daughter and other children. After many submissions and rejections, I finally got it published. It is titled A Dog Named Bunny and follows a puppy who has an unusual name and decides to change it to something more normal, only to find herself lost in a sea of sameness. So she decides not to change it as her name keeps her special while still feeling part of the pack.
Since the book came out, I have had many people tell me that they wanted to change their own name when they were a child, even people with completely “normal” names who actually wanted to change to something very different so that they would feel more unique.
My daughter is now almost six, and still loves the book. Thankfully, she has not come to me again wanting to change her name, so I am assuming she appreciates our choice a little more.
Meghan M. Anderson, author of A Dog Named Bunny and a Wisconsin mother of two, is a financial advisor who also loves to write, draw and read to her children. She hopes to have her next Bunny book out in 2016.
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on September 23rd, 2015 at 1:47 am
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on September 23rd, 2015 at 9:17 am
I disagree with your opinion that “her name keeps her special”, I think that it’s not the name that makes a person special but his or her personality. I would rather be known as eg. Sophia among Sophia A, Sophia B, Sophia C, etc. I mean that being special to others has nothing to do with the name and even a person with the most common name can be special. It’s true that we (parents) want to choose a unique name for our children, but I don’t know the reason. However, sometimes this leads to name regret and causes problems to children.
My personal experience
My names, both first and middle, are very rare in my country. The reason why my family chose them is a long and complicated one but both names indicate my family’s love for history and opera. The pronunciation is very easy, there is only one way to pronounce a word in my language and the names are known but not used. When I was a child, maybe older than your daughter, I hated my name (I remember asking my mother “Why didn’t you name my sister Eleonora and me Mathilda?”) and wanted to have a German name (like Mathilda, Helga or Griselda) or a name related to the Bible (like Raphaela, Lena or Anna) , like most of my classmates. My full name is Rea Eleonora M**er and I couldn’t pronounce the -r- when I was a child, so I just wanted to change it with something that didn’t contain r. My mother called me Leona and Leonie and I continued using it even when I learnt how to pronounce r. The person who made me love my name was my late boyfriend, who insisted on calling me Leonora. Since then, I stopped thinking that much about my name.
How did I choose my daughter’s name?
I was very young when I got pregnant and I still disliked the fact that my name was so unusual. So, I decided to give my daughter a common name. My favourite name had always been Maria, but I didn’t considered it that time. Me and my boyfriend had never discussed about names, possibly we would honour his mother Christiane (my mother is Daniella and his middle was Daniel so I didn’t think is was ok) or choose a name we liked, I remember his favourite was Amalia and I used to love the name Ingrid then. I finally named her Maria Danielle Amalia, after her father Marianus Daniel (he died suddenly some weeks before the delivery) and his favourite name, Amalia (also, he happened to die on St. Amalia’s feast day). Of course, my daughter goes by her first name, which was very common then. I recently found out that it was the Top Name in Germany in 1998, the year my daughter was born. We have definitely met many girls around her age named Maria or Marie, but even in a class of five Marias, my daugther is not Maria M**er, but simply Maria, when other girls are Maria A, Maria B, etc., and we are both very proud of it, because she made herself special thanks to her other traits and not her name.
What do I want to say?
Sometimes children do not like the name we chose for them, as I didn’t like the name my family chose for me, as your daughter who wanted to have a more common name, as thousands of people around the world. However, a name is just a name, like Shakespeare wrote, ” What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Choosing a common name, does not mean that our daughter will be a Maria that has the same name with 5 girls in her class, or our son a John etc. Like I have said, it is not the name that makes each one of us different, it’s our personality. We should make our children love their name, not because it is unique/unusual etc, but because there is a deeper meaning, and I don’t mean the meaning of the name itself, but the meaning it has for us and eventually for them, when they’ll learn about the secret story that made us choose their name.
on September 23rd, 2015 at 2:56 pm
But Isla is so popular elsewhere! Check out the UK statistics! And Spanish ones too (although in Spanish it is actually pronounced with a hard ‘s’.
on September 23rd, 2015 at 6:30 pm
That’s a really sweet story! Congrats on having your book published! I know that’s really hard to do! I remember reading a similar book in elementary school about a girl named Chrysanthemum. I think writing your child a book and having it published is an amazing way to help her overcome something (in this case, her fear of not fitting in).
