Name Sage: Grandma Hates the Name!

August 18, 2015 Abby Sandel

M. writes:

We’re expecting our first child, a son, in a few months. Our dilemma is this: my mom really wants to know our chosen name, but I am not sure if I want to share it.

I love my mother, but she’s very opinionated. She disliked having an uncommon name, so she gave me a very popular one.

We’ve chosen Lawson Christopher for our son. It’s obviously not a common first name – though a search of Social Security records reveals Lawson is at its most popular in 2014, so maybe we’re on the cusp of the name taking off!

I’d like to get some honest feedback on Lawson Christopher.

Also, is there a nice way to NOT reveal the name until he’s born and it is his, or is there no real way to avoid rejecting my mom here?

If we choose to tell her, how do I steel myself adequately against any negative opinions? I’ve thought this through, and this is the first name that feels like *him*, if that makes sense. How do I stay confident, even if the reaction of my mom is a negative one?

The Name Sage replies:

It’s easy to be dismissive of this kind of struggle, isn’t it? So many people will blithely say, “It’s your baby. You choose the name!”

But even the most loving and supportive family members are sometimes genuinely surprised by the baby names we’re choosing in 2015.

While there’s lots of handwringing about those “crazy” baby names, the truth is that names have always been subject to trends. If this were 1905, Elmer and Mildred would’ve have been the height of fashion. Or how ‘bout 1925’s Norma and Eugene?

Now that babies born circa-1985 – hello, Dustin and Crystal! – are having babies of their own, fashions have changed again. Harper and Mason are mainstream, and it’s sort of stunning to meet a kiddo called Elmer.

Let’s start with the name you’ve chosen.

First, baby names are like falling in love. You just know when you’ve found The One.

Lawson Christopher is a great name. There’s a hint of tradition about Lawson. The name has been used, on and off, for well over a century. And it’s tied to Laurence, an impeccable classic.

But it’s also a very current name, thanks to the two-syllable, ends-in-n sound. Think of the very popular names Logan and LandonLawson fits right in, but isn’t at all overused.

As you say, Lawson is definitely catching on. There were 574 boys given the name in 2014 – a new high.

If Lawson is trending, Christopher is steady. The overall rhythm of the name is appealing, and together they’re nicely balanced – one more classic, the other more current. It’s a Goldilocks name – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Now – to tell grandma, or to make her wait until the baby has arrived? And, regardless of when the name is revealed, how will you handle criticism?

Your best course of action is probably to wait until Lawson’s arrival to share the name. Practice saying, “We have a few favorites, but we’re going to wait until the baby is born to decide.”

That’s no guarantee you won’t hear hurtful comments, but it does mean that criticism can’t change your decision.

I’m tempted to suggest you tell your mom you’re naming the baby Legend. Or Lexicon, Lexus, or Leviticus. Anything that will make Lawson seem like a perfectly sensible name when you finally do share it.

But that’s probably not the best approach.

Instead, the key is to discuss your concerns about your mom’s reaction – not the name you’ve lovingly chosen. “Mom, I know you like popular names, but we’ve decided to go with something a little bit different.”

You’ve done your research, and can confidently explain that names change with every generation. After all, your name was common in the 1980s – but no more.

And, of course, uncommon names are becoming more and more the norm. As of 2014, fewer than three-quarters of all children received a Top 1000 name. That’s a lot of kids with names that are really out-there.

Chances are that none of this will sway your mom. She has her opinions, based on her personal experience – as do you. Both perspectives are valid, but naming this baby is a choice that belongs to you and your husband.

Is it any consolation to know that you’re not alone? Journalist Laura Dunphy wrote about her parents’ less-than-enthusiastic reaction to her daughter’s name, Sophie Mireille. (“We hate it.”) Dunphy’s parents haven’t come around, but it hasn’t changed her enthusiasm for her daughter’s gorgeous name.

Your mom might never love the name Lawson. But nearly every parent reports that grandparents do love their grandchildren – no matter what they’re named.

Readers, have your parents been accepting of the names you’ve chosen for your children? How have you handled criticism over your children’s names?

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

View all of Abby's articles


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