Ethical Question -- Baby Name Edition Part Two
December 30, 2016 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I didn't take your advice. Now what?

This was me. TLDR, I named my son after a mentor of mine in the hospital; I quickly came to see that I did not like the name and really wanted a name I'd dismissed earlier for stupid reasons -- but I felt bad changing it. Mefites generally said I should change it if I didn't like it, and make the mentor's name a middle name. I never did it, and am still struggling a lot with it six months later -- I still cringe when people say his name! If it matters, it's not that weird of a name -- in the top 400 in the US, a bit higher where we live.

Why didn't I do it then? My mentor was just completely over the moon and let me know several times how much it meant to him; I felt *terrible* thinking of changing it. I see myself as a good person (as most people do, I'm sure) and I really try HARD to be likable and make other people happy -- it's kind of my "thing." Also, I am a first-class ruminator/catastrophizer, and I was worried about postnatal depression and that the fog would clear and I'd be happy with the name. I also found out it's easy to change the name, but the old name will always be on the certificate as the "old name" -- my kid would always know I screwed this up. Finally, inertia: I just found it easier to hope it would get better than to do something about it.

But it hasn't gotten better. I think about it all the time, and every day -- how much the name is not a good fit, how much it does not match with my older child's name, how much I like the other name and will never be able to use it. It's bizarre, I know. I'm worried that I'll traumatize my son later by changing it (aargh, what if he likes the old name better?) I know that my mentor -- who I am seeing for a week next summer, with the whole family -- will be so very disappointed. I'm worried that all the people I know (including the daycare staff -- how do I tell them?) will think I'm crazy. I'm worried I've waited way too long (nearly eight months) and I've damaged him by not calling him much more than "the baby." I'm worried he'll later see videos/cards, etc where people are using his old name and be confused/upset. I'm worried that I'll always have this as a bad memory and won't stop thinking that I failed to give a name I really wanted to please someone else -- a pattern of mine. But I'm also worried that if I change it, I'll be miserable because it's against my values of being kind to people who have been good to me.

Most of all, I'm worried I'll always see myself as a shallow idiot for messing this up in the first place and then caring so much, rather than accepting a fine name that makes someone I care about very happy. I know people with real problems, truly tragic dilemmas and WTF PRESIDENT TRUMP (world will end, anyway) -- but somehow I am not able to fully recognize that this is an idiotic problem and give up on my "dream" name.

I cannot see a way out. Christmas (personalized gifts!) has made this worse. I talked to a therapist at the time, but I think he underestimated how upset I was over this, and I'm not sure I can CBT this away (though honestly, I haven't tried that hard to use those techniques.) I literally hate myself every day for putting myself in this ridiculous situation -- and I grind over the events that led to it over and over and over again. The only solution I can see is a time machine :(.

Any thoughts? How can I accept it and move on or bring myself to change it? Why does this even matter so much to me? I cannot go into 2017 feeling this way. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
i think you need to go ahead and change it. As suggested before, move the unliked name to the middle name. You are going to feel soo much better. You don't even need to tell everyone you changed it. A lot of people go by their middle names. You can tell your mentor that as the baby grew he seemed to fit your liked name better and you are still pleased to have the unliked name as middle.
posted by sulaine at 7:11 AM on December 30, 2016 [28 favorites]

It is strange to change a baby's name after eight months, but it's stranger that you've spent almost the first entire year of your baby's life obsessing over this. You should change his name.
posted by cakelite at 7:15 AM on December 30, 2016 [54 favorites]

To offer an outside perspective: I think your (understandable) new-parent anxiety and desire to Not Mess Up are making this situation seem far more dire than it objectively is. You definitely have not damaged your kiddo by calling him "the baby!" He will be just fine later in life if you switch to calling him by the preferred name now.

Also, going by one's middle name is just dandy and is at most a slight annoyance, which is balanced by the fact that it confers membership in the super cool Middle Name Club. I am a go-by-my-middle-name person and I like it!

