I sometimes wonder if we shouldn’t call our children by numbers until they are old enough to choose a name for themselves.
Until the day I was born, my name was Christopher. I was a third daughter, so the fact I wasn’t a Christopher was a bit of a disappointment to my mother. Then she and Dad couldn’t agree on a girl’s name. She wanted 'Katie'. Dad said that was a ‘little girl’s’ name. So, as a compromise, I was given the name Katherine and I’ve been Katie ever since (except to Dad, who calls me Katriona). I tend to agree with Dad though, now that I’m going grey, that Katie is more suited to a little girl. That’s why I tend to use Kate more often these days.
When I was expecting my first child, P and I chose two boy’s names we liked. The name we really liked had already been taken by my younger sister for her eldest son. We couldn’t agree on a girl’s name at all. However, my younger sister, pregnant again and due before me, chose exactly the same two names and - you guessed it - she had another boy. She did agree to let us have the second name, but we had to rethink the first name again. The ironic thing was that as I got to know our MJ, I became more and more convinced he looked like an Oliver. We didn’t change it of course, but Oliver would still suit him.
Our second son, adopted at seven months, came to us with his Korean name already in place, but it was a name that could be twisted into all sorts of teases, so we gave him the name of the first member of the family to settle in Australia, keeping his Korean name as his middle name. We figured that this particular ancestor had taken the family in a new direction and so would R. Our little one accepted his new name quickly. He did ask that we called him by his Korean name for a while when he was six, but it only took people mispronouncing it a few times for him to change his mind. (Last year I had the unusual pleasure of watching my Korean son, with the unmistakably Scottish name, doing an Irish Jig with his Australian schoolmates!)
When we were allocated our daughter we had been told we’d be getting a boy, so getting a girl was a pleasant shock. She, too, had a ready-made name which, when pronounced properly, was very pretty. P and I had long discussions over whether we should just call her ‘Mary’, which was very similar, but I liked her name as it was. So we changed the spelling to give people a better chance of pronouncing it properly, and gave her an English second name. The other day she came to me and asked me why everyone kept calling her ‘Mary’. I told her not to worry about it, just to tell them her name wasn’t Mary, but M___. “Oh, no,” she said, “I really like Mary!” Her paternal Grandfather, who was the only person to object to us using her Korean name, doesn’t call her anything except ‘My baby girl’. I'm quite sure he'd call her that whatever her name.
On a lighter note – when MJ was born, P and I were discussing how people got their names. “Maybe we should have done like the Native Americans,” P said, “and name him after something in nature at the time of his birth, like ‘Running Bear’ or ‘Wandering Cloud’. “
“Okay,” I said, “look out the window and see what he’d be called.”
P stared out of the window for a moment, then a big grin spread across his face. He turned and folded his arms, looking very serious. “I name my first born, ‘Pooping Magpie’.”