Should I Change My Toddler's Name?

Should I Change My Toddler's Name?

Kelsey writes:

My firstborn’s name is Rylee. I like it, however I definitely waffled when she was born between a few names (Oakleigh, Remi, and Emersyn). When she was approximately 7 months old, I found out that her second cousin (my husband’s family I’m not close with) named their son (who’s one year older) Reilly, which means they both have the same first and last name. Normally I wouldn’t care since our paths don’t cross, but our kids’ paths will as we’re from the same small town. They’ll go to school together one grade apart from kindergarten to the end of high school. My family tells me what’s done is done and to get over it but here we are, she’s now 19 months and it still bugs me…

Remi was our top choice for a second daughter, but we recently found out our next, and last, child is a boy. I keep thinking maybe I should just change Rylee to Remi since they’re somewhat close — that way it would be an easy transition. What do you think? Is she too old now? Would this even bug you? I know people would raise an eye…but I want to move forward with the right choice.

The Name Guru replies:

Your family is pushing back for good reason. On the surface, this dilemma seems pretty clear-cut. 19 months is pretty old for a name change — your daughter has had her name for almost two years. She understands it, can say it, and other people connect it to her identity. A name change could be jarring — more so for the adults in Rylee’s life than Rylee herself — and confusing to those you’re connected to, even peripherally.

The fact that Rylee shares a first and last name with her cousin is a funny coincidence. The children are going to have to contend with this in school, and at this point, we don’t know how they will feel about it. They might find it amusing to be referred to as “Girl Rylee D.” and “Boy Reilly D.” (which will certainly happen). They might find it annoying. In all likelihood, they will feel differently about it at various stages of their childhoods.

However, it seems like this issue will only come up in school. And even in school, people will probably get over it quickly. You live in a small town, so anyone who doesn’t already know about the shared names is going to figure it out when Rylee enters kindergarten. You’ll get questions from nosy parents, but eventually, people will run out of things to say on the topic. And once Rylee and Reilly graduate, it won’t come up again.

That being said, it’s impossible to know what the future holds. Maybe one of the children will want to go by a nickname, like Rye, or a middle name. Perhaps one of your families will move away, and it becomes a non-issue.

If this was the extent of your question, I’d say — case closed, don’t change your daughter’s name. It’s not worth the trouble just for an awkward overlap. But the shared name isn’t the issue here.

The fact that this is coming up now is telling.

You’ve never felt completely satisfied with your daughter’s name, and have known about the other Reilly for over a year now. You’ve considered changing Rylee’s name in the past, but finding out you’re having a son — and will therefore likely never use Remi — resurfaced the issue in a way that feels more urgent.

The cousin issue offers a good excuse for a name change, but that is not why you have this dilemma. You are considering changing Rylee’s name because you prefer another option, and part of you regrets not choosing Remi in the first place. For 19 months — even before you knew about Reilly — this has been in the back of your mind. It was easy to quell with the possibility of having another daughter, but now, unless you change Rylee’s name, you’ll never get to have a Remi.

Will you regret not changing Rylee to Remi? Now that’s a good reason for a name change. It’s okay to change your baby’s name! Your daughter is young and would be able to adjust (although if you do want to change it, the sooner the better). The names are similar and as an adult, she wouldn’t have any memory of being called Rylee.

Everyone else in your life would adapt as well. Close friends and family might better understand if you opened up to them about the ambivalence you felt in the first place. Something like, “We never felt Rylee was quite right, and when we found out about her cousin Reilly, it pushed us over the edge to make the switch.”

You’ll still get questions and comments if you change your daughter’s name. But the relief you could feel for giving her the “right” name may be worth it. That’s for you to decide.

What do you think? Weigh in on the forums.

About the Author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top 2020s names, Gen Z names, and cottagecore baby names. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest.

Sophie Kihm's articles on names have run on People, Today, The Huffington Post, and more. She has been quoted as a name expert by The Washington Post, People, The Huffington Post, and more. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at Sophie lives in Chicago.