Don't beat yourself up for feeling conflicted about this. It is totally understandable; you are dealing with a lot of new-parent emotions! But it is also not at all a big deal to just change to your dream name, and you are putting yourself through a lot of unnecessary angst right now.
posted by aka burlap at 7:17 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh, I misread - never mind about my middle name comments. But my point still stands: it's totally 100% fine to change to the name you prefer, the mentor will understand, you will be happier, and baby will not suffer one bit from this whole thing.
posted by aka burlap at 7:19 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is not an ethical question. It is a mental health question. This block that is paralysing you is quite clearly not at all about the name and absolutely about your desire to be perfect and please everyone. You obviously rationally read and understood all the advice the last time you asked this question.

I think at this point you need to go back to the therapist again with a clear goal of: "I want to feel ok about changing my baby's name." Work really hard at the CBT. Change the name! Live happily ever after.
posted by bimbam at 7:20 AM on December 30, 2016 [102 favorites]

Hell, change the name already. I don't care if you do it officially or not, just start calling the kid something that makes you think of him and not how much you're a failure at life.
posted by Trifling at 7:21 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

My son goes by his middle name and the only issues it causes are we have to tell hs new teacher at the beginning of a school year (not a big deal at all) and sometimes, a new nurse at the Dr will come out, calling him by his first name and it takes US a minute to catch on. Causes a good laugh. Change his name....make it work for you and your family and don't fret about it.
posted by pearlybob at 7:22 AM on December 30, 2016

or just call the kid whatever you want. Seriously.

my highschool sweet heart, my brother in law, his sister, 2 of my direct reports all go by names that aren't their birth names. Hell I call my son by his middle name all the time!

This is totally normal. Easy and solves the problem without it being "a thing"
posted by French Fry at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

Go ahead and change it.
Names are changed more often, at more times, and for more (usually personal) reasons than most of us realize. I know two women who have gone by completely different first names from the names they were given at birth--and neither of their preferred names are even their middle names.
Do it now, and then concentrate your energy on enjoying your baby!
posted by bookmammal at 7:31 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to suggest taking a slightly different tack here. Why not talk to your mentor and see what he says? Tell him what you told us here: "I originally named him after you, but as he grew older we thought of Other Name and we really want to use that. But I would still like to honour you, and I want to do the right thing by you." Who knows, he might surprise you and graciously give you his blessing for the name change. If not, well, there's the middle name compromise everyone's been advocating here. If he reacts badly to even that compromise, then well. You can cross that bridge when you come to it.

As for the baby finding out from the birth cert, I wouldn't be too bothered by that. My own last name is spelled differently on my birth certificate from what it is now. My father explained that he originally went with alt spelling for $reason, but later changed it to match his own to avoid confusion. I didn't really care either way. Explain to your kid that you originally chose Frank, but later thought of an even better name. If you don't make a big deal out of it, your kid won't either.
posted by satoshi at 7:44 AM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Over the summer on Big Brother, there was a contestant named Bronte who had two entirely different names for the first year of her life. It turned out fine. Just change it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:46 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chiming in to assure you that no harm whatsoever will come to baby from your changing the name. Zero. Hell my little girls spent the first couple years of their lives never hearing their own names ever, instead being addressed variously as bunny rabbit, pumpkinpie, boodly-boodly-boo, etc. Makes no difference.

Do change it now for your own mental health, though. It'll be fine. Tell your mentor that you love his name so much, but as the kid grew he just really doesn't look a Frank to you and it was weirding you out, but you kept that as his middle name to honor the mentor. Give the kid the first name you want; don't muck around with calling him something other than the name on the cert. Get it changed for real, since this is such a trigger issue for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:07 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a symptom, not an actual problem. The actual problem is that you're a people pleaser who ignores your own needs. This isn't nice or kind at all, really. It's more about how you want to be seen (ie, vanity) than making other people happy. You need to start to put yourself and your family first, otherwise you will start to act out of resentment at not having your own needs met or addressed and your behavior will seem more bizarre and cruel. This is what you should be talking about in therapy: the fact that you ignore your own good instincts just to make superficial gestures to other people.

