I’ll love you forever if you can help me name my newborn baby boy. He’s 5 days old, awfully cute, and nameless. We left the hospital without a name! I didn’t know you could do that. Officially, he’s Baby Boy Papadopoulos until we sort it out.
So, last name is Papadopoulos. My husband is Greek-American, which means we have a naming tradition to deal with. Per tradition, we are supposed to name our first born son and daughter after the father’s parents. My husband and I have differing memories of how much this was actually discussed before we got married & pregnant with our first. (He remembers bringing it up once. I’m disputing that it ever came up at all. At the very least, we had no agreement on the matter.)
We actually have a daughter and, before she was born (as in, right before!) I agreed to use his mom’s name, Eleni. It wasn’t in my top 50 list, but it’s not bad. So I agreed to it, but on the condition that I could name the next child. We’re only having two kids and I want to follow the American tradition called ‘Naming the kids whatever the hell you want and the grandparents will probably hate it but oh well you can’t please everyone.’
Still, I wanted him to at least like the name. When we found out we were having a boy, I threw out a bunch of names to him: Matthew, Miles, Milo, James, Mark, Martin, Theodore, Gregory and many more I can’t even remember now in my postpartum haze. He hemmed and hawed and shot each one down for one reason or another. He just really wants to use his dad’s name Steven.
Steven’s not a bad name. I lucked out as far as Greek daughters-in-law go. Some Greek boy names are totally unworkable. Anyway, I don’t hate Steven. I’m not in love with the phonetics of it (too many e’s) and I don’t like that there are two equally probable spellings (Steven vs. Stephen). I dislike the nickname Steve. And I’d hate to again settle for an OK name just to make the in-laws happy. Especially since we had an agreement in place this time.
On the other hand, it feels wrong to just choose a name myself. He’s hated (or claims to anyway) all of my choices. We can do the father’s name for the middle name, the Christening name. Hell, I’m even fine with the in-laws calling him Steven as a nickname. I just don’t like it enough to agree to it as a first name and not feel defeated and angry.
Please help a sleepless, emotional, postpartum mom of a nameless infant think rationally.
You ARE thinking rationally. It is your husband we need to fix.
1. It was decided that your children will have your husband’s family surname.
2. It was decided that your husband would get to use his naming tradition for your first child.
3. In exchange, it was decided that you would get your way on the next child’s name.
But now your husband really wants to name the child after his own dad, again following his own family’s naming tradition. Here is the problem: he has not fully, deep-down realized that is not going to happen. Instead, he is comparing every name you suggest to the name in his mind, which is his dad’s name. He is making you do all the work of finding a name he likes better—which is NOT the task at hand. The task at hand is for him to agree to one of your top choices, as last time you agreed to his.
Step one: Your husband needs to toss out the name Steven, and FULLY DEEP-DOWN UNDERSTAND that it is tossed out. It’s over. It’s not happening. The way he’s clinging to that name is directly responsible for the way the two of you are unable to name this child. He can’t really consider the other names until he reframes the decision from “Do I like this name better than my idea for the name?” to “Which of the non-Steven names do I like?”
Step two: Of the names that are at the top of your list, your husband needs to choose his favorite. I don’t believe he really does hate all your choices; I believe he is saying he hates them to force you to give in to using his father’s name, whether or not he realizes that’s what he’s doing. Make a list of your top five choices. Ten if you’re feeling generous. He may choose one. That will be the child’s name.
You say it feels wrong to just choose a name yourself, but your husband is not having a similar internal struggle: he did that very thing for your first child’s name, and now he wants to do it again for your second child’s name. You guys had a deal, and now he’s saying actually, no, he would prefer to choose both children’s names himself. Well, of COURSE he would. And so would you. But that is not the way co-parenting works. Certainly he can give final approval to the name, as you gave final approval to his choice, but you let him pick a name that was NOT EVEN IN YOUR TOP FIFTY and now it is his turn. He will honor his part of the deal or I will personally come and shake him until his teeth rattle.