@Fizgee- Yeah, I don’t think Isla is nearly as rare now as it was when you named her that, but of course she didn’t know at 3 years old that a bunch of babies born that year were given that name!
@germanstar- I don’t think the author is saying that having a unique name is the only way to be unique! It’s just yet another way among many that our kids can be slightly different from their peers. Hopefully in a positive way.
on September 23rd, 2015 at 6:32 pm
*when the author named her daughter that*, not when you named her that (paragraph 2)! oops!
on September 24th, 2015 at 10:56 am
I wanted to be Nicky or Jessica when I was younger. In the future I want to start going by Kali, because it’s a goddess name and it doesn’t get botched like my real name. I like my name but I HATE spelling it out for people and being called Patrice, “Catrice”, Capri, etc. all wrong! Kali is kinda a spin on my first and middle names put together.
My future daughter will get a unique name with an accesible nickname at home like Lily, Romy, Katie, something like that. I can’t have an Emma, Mia, Sophia, Ava, or I’d go crazy hahahaah. Sophia B? Mia D? Emma S? I can’t put a little girl through that.
on September 24th, 2015 at 12:44 pm
“It’s just yet another way among many that our kids can be slightly different from their peers” : Well, I would call it “surface” but no offense, it’s just my opinion. I think that there sould be a meaning behind their names, a personal meaning of course, rather that just sounding unique. However, each one has their opinion
on September 25th, 2015 at 10:14 am
This is a nice story.
I remember telling my mom I wanted to change my name around the time I was 14 or so. I have a unisex name and although I like a bunch of unisex names I wasn’t a fan of mine. She reminded me that I was named after my grandpa and that if I ever actually changed my name it would break his heart. I was a Papa’s girl and that made me feel guilty for thinking that way. Anyways, I obviously never changed my name and now I don’t even think about not liking my name. I think all kids go through the stage of maybe not liking their name but in the end, that’s who you are and as they get older, they don’t think about it… IMO.
I would love to read this book. Such a great thing to write for children, not just about their names but maybe for other reason a children might be set apart from everyone else. Great message to love yourself.
BTW – Isla Love is a gorgeous name!
on September 26th, 2015 at 10:05 am
Meghan, I know Isla, and she is a special little girl, no matter what her name is. ❤️ When Asher started preschool, he decided he wanted to be David. He was the only Asher, but there were 2 other David’s. So, we faced the same dilemma. For 3 months, we called him David, until he decided he wanted to be Asher again. Lol.
I do have another book that addresses this. It’s called “Chrysanthemum” and it’s by Kevin Henkes. But I can’t wait to read your book also.
Lorie (Lee’s wife).
on September 27th, 2015 at 10:46 pm
Thank you everyone for your replies! I love hearing everyone’s thoughts on the blog and the idea behind the book.
@germanstar – I agree with you that it is not just our names that make us unique but also our personality; however I also feel that our name does aide in shaping our personality to some degree.
@fizgee – you’re right! I had no idea how popular her name was in other countries at the time. In the US, it wasn’t even in the top 1000 then. Now, it’s become much more popular here and has very lovely different ways to spell it.
@grandmalorie – I never knew that about Asher! It’s sweet that you both went along with it for him!
@aread – thank you for your support! I will have to check out Chrysanthemum as I have never heard of it!
To anybody who is interested in the book, you can find it on Amazon.com too!
Please keep the comments coming! I love to hear how you came to name your children and your thoughts on the blog!
on September 28th, 2015 at 6:27 pm
My name is sooo common with a different spelling I hate it. I’m 24 and still tell my mom I want to change my name. My daughter’s name is more unique and she loves it. But normal names aren’t exactly the norm where we live. Although when I was in school they did seem to have a thousand Brittanys and only one of everyone else.
on September 29th, 2015 at 7:28 am
…And now, Isla is rising in popularity! #150!
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