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Riddle-me-this

Emma and Dane are expecting a baby boy at the end of the year, and have reached a stalemate in their baby name discussions. They are both extremely busy, and it has been easier to just avoid talking about it.

The first issue is that Dane doesn’t want the baby to have a middle name. He thinks it seems like a hassle, as just another thing that will need to be filled out on forms. Emma thinks it would be nice for their son to have a middle name, and notes that both she and Dane have one.

Emma is also fairly sure what she would like in the middle: one of their grandfather’s names, or a name derived from a grandfather’s name. That gives them a choice of either Michael, Solomon, Felix, or Jack (or a name which is related to one of these names in some way).

Out of these, Emma’s preference is for Michael, which is the name of Dane’s grandfather. Dane was the eldest grandson, and was close to his grandfather. And as Grandpa Michael lived until Dane was in his late twenties, they got to spend a lot of time together. To Emma, it makes sense that they choose the name of the grandfather who was best known and loved.

Apart from thinking middle names might very well be a nuisance, Dane is concerned that a middle name which honours someone could end up being a burden. It will be the name of someone their son doesn’t know, so may not feel any connection to. Dane also worries that choosing one grandfather over the three others risks causing family friction, especially as Emma’s mother is pushing them to use her father’s name, Jack.

They haven’t reached any agreement on a first name either. Dane’s preference is for Spencer or Cy, while Emma leans towards Quentin or Jarvis. Other names they have considered are Jared, Ike, Jarrah, Hank, Miles, Carl, and Carson. Emma and Dane’s surname starts with F eg Firman.

Emma would be grateful for any feedback or ideas as to how to get past their stalemate.

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I’ll deal with the middle name issue first, since I get the feeling this is really holding up the baby name discussions.

I think Dane is wrong about middle names being an administrative hassle – it’s actually not having a middle name which is a hassle. People who work in places like banks and passport offices expect you to have a middle name, so if you leave it blank they often query it, thinking you have forgotten to write it down, or are possibly trying to pull some sort of scam (they don’t tend to be the most trusting lot).

One of my cousins doesn’t have a middle name, and it was a real pain for her, as there was no way to tell her apart from someone else with the same name eg Jennifer (no middle name) Brown. She had trouble graduating from university as there was another Jennifer (no middle name) Brown, and eventually had to agree to have Jenny Brown on her degree instead of Jennifer. Her bank mixed her up with another customer from the same street who was also called Jennifer (no middle name) Brown, and they routinely received each other’s bank statements and so on. This isn’t just a hassle – it left both of them open to identity theft and fraud.

She married reasonably early to someone with an unusual surname, like Casamiagiento, and as she’s now the only Mrs Jennifer Casamiagiento in Australia, her identity woes are at an end. (Spelling her name is now the big problem). However, she still resents not having a middle name, and feels that her parents ripped her off by not giving her one.

I’m going to go out on a limb, and suggest that the reason Dane is resisting the idea of a middle name might be because he wants to avoid the stress of dealing with “honouring grandpa”. (That’s actually how Cousin Jennifer lost out on a middle name – due to family honouring issues, it went into the too hard basket).

I think it would be a bad idea to coerce Dane into honouring his grandfather with his son’s name, and that it should be his choice whether he honours Grandpa Michael. It might seem obvious that as Dane had the closest relationship with Grandpa Michael, Michael needs to be your son’s middle name. It would make perfect sense – as long as Dane wanted it.

It’s a sensitive subject, as people might have all sorts of reasons for not wanting to choose the name of a beloved family member who has passed away. They might still be grieving their loss, so don’t want to give their child a name connected with sadness. They might feel that the name still “belongs” to their family member, and it would feel disrespectful to give it to someone else.

It seems as if Dane doesn’t relish the idea of choosing sides by picking the name Michael. As your mum is very keen on the name Jack, he may not want to hurt or offend his mother-in-law, and may not want to connect Grandpa Michael’s name with potential conflict and injured feelings.

I think you need to talk to Dane, and ask him to identify where the real problem lies. Does he not want to use the name Michael to honour his grandfather, or would he prefer not to use family names in the middle at all? If you said, “Forget about Michael as it’s too much of a problem – we’ll just go with my grandfather Jack’s name”, would he welcome that decision or feel that now his grandfather was being slighted?

I feel as if you have quite a few options.

-Use Michael
– Use one of the other grandfather”s names, such as Felix, Solomon, or Jack
– Use a similar name to Michael, such as Mitchell, Micah, Moses, Miller, or Miles, so that you get a little reminder of Grandpa Michael without actually using his name
– Honour Grandpa Michael in some other way, such as using a family surname, or something connected to him
– Choose a middle name that doesn’t have anything to do with your family if it’s going to do nothing but cause arguments and stress: there’s no rule that you have to honour your family using your child’s name, and not choosing a family name doesn’t mean that you don’t love or respect your family

It’s really completely up to you and Dane what you decide to do (and it’s ultimately Dane’s decision in regard to using Michael). If possible, try to leave pressure from other people out of your discussions, as it seems like a distraction.

I wouldn’t worry one bit about your son never having met his great-grandfather: apart from having a blood connection, you can talk to him about his great-grandfather, show him photos and mementos, share special memories, and explain what a wonderful person he was. These are the ways we keep a beloved person alive in our hearts, long after they’ve gone.

I can’t help feeling that once you’ve sorted out the middle name, the first name will come a lot easier. I notice you’ve both chosen surnames like Spencer and Jarvis as possible names, so that seems to be something you’ve got in common. You might like Beckett, Jacoby, or Miller. And you’ve thought of a few unusual, American-style nicknames too, like Cy, Ike and Hank, that seem quite hip.

I like Cyrus, but unfortunately Cy reminds me of Cy Walsh, who recently murdered his famous father, the AFL coach: it’s bad timing, because I received your e-mail around the time he had his court hearing. How do you feel about Silas? Actually you’ve got a few names ending in S – what about Darius, Amos, Tobias, Rufus, Otis, Magnus, or Linus? Or Gus?

You’ve also considered three names starting with Jar-. I like the idea of Jarrah, because not only is it an Australian tree, but it’s very much like the Hebrew male name Jarah, meaning “honeycomb, honeysuckle”. Very sweet! Jarvey is a nickname for Jarvis which reminds me a lot of popular Harvey. It seems jaunty.

I really hope you can find time for a good talk about this very soon – those few months until your son is due will disappear like magic. I think it’s time to move past your stalemate, and start making some choices that work for both of you.

NAME UPDATE: The baby’s name was Spencer Moses!

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