Start calling your kid by the wanted name TODAY. See how it feels. Just do it. Don't worry about what other people think.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:10 AM on December 30, 2016 [51 favorites]

When I was born I was named after my father's mother. My father was abusive to both my mom and me, his mother was horrible, and my mom ended up having to run away when I was an infant. So there she was having to take care of me with this name that reminded her of all this really terrible shit, and she usually just referred to me by an unrelated nickname. When I was about 6 she told me the name that she wanted to name me and asked if I would be interested in changing it. I did, we went through the whole legal process, and it was kind of weird having a different name halfway through first grade, but it's my name now. So having kind of been in your kids position, I'd say why don't you start calling him by your preferred name and when he's old enough give him the option to legally change it.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:31 AM on December 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

Ronan Farrow was originally Satchel, then Seamus.
posted by brujita at 8:32 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am a name change baby!

My parents gave me what seemed like an unfortunate, weird name with a lot of cultural baggage. They second-guessed it and called me by a nickname shared by a very popular name instead. I changed it to the popular name as a teen. I have zero angst about the whole thing. I have thought about going back too, now that I am not a teenager desperate to fit in, but it would be too weird for me at this stage. (But I could!)

None of this causes me any angst whatsoever. It would not have caused me any angst if they had changed it originally. My relationship with my parents is fraught for lots of reasons but I want to assure you that the weirdness of them picking a name, never using it, and my changing it is soooooo not an issue. We all talked about it /a lot/ growing up - pretty much every time my legal name came up on a roll call. If anything I learned it's okay to course correct in life.

Your baby is going to have a great little personal trivia question for icebreakers if you change his name. Please go ahead without any guilt about his future feelings. And yes please keep getting support; this anxiety is not how you have to live as a parent.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:33 AM on December 30, 2016

Just start calling him the preferred name. If he wants to be called something else when he's older he'll let you know. Lots of people go by names that don't match the birth certificate because a favorite uncle's nickname for them caught on, or whatever.
posted by bunderful at 8:33 AM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Change your baby's name. And go see a therapist and tell them that you have been obsessing over this name thing for the last 8 months and hating yourself over it, and that you need help with the underlying problem of putting other people's needs before your own and therefore getting stuck in a swamp of resentment and unhappiness.

CBT techniques can help, but you actually have to work on them. Just reading about them once and thinking, "Oh, I should do that" won't help you change the thought patterns that are causing you so much grief right now. You are beating yourself up very hard over something that doesn't have to be a big deal. Your kid's daycare people will adjust. Your kid doesn't even have any real friends yet who will have to be told. You're not going to traumatize your baby by changing his name; I never even saw a copy of my own birth certificate until I was 18 and needed it for some logistical reason.
posted by colfax at 8:37 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

I go by my middle name, and aside from having to clarify when I write checks or spell my email address, it is no big deal. Even better, I named my kid X, called her X-nick (which is actually a beloved family name, though unusual and old fashioned, thus the compromise first name), and now she is almost nine, and we have decided together that someday soon we are going to officially change her name to X-nick, because X bugs the heck out of both of us. It only stresses her out the first week of school and on airplane flights. (Before we go through security, we always have the checkin "Ok, remember, they are going to ask you for your 'airplane name.' What will you tell them?") But she is decidedly not traumatized, and would probably be perfectly happy whether we change the name or not.
posted by instamatic at 8:47 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gerald Ford's name was changed from Leslie to Gerald when he was two and he turned out president. It will be fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:52 AM on December 30, 2016 [21 favorites]

For a variety of reasons (think wartime, when survival was the number one priority, not baby names), a very close relative of mine spent the first SIX YEARS of their life without a legal first name. They were randomly assigned a name when they went to school. They are a normal, well adjusted adult. It's fine to change your baby's name.

But I agree with others, this is a mental health issue, not a name issue. Therapy for you is a good idea.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:03 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're a people pleaser who is worrying unnecessarily about pleasing everybody else but yourself.

Yes, your mentor was "over the moon" (who wouldn't be??) but I doubt he has spent every day for the last 6 months thinking how wonderful it was that you'd named your son after him... whereas you've spent every day for the last 6 months CRINGEING whenever someone mentions your son's name!

oh man - I feel for you, I truly do.

Look - there are going to be consequences for changing your child's name. Yes, you're going to have to explain to friends and family (and the mentor) that initially you loved THENAME but now, you just don't think it suits your son and you've changed your mind.

People might judge or question you or have their own opinions, but let them have their own opinions, who cares about them?.... honestly, at this stage you're making yourself sick over this and it really will be (Very) Short Term Pain for (very) Long Term Gain (A LIFETIME!!)

