The Twists and Turns in Choosing Names for My Children

There is lots of advice out there on the importance of naming your child. What you choose for their name will last a lifetime. But really it is an embodiment of aspirations that you wish for them.

Cuddling my first son

I found that choosing a name for each one of my three children to be a challenge. My wife and I had lots of deliberations on combination of names for each one. After all, it is common wisdom that choosing your child’s name has huge consequences. If you select an uncommon, ‘wacky’ name you may be setting them up to ridicule and even bad job prospects. A trendy name today may wane and be perceived as weird in the future. Some posit that a more common traditional name will guarantee better grades and popularity.

It was gut wrenching to go through all the possibilities. My wife was a rebel 32 years ago in not changing her surname to mine. I could see her point. My French last name is massacred outside of Quebec. Reservations at restaurants are so much easier with Russell instead of Viau. So one option was to include her last name as a middle name. It was quickly rejected because she was estranged from that side of the family.

Another traditional option is to use a given name from a family ancestor. Here we found that we didn’t particularly like any names from them. We therefore were left with choosing a unique name outside of the family circle.

My wife has an English/Irish heritage and I am French Canadian. We played around with a whole bunch of names that we hoped could be pronounced equally well in either English or French. But alas a beautiful French name like Genevieve is not so pretty in English. Adoption of French hyphenated names like Jean-Pierre seemed a little much too. I certainly wanted to avoid any names that could have the French ‘Ti added to the front, like ‘Ti-Jean which is similar to saying Little John. I cringed at some traditional Irish names.

We settled on a first and one middle name format with my last name. This was a practical choice. I’ve seen people with four or five middle names which make filling out any form a challenge. Secondly we concluded that we would choose a fairly unique first name and have a more common middle name. That way our child could choose sometime later how they wanted to be called – by their unique name or more common one. Finally, we avoided names where you couldn’t tell if the person was male or female, like Sandy or Sean.

We also had one other criteria for the combination of first/middle/last names. Since we love music, we felt that the three names needed to have a musical lilt to them – a rhythm so that they could easily roll off your tongue. This we found to be especially important when we were angry at the kids and addressing them in a loud voice. You know when parents call you out by all your names that you are in trouble.

Ultimately, the names we chose are in the top 100 names for boys and girls. The meaning for their names embodies aspirations we had for them. We gave them names that we liked and hoped would serve them well. They seem to like them.

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