William. Stephen. Jacob. Jack. My son, at least according to American tradition, must have a name, and soon. Some people pick out names for their children before they are pregnant, which I find absurd. Others choose the name as soon as they find out what they're having, or at least, in plenty of time for the birth. I, on the other hand, with three months to go, am having a very difficult time with the naming of my son.
Elizabeth. That was easy. When my daughter was born, we chose a traditional family name that has potential for a lot of nicknames, so that as her personality emerged, so would her "real" name. We also wanted a family name for her middle name. We chose Jewell, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have such a "gem" of a name in our family.
Naming a daughter Elizabeth is about as close to Native American naming rituals as we Americans can get. At the hospital, they expect you to fill out the birth certificate, and the government wants to assign the child a social security number ASAP. These things require a name — first, middle, and last — that the child will carry for the rest of his/her life.
Parents can choose whatever name they want. There's no committee that ensures children do not get awful names, like Leonard Butts or Rosee Sunshyne. It's supposed to be fun, the picking of a name. So, when people ask if we have a name, why do I often feel like saying: How am I supposed to know what his name is? I'm not qualified to choose...
Woodrow. Sven. Jori. Jude. Part of my indecision is the overuse of traditional male names. Also, the boring nicknames that come with traditional names. Bill for William. Jeff for Jeffrey. Jon for Jonathan.
And asking for advice is the worst thing a parent can do. The opinions of others are annoying and absurd ... never the poetic contributions that I imagine take place in naming ceremonies where names come in visions, dreams, and drug-induced spiritual journeys.
And even if I was given a good suggestion, I would feel like I couldn't use it. The name then belongs to the suggesters, to their children. If you say it, you own it. As if a name like William Jacob is original ... still, if it doesn't come from my husband and me, should we use it?
And what if I really like a name, say, Luke, but my husband remembers a kid named Luke in the third grade who picked his nose ... or if my husband likes the name Wyatt. I have a third cousin named Wyatt, so is that name already taken?
And what about family tradition? Can we deviate? Can I not name my son Cormac simply because I love the writing of Cormac McCarthy, even though the name doesn't start with a J? And can I insist that no one, ever, under any circumstances, call him Mac?
Barnard. Too wimpy. Lucius. Too medieval. Shane. Too 80s. James. Too common. Nick. Too Greek. Mitch. Rhymes with Bitch. Allan. I don't like A names.
So what if we were allowed to choose our own names, and in the meantime we were called only by nicknames like Bitty or Hoss. At what age would we choose? Ten? If that were the case, I'm certain I would have named myself Mercedes ... Eighteen? I might have gone with my ICQ nickname, Arkadah ... Thirty? If I had to choose now I would probably just ask my mom what she wanted...
At the very least, I do think I would want my name to mean something. Not just to me, but to my family and other important people in my life. My middle name is Sue, which I've never been very fond of, but because it is my grandmother's name, and also my mother's middle name, it feels right. My parents just liked the name Joni...
I guess Maximus is out... "Mom, why'd you name me Maximus?" "Because I liked the nickname Max." "That's it?" "Just be grateful you're not named Barnard!"
I could let my daughter name him. She wants Joseph. Joe is a great name, Joey's cute. But nothing about the name Joseph gives me that feeling, the feeling I think you're supposed to have when you find the right name: Yes, that's it! That's the perfect name!
We could wait until we see him. But I looked like my father when I was born; what name would they have given me then? Mitchel Jr.?
Regardless of my many hold-ups, we have, tentatively, picked a name. We've tried it out on a few people, which resulted in more suggestions on what we "should" name him. So we've decided to keep it secret, for sanity's sake, and all y'all can keep your suggestions (You aren't going to use a J name?!) to yourself!