You can do this. You've acknowledged that it's your "thing" to try make everyone else happy... but at what cost?

Your son won't know anything about the name change, and it's actually a really cool story to tell him when he's older, who doesn't like a bit of mystery and intrigue?

I wish you luck. I think you know what you need to do.
posted by JenThePro at 9:12 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Your anxiety over this is causing difficulties with your family and social functioning. People often forget that postpartum anxiety is a real condition, not just postpartum depression. In addition to seconding the suggestions to go back into therapy (with your previous therapist or a new therapist), I suggest you talk to your Ob-Gyn, primary care provider, or psychiatrist about your anxiety levels.
posted by lazuli at 9:12 AM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, you sound so stressed out and unhappy about this. Just start calling baby by the name you want baby to have. I have several family members that go by names that have nothing at all to do with their birth certificate names. Example: Joseph on the birth certificate but goes by the name Ryan. This is something that can always be changed officially at any time in the future. So you don't have to hurry to do it immediately. I would take care of your anxiety first and just start calling baby whatever you want, and then see how you feel about the official name change once your anxiety is under control.

I agree therapy is a good idea, because it's possible you'll change baby's name and then the anxiety you're having over the name change will just latch onto something else. Anxiety is annoying that way.
posted by ilovewinter at 9:12 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone else that changing the name is the right thing to do and that you'll look back on the change as a great decision.

I think you may want to be screened for postpartum depression. There was a series in the NYT recently about how it doesn't always present with the same symptoms as typical depression. Instead, it can present with intrusive thoughts or OCD-like symptoms or other symptoms entirely. Friends of mine who've experienced it have described obsessing about specific issues during this time. The feelings you describe in both of your posts just seem like this is a pretty unusual response, even for someone who acknowledges that they have a tendency to try to please everyone.I'd seek out a new therapist who specializes in PPD (one that you can be really open with) and see what they think.

Wishing you all the best - I'm sure the kiddo will be happy with his name!
posted by leitmotif at 9:16 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

I had an old friend whose family gave every male child William as a first name and each child was then known by their second name, say James or David or whatever, so it's certainly a thing. Keep the mentor's name as the first name and use your preferred name as the second / family name.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 9:32 AM on December 30, 2016

I also found out it's easy to change the name, but the old name will always be on the certificate as the "old name" -- my kid would always know I screwed this up.

Your kid will always know that you were willing to do go through the inconvenience of making a change because it was the right thing to do.

We changed our daughter's name at 18 months old. Yes, her old name is on the certificate with a correction listed below. It has never occurred to me or my my wife that the kid will ever really care, much less see it as us "screwing up" somehow. When it came up recently as we were registering her for school, we just said "We originally named you Marigold, but we thought Daisy fit you much better that we changed it." That was it.

I agree with the people who think you need to work this out in therapy. You feel a lot of anxiety about things that other people don't experience as anxiety-provoking at all. You could drive yourself crazy trying to guess what your mentor will think or what your baby will think but (1) you don't know and (2) it doesn't matter. Do what you think is right. It's just as likely that your mentor will be proud of you for doing the right thing and that your kid will like the new name better than the old one, but even if they don't this is your decision to make. When your child is older, they can go by whatever name they like.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:36 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do it now. Tear the bandaid off. You had great advice in your other thread - I'd take pseudostrabismus' approach. Of course your supervisor felt honoured, it's a huge thing for someone to name their kid after you. But if you keep Frank as a middle name, the name's still there, it's still wonderful, still an honour. All he can do is laugh and accept this graciously, no other option, come on. Otherwise, what are you going to do, call your son Frank just around your supervisor? Have your supervisor overhear other people mention your son Leo and find out that way? Hate your son's name forever? (It's possible to hate a name forever, I can tell you from experience.) None of these are tenable. You have to do it, so just do it. You've been given a great script.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:38 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

My mother changed her first name at 17. At that time (1938), it was a pretty easy fix, partly because she was still a minor -- my grandmother just notified the hall of records that there was an error on the birth certificate, and boom, done.

My sister changed her first name at 24 or 25 (about 1981 or 82), using the method of just going by the new name until it evolved into the "official" name.

