How to Pick the Perfect Name for Your Child

When you find out your partner has been choosing baby names since she was about 12, you may get the idea that picking a name for your baby is a Really Big Deal. And you’re right. A name is one of the first gifts you give your child, and unless he goes to court to change it, it’s a gift that lasts a lifetime. It’s easy to mess up this gift, though, by not thinking things through clearly.

Prepare to put more than a few minutes of thought into this decision because your partner will want to discuss baby’s name ad infinitum, throughout the entire pregnancy, possibly even while you’re on your way to the hospital to have the baby. Here are a few common baby-naming pitfalls and how to work through them:

  • You’re a Junior . . . or a Third . . . and want to carry on the family tradition, but your partner doesn’t. Or vice versa. Or maybe your parents assume you’ll naturally name your son Henry the Eighth because, of course, you’ll carry on the tradition. They did, so why shouldn’t you? Of all the naming issues, this one can present the most problems. Whether it’s family or religious in nature, tradition is hard to buck. But this is your baby and you can name him — this is usually a male issue — whatever you choose. Or you can bow to tradition and then call him something else, like Skip or Chip or his middle name.

    If you’re going back and forth over whether to give baby a family name, it may help to know that you’re only supposed to carry out the tradition as far as the number of people still living. So the fourth is about as far as you can be saddled with this.

  • You absolutely hate each other’s choices. If this happens, the best route is that nobody wins. You pick a name you can both live with, even if it’s not your favorite. Wincing every time you say your child’s name for the next 60 years isn’t a good option. On the other hand, you can go with a sort of sexist, “I name the boys and you name the girls” thing, if you have that type of relationship. You may actually get used to your partner’s choice over time.

  • You make a big name mistake. Not realizing that your child’s initials spell something you’d rather not see emblazoned on her briefcase in 25 years is a classic error. Alicia Suzanne Smith will not thank you down the road. The other thing to watch for is a name that doesn’t work well with your last name. Ima Hogg is a classic example here. You’re better off avoiding big name mistakes in the first place.

  • You go too trendy. Although you may not want your child to be the only Alois in his school, he may be equally unhappy to be one of five Declans in his kindergarten class. To check the recent (and not-so recent) popularity of baby names, see the comprehensive list at the Social Security Administration website.

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