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.