I changed my last name at 37 (1997), when I was divorced and didn't want to keep either my ex-husband's name or my father's name. I went the court route, which was pretty simple and has given me a paper trail that I appreciate. I also had a hard date as to when my name changed so I sent out pretty announcements letting all my friends know.

So all this to say: people change their names all the time. ALL the time. In many many ways. There are certainly ancient and invested reasons for taking a name and keeping it, but those usually fall in line with not naming a child until you've gotten to know it really well and know what its name should be.

Do it. Stop worrying about it. Let the chips fall where they may. Of the three people I described above, the only one that has been trouble at all was my sister, who I still randomly call by her original name from time to time and whose new name my mother never got right to her dying day.
posted by janey47 at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to suggest changing the child's middle name to the name you love. Then just tell people, "I couldn't get used to calling the baby (name) because it's my mentor's name." If you want, start referring to him as (mentor's name) (beloved name), and eventually just (beloved name). Keep in mind that once he's in school it's a giant re-do as far as the name goes. The teacher and all the kids will call him whatever you tell them to call him on the first day.

As far as traumatizing him by calling him "baby"...when my uncle was a two-year-old someone asked him what his name was, and he said, "the baby." He did learn his name eventually. No harm done!
posted by christinetheslp at 9:53 AM on December 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

Yes, in one way, this is a symptom of anxiety, but the best kind, one that can be solved via action. And, this sounds like something you really care about, so I don't think it's "only" a symptom. I'd say go ahead and change it! First, I'd try out the new name. Pretend the change is made. If you still like it, go for it!

You won't damage your child. Many kids have tons of nicknames; especially in the baby years, half probably think their name is Pumpkin Cheeks. Looking back at documents, it will still be his middle name. He could even revert if he chose. But most likely, he'll feel like the new name is "his name," so he'll be glad you "fixed" it.

You can just tell the childcare people what happened. It's okay; I think they'll understand. Or if you really can't, you could lie and say that you used to call him by his middle name and now want to call him by his first name.

Is the rest of your mental health okay? PPD can come up in this timeframe for sure. But names totally are a very understandable source of this kind of feeling. I think telling your mentor that you haven't gotten used to it, that the name still feels like it belongs to the mentor, not the baby, is a good way to approach him on this.
posted by slidell at 10:12 AM on December 30, 2016

I might not be reading closely, but what did you end up naming your son? Is it Mentor Favorite Lastname (Frank Eli Smith)? If so, I would just start calling him Eli and if your mentor asks (which would be kind of awkward on his part), I'd say something along the lines of, "As he's gotten bigger he just seemed more like an Eli, as much as we are proud to have given him your name."

FWIW, lots of people end up with names that aren't their birth names (whether legally or otherwise). Older siblings who can't pronounce, for example, the new baby's name often end up creating names that stick. A close friend was given one name at birth and his family called him something else his whole life, which hasn't affected him at all. His parents just liked the sound of his informal name better.

I mean no offense here, but it sounds like you are a first-time mom and worrying (as all first time moms do) about doing everything right and not harming your baby. That means you are a good, caring mom! But there's nothing in the name (or rename) that's going to hurt your son. There are plenty of other things down the parent road to perseverate on--I'd try to chat a bit more with your therapist about this and just call the baby the name that you think fits.
posted by stillmoving at 10:21 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you want the "easy" solution, add your favorite name as a middle name (if it isn't already) and just call the baby that. Always and forever: in public, in private, at school, always. That's his name now, congrats.

Eliminates the public awkwardness of officially changing his first name (I understand the anxiety, I truly do) and lets you call your son by the name you actually want.

I have a good friend whose name is something like Jim Michael Smith. His parents and all his high school friends call him Michael exclusively. He decided to go by Jim in college and introduces himself as such and to me he is absolutely a Jim. It's positively 100% fine, nobody cares, and it isn't a big deal for him to show ID that says Jim Michael instead of Michael Jim.
posted by lydhre at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

First off, there are cultures where you get different names at different stages of your life, with the reasoning being that you fit the name to who the person turns out to be (or at least, this was something I heard and read quite a few times as a kid.) I always thought that idea made sense, and it seems like a perfectly fine way to explain things to your child when they're older: as I got to know you better, I just couldn't stop thinking of you as X.

