When her daughter was born, Nina wanted to surround her child with every blessing in the world. So, she gave her seven names, including Astravaganza and Angeletta, that were Russian, Greek, and even made-up names for Hope, Stars, Butterfly, and more. Today, Nina’s daughter, 15, simply goes by Lola (not on the roster). Her room is decorated with “Hello, My Name Is” stickers, one of which reads: “My name is too long to fit on this tag.” Nina, who like all the parents interviewed asked that only her first name be used, chuckles that when she meets Lola’s friends with “short, sweet names, like Grace,” she thinks: “Oh, that might have been nice, too!”
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Wait, they named me what? Ashlee Simpson, Pete Wentz and their son Bronx Mowgli: Cause for name inspiration, or regret?
Whereas former generations were content to name their children after relatives, or simply to pick a popular one they liked (Jennifers and Jasons know all about it), the current crop of parents is particularly invested in their children’s names being original, special, meaning-laden. And they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to secure such uniqueness.
When their first child was born, Allison and her husband looked at him and knew: He was a Miles. But when their second arrived — weighing in at 10 pounds, 12 ounces — they weren’t so sure. “He was so squished that you couldn’t even really see his features,” she says of her then-newborn son. Allison wanted to leave the birth certificate blank and change it later, but her husband didn’t want to bring their baby home nameless. So, they recorded him as Eli.
But after several weeks, Allison realized that her baby was not an Eli at all — he was, without question, a Cailean. So, she and her husband spent more than a year filing court papers, standing before a judge, presenting arguments for why they wanted to change their child’s name. “Names, to me, are who you are,” she explains. “I want my children to really be, to own, their names.” So, was it worth it? Absolutely.
“This generation of parents is rebelling against their own hands-off parents by being very hands-on,” explains Ada Calhoun, former editor-in-chief of the parenting site Babble.com and author of "Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids." “And where the consumption of organic kale during pregnancy or purchasing of wooden toys from Sweden may or may not have an impact on these kids' future, naming them Boulevard definitely does.”
But naming them Boulevard — or Wmffre (pronounced OOM-fre, the German variation of Humphrey), which was Parenting.com's 2009 top name for boys — may cause parents more remorse than gratification. Last May, a study sponsored by the British parenting website Bounty.com reported that one in five parents regretted the name they’d selected for their children, either because they felt the moniker was egregiously unusual or because they’d discovered a more fitting one too late.
Rachel and her husband, Dave, sometimes feel that way about their toddler's name. “I don't regret naming our son Ryder, but I do often look at him and think, ‘Where did that name come from?’” she says. “A few months after he was born, a friend was talking about her son's biblical name, and Dave turned to me and asked, dead-seriously, ‘Wait, what's the lineage of the name Ryder again?’ as if he hadn't been involved in the naming process at all, and I was like, ‘No lineage. It's Kate Hudson's son.’”
Indeed, the celebrity baby-naming culture, with its attention-getting Apples, Bronx Mowglis, Monroes and Morrocans, may encourage many parents to celebritize their own children. “Children have always been objects of enhancement, but with celebrities and names now, there is a total objectification,” says Dr. Michael Brody, a chair at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “People see celebrities having or adopting more and more children, and giving them names that attract even more attention to them, and there is the sense that they should do the same for their own kids.”
One idea: Try saving your "creative expression" for the child’s middle name. But if the name has already been inked — and the child is past name-changing age — consider a good nickname. Just ask Lola.
Be honest: Do you ever wish you'd name your child something different?