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What's in a Name?

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Here are five things to think about before naming your bundle of joy, courtesy of Gay Uncle Brett.

Sad mom holding her baby

Gay Uncle Brett Berk: An expectant mom recently wrote me a note. When you're a nationally renowned parenting guru, this kind of thing happens all the time. But her request was rather unexpected. She wanted to know what to name her kid.

This seemed like such a personal decision. I wondered: What business do I have poking my nose into it? But then I realized that, as with so many things related to contemporary child-rearing, parents feel overwhelmed by all the available choices, worry that they're going to make the "wrong" decision, and end up in an infantilized state where they can't move forward without an expert weighing in. This is bad for parents, but ultimately good for me. So, here are my answers.

1) Jew NOT Junior: The Jewish people have a tradition when it comes to naming. We pick a family member we liked, who's now dead, and use their name as an inspiration. I think this is a lovely homage, and will help soften your hatred for your unruly child (whenever you scream at them) by bringing to mind someone you cared for. Plus, it has the added benefit of eliminating all those creepy/replicant Jr., II, or III suffixes.

2) Protection Racket: Parents often end up avoiding certain names -- even names they really like -- out of fear that other kids will twist them into something derogatory. Obviously, you don't want to name your kid Sewergas or Pooface. But as a mom or dad, you're better off worrying about stuff you can actually control, like whether your parenting style is producing a self-important, entitled, domineering brat. If you raise your kid to behave like a Dick, they'll be teased, regardless of what their name is. If not, chances are they won't.

3) Pick SOMETHING Yourself: Whatever you do, choose a name for your child. I've known parents who get so mired in the process that they end up with a blank line on the birth certificate for months, calling the kid Cutie Pie, Sweetie Pie, or Honey. This inhibits neonatal bonding. Also to be avoided: allowing your older child to pick the name. There are much better ways to get "buy-in" on a new sibling. (If you need specifics, read "Put Turkey Baby Back" (Chapter 10) in my book The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting.)

4) Regain Perspective: You're not designing a troop withdrawal plan for Iraq, or stabilizing the global economy here. You're choosing what to call your kid. Do everyone a favor and stop thinking and talking about it so much. It's not that important. In fact, it's narcissistic, and kind of boring.

5) When in Doubt: You really can't go wrong with the name Brett. Works for a boy, or a girl. Just saying.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jean Rubinson March 4, 2009, 11:58 AM

Cute, Brett.

tobin March 4, 2009, 8:16 PM

I was helping a friend who was naming her baby in that “kind of Jewish way”—using the first letter of the name of the most recently departed.

The letter was “F” and I wanted her to name the kid “Freedom” (in my defense I must mention this was the 60s)

Then I happened on an article that suggested a name testing method: stick your head out the window and call the name three times—loud, as if there had already been multiple attempts to get your kid to come in for dinner.

Freedom didn’t pass the test.

Full Movie Downloads September 11, 2010, 7:59 PM

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