Also, there's no need to feel distressed about what your child will think of the name. I don't particularly love my name, but I don't see it as my parents having "fucked up", and the more I hear people I love, or people who are really nice, calling me by my name the more I get attached to it. Which brings me to the other thing about names: I've found that the associations I have with a name change depending on the people I meet with that name and how I feel about them.

That means you have many options. You could decide once and for all to forget the second name and to let your baby define the associations you have with the first one. You could rename your kid officially and drop the original name altogether. You could go the middle name route or just the unofficial nickname route, and explain it to the mentor by saying you loved and still love the name, but you didn't realize how odd it would feel to use it regularly because you associate that name so strongly with your mentor, who is still alive - and thus you're happy that your mentor will always be memorialized as part of your child's official name (if that's what you choose to do) but you've found yourself also calling him by this other name for the reason given above. (Obviously you could also give the real reason, a different reason, or no reason at all, though I agree with you that that's not as kind a way to go about things.) You could really do anything you want. The trick is to decide what to do according to your primary goal (feeling able to talk to and about your child with the name you love?) and then figure ho out how to do it in a way that meets, or goes a significant way towards meeting, your secondary goals (continuing to warm an old man's heart; not seeming weird to others?) You take care of the not-seeming-weird goal by announcing your decision confidently; you show consideration to your mentor in different ways depending on what changes you end up going with, but I think anything you do can be done kindly and the important thing is (assuming you wish to do so) to keep up the connection between your mentor and your child in ways that go beyond the name (lots of pictures, etc.)

Tl;dr: You have a lot of options; no particular option even needs to be final; your kid isn't going to care unless you repeatedly present it as some terribly misstep for which you feel sorry (don't do that ;-) ); and you can please both others and yourself not by letting others' needs dictate your decisions, but by finding ways to take them into account (if you want to) when implementing your decisions.

And finally, let your feelings for your child be defined by your child; bend whatever name you choose to your baby, and not your baby to the name.
posted by trig at 11:33 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you decide to make a change, call your mentor up right away and tell him about it. That will feel like the hardest possible choice before you do it, but it'll give you the biggest sense of relief once you do. Just go ahead and rip that bandage off. You'll feel so good afterwards.
posted by mono blanco at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

In all kindness, you're catastrophizing again. Seriously, your kid is not going to look back at his birth certificate and think OMG MY MOM FUCKED UP WHAT A TOTAL LOSER SHE COULDN'T EVEN GET THAT RIGHT. He's really, really not.

Change the name (or give him the preferred name as a middle name and start using it). Then go back to your doctor and tell him/her that you are experiencing significant, life-affecting symptoms of anxiety which are not being addressed by your current treatment. That's the real issue here.
posted by praemunire at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2016 [17 favorites]

Change it. The relief you will feel, once the name change is official, will make up for whatever problems you think this will cause with your mentor. If your mentor is that petty as to not understand your need to do this, that is their issue to grapple with. This has nothing to do with them. Stop viewing it as a slight; your mentor's ego doesn't amount to a hill of beans when compared to your own sanity and your child's life.

It's beyond absurd the things we sacrifice for other people's egos. It's one thing to politely accept a small gift you don't like so as to not harm someone's ego - it isn't worth it - but to be tormented daily over your child's name? Because a grown adult might get their feelings hurt? No.

No one here is judging you. You are in the right to change your child's name. You have the internet's permission!
posted by nightrecordings at 11:51 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm coming in to just reinforce something that has been noted by a few other people. This is NOT an ethical question. There is nothing unethical about changing the name of your child to one you like better than the one you initially had chosen. This is a question about mental health. You need to work with your therapist about why the idea of changing his name is so monumental to you that you feel it has become a question of your ethics as opposed to a question of simple personal preference.
posted by teamnap at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think you can frame this as a move of power and authenticity, if you go ahead with it, rather than capitulating to your weaker self or upsetting everyone or failing or not understanding your desires well enough. The fact is you went with a name and now, after a period of months, you know your child as a person and you can see that a different name would fit better. You're being responsive to what you observe and how you feel and how you know your child to be (which is a mix of his personality, and also his connections to other people, like your other kid whose name now doesn't match well). As his personality came out, you got to know him better and now the name will be changing.

