Paige posted this interesting question to my FB wall:
“Silly question. Any tips on how to get over the agitation that comes when you’ve chosen a name for your child that was unique and it starts to gain popularity? I don’t like nicknames so that’s out.”
First off, not a silly question at all! We all know what being a namiac does to a person. 😉
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question since Paige asked it. It was smart of her to say nicknames aren’t really her thing, because otherwise I do think that could be a good way to manage the downfalls of a popular name (or a name that’s more popular than one would like). And I’m actually realizing just now that I don’t know Paige’s situation — whether she’s expecting a baby and has already decided on a name, or if she has an already-born child whose name is becoming more popular. My thoughts would be different for each situation, so I’ll address each one separately.
If you’re expecting a baby, and have already decided on a name, and are now having a really hard time with the fact that it’s becoming more popular, I would definitely seriously think of changing the name. Before the baby has arrived, anything goes! If it’s a name that’s important to you — a family name, for example, or a favorite saint, or the best friend you promised when you were six that you’d name your first child after — then maybe looking for an unusual variant of it would do the trick. Sean instead of John, that kind of thing. It might also be helpful to remember that things that really really bother you when you’re pregnant might mean very little to non-pregnant you, so if, for example, your husband really wants to stick with the name that you’ve already agreed upon even though you’re having agita over it, and there’s just no changing his mind, there’s a chance that after the baby’s here and all the intensity has calmed down and life has regained some normalcy, it won’t seem so bad to you after all. Especially since babies very often immediately own their names and all of a sudden you can’t imagine your little one having any other name in the world, even if there ends up being two others with the same name in his/her Kindergarten class.
If the baby’s already born and named, you could still think of changing the name (depending on how old he/she is). The rules about such things varies from state to state, but I’m pretty sure they all have a grace period after the birth during which you can change the name on the birth certificate without too much fuss. If the child’s older — old enough to know and recognize his/her name — that’s a different story. If you’re in the situation where the name absolutely can’t be changed, and nicknames aren’t a great option, I would encourage you to think about why you chose the name in the first place. Certainly sometimes a big part of the reason you like a name is because it’s uncommon, but there are lots of uncommon names that you didn’t choose, so what was it about this one that made it special? What qualities (besides uncommonness) did you love? Can you add further amazing qualities to it even now, in hindsight, like finding an amazing saint with the name that you can fall in love with? I’ve often found that reminding myself (over and over if needed, accompanied by lots of Hail Marys) of the good characteristics and blessings of a challenging thing in my life helps my heart soften toward that thing.
Finally, no matter what the situation is (pre- or post-birth+naming), it’s also helpful to remember that names can come zooming out of nowhere and become huge hits overnight if a certain blockbuster book or movie with an uncommonly named hero enters the country’s consciousness. On the flip side, names can immediately drop like a rock due to widespread negative associations (just think of all the sweet little girls who were lovingly given the name Isis before the name had the association it now does). So knowing that you can’t ever guarantee what will happen to the name you’ve so carefully and lovingly chosen can provide a real measure of freedom to just choose a name you like — a name whose sparkly bits you’ll always be able to remember, no matter how popular it becomes.
These also might be helpful, regarding the popularity of names today not being the same as the popularity of names in the past: This great comment from our very own grace and Even the Top 10 Is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death by Swistle. Also these, on naming regret: Naming regret by me and An Account of Baby Name Regret by Swistle.
What do you all think about Paige’s question? Do you think my thoughts are spot on or totally off base? Have you experienced this, and how did you handle it? What other advice would you offer to Paige or anyone else with this struggle?