It is pretty neat, in a way, that you took this time to try out the mentor's name. You really do care about the mentor and that's clear. And, in that time, you've realized for certain that it's not the name you want to go with. How nice to have that certainty, and to act on it with courage and authenticity.

When talking to others and even just during internal dialogue, you could focus more on the above story than the failure story. Maybe do a quick apology where it seems like the name change will be a little nuisance, but then get back to how awesome things are and how great it is that you've figured out Baby's actual name, or shrug and attribute it to the unpredictability of life or something equally vague, and then move on.

For example, I'd do a longer conversation with the mentor. Your script could be similar to if your kid decided to adopt a new name on their own later in life. I think they'll likely be sad and it may stick in the background of the relationship for a while (or forever) but it sounds like it's worth it to you. "Our relationship has meant so much to me, and the honor and gratitude that we were expressing by giving our child the same name as you is still very real and increasing every day. I'm so glad this has brought us together even closer. Getting to know Baby, we realized the name itself is not the right fit and we're going to try this other name. But we'd love to keep your name as his middle name. I know this is quite a shift, and an uncommon one, which is why we took this time to really be sure. Thank you again for everything. Can't wait for our trip next summer."
posted by ramenopres at 1:38 PM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lots of people are named after someone, and wind up going by their middle names. That's how you get names like my former coworker F. David Johnson, called Dave (nobody calls him "F. David", that's just his legal name for documents and stuff.) Most people who know Dave have no idea the F even exists. The only reason I know is that I happened to see it on his time card.

If your child's middle name is not currently the name you desire to call him, have that changed, leave the Frank as the first name, go along with your life. Everyone is going to know your kid by the name you actually call him and/or the name he eventually decides to call himself (he could go with something entirely different.)
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:30 PM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I did this professionally for a while for Dept. of Health, so check with them in your state about the cut-off date for changing the name without a court order. Even then, it's less of a hassle to get it done now.
Right now it's about the birth certificate and Social Security number. As an adult it will be more difficult for him to change his own birth certificate to his preferred name along with educational, professional and personal records. It could get tricky with different names on retirement benefits, government programs, military records, his passport, his marriage license, his kid's birth certificate, etc. Get the legal changes sorted out now.

Bottom line, your little one will find his own way. If he's anything like my girls, he'll come home with some... interesting nicknames given by his friends. Go ahead and get the birth certificate changed and let him make his choices later. It's really not a big deal.
I can confirm that many people completely change their names as adults for a variety of reasons, or no particular reason at all.
posted by TrishaU at 3:29 PM on December 30, 2016

At age 65, while registering for Social Security, my ex just found out that his birth certificate name is NONE of the three names that he sometimes uses. Nor is it "Baby Boy." It's just some random name that he suspects a neighbor/friend told his immigrant parents to use. (They're dead, can't ask them, nor does he care.) He smiled for 15 seconds when he got a look at his real BC and that was the end of it.

I, too, am very close to one of my mentors/advisors. His name would surely be on the short list if I ever reproduce. But I would probably care about such a naming a lot more than he would.
posted by 8603 at 4:19 PM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

And my grandfather, born in the 1920s and universally known as "Buddy," got a surprise when he got drafted. He thought his legal name was August, after his father. No! It was Ralph! So think of this as a fun story that your great-grandchildren will whip out on whatever internet successor they have then.
posted by 8603 at 4:21 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I'd accept the name and move on. Naming him after your mentor was a really sweet thing to do and it would be kind of weird to change it now. As kids grow into their personalities they take over their names -- though my kids' names are the same as my grandfather's and one of my exes, I now feel like the older people are named after the kids and not vice-versa. The kids personalities are just so big that they subsume the history of the name.

(The one kid wasn't named after my ex on purpose - it's just a common name. In case you were wondering.)
posted by selfmedicating at 6:35 PM on December 30, 2016

Call the baby what you want. Changing the name officially is less relevant.

My grandfather's name was James. His middle name was Hubert. His nickname in the navy was Terry. His cousins, who grew up with him and were like grandparents to me as well, called him James unless there was something super emotional going on, when he was called Hubert. My grandmother called him Terry and if you ever heard her calling him James, you'd better run for your life in the opposite direction of her wrath. Point is: Despite having three names that were all well used and to which he responded, he had a pretty goddamned good life.

My family is riddled with people with multiple names. Paperwork is just that. Paperwork. So call the baby what you want. There are blessings in having several names.

But I also think this is an obsession that is a symptom to greater issues that you need to address. "Fixing" the name "problem" won't fix the root cause that has led you to this point.
posted by zizzle at 6:14 AM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most of all, I'm worried I'll always see myself as a shallow idiot for messing this up in the first place and then caring so much, rather than accepting a fine name that makes someone I care about very happy. I know people with real problems, truly tragic dilemmas and WTF PRESIDENT TRUMP (world will end, anyway) -- but somehow I am not able to fully recognize that this is an idiotic problem and give up on my "dream" name.

I talk to myself this way too, and I can tell you it is more of a problem than all the other stuff put together. I know it's not going to stop you from feeling that way. But you have a real concern; names are a fairly important thing with a lot of symbolism, plus your relationship with an important person is wrapped up in this. You are not wrong for feeling conflicted about it.

If this were me-- which of course it's not-- I would be weighing the importance of my mentor's feelings with the way this name is becoming an annoyance, and come down on the side of keeping the name officially and calling the baby whatever name he seems to grow into. The reasons would be, first, making an official change might indeed hurt your mentor's feelings on a level that no one's feelings would be hurt if you keep the name. And two, there is a certain freedom in saying that once you have made a decision, as in this case, you don't have to second guess it endlessly.

For what it's worth, my parents had buyer's remorse about my name and changed it. When I discovered the old name, I liked it better and then changed my own mind years later. My paperwork got into a bit of a mess, especially once I threw in a marriage name change, so I'd encourage the kid to stick to one name on paperwork or make any changes by the book rather than accumulating IDs with different names.
posted by BibiRose at 10:16 AM on December 31, 2016

I believe the solution to this is to change your child's name.

It sounds like you are being haunted by this and your reasons for not changing it (your mentor's disappointment, I'm being shallow) are not compelling. They are about taking care of other people and worry about what other people will think of you.

Your baby's name is really important. It needs to resonate for you. It matters. Sure, there will be some weirdness, but that's ok. You can deal with that. If you were my friend or mentee and you were in this situation I'd be horrified that you weren't changing the name because you were worried about disappointing me. This is not a choiceless choice. There's a clear choice. You just need to get off your ass and do it. The longer you wait, the weirder it's going to get for you and for everyone else. You just have to do it.

Here's what I would do:

Make a list of all the people/things that are going to be affected by your choice and make a decision - write it down - about how you're going to handle each one. Then, set a date, like tomorrow, and start knocking off the list.

If it were me, I would do it something like this:

1. Start the process of making it legal
2. Write a letter to your mentor. Don't fall all over yourself. If you want help with wording, let me know. Tell him you really tried to make it work. The good think about sending a letter is that the person can't just hit reply.
3. Tell your daycare. I would say, "You know, I have a request. I've tried to make Tommy work and I just can't so we're going with our first choice which was Sam, so we need people to start calling him Sam." No need to justify or apologize. I would call the head person first and tell them, and then just tell people at drop off.
4. Call the family and friends you are close to and know would be supportive
5. Send out a blast email/Facebook with something like:

In the hospital I gave Tommy his name even though I knew it didn't feel quite right. I was overwhelmed at the time and couldn't really think straight. As more time has passed I have come to realize that my boy's name really isn't Tommy, it's Mark. I've worried about it every day for months and I finally decided that I need to stop worrying about it and change it. So, baby Tommy is now baby Mark.

If you keep it focused on what's best for you and the baby, then people who give you a hard time are not the kind of people who have your best interest at heart. Remember that once you do it, "I don't want to talk about it," is a fine response to anyone inquiring about the change.

In four to six weeks this could be all the way past or in four to six weeks you could be another month into this with even more anxiety. You need to enjoy your baby.

My daughter's name is Imogen. She came with her name - we adopted her from foster care. But I LOVE her name. And it means so much to me that I like it so much.


posted by orsonet at 10:17 AM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older What Malthusian catastrophe reverts to middle ages...   |   How to tell my bosses I'm bored Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.