On our Sabbath Mondays my family and I like to go to the local library for Toddler Tales (we love our librarians and they love us!). This last Monday we knuckled down and got a Baby Name Book. This one was cool because it has a graph for each name showing its rise and fall in popularity in the last hundred years. We started with the girls section with A. Abigail, Addison, Alea, etc. We kept reading whilst we walked the greenbelt along the river (which was much more a yellow-orange-red-belt this time of year). By the time we got back to the car we were starving so we agreed that we would stop at Carl's Junior. The kids played on the indoor playground and we ate, talked, and attempted to find a suitable name for our unborn child.
We happened to sit right next to two pregnant women, who couldn't help but drop a few eves on our conversation. "What about Maria?" one women interjected abruptly. "Excuse me," I said. How popular is the name Maria? That's what we're going to name our daughter." "Oh, let me check. Looks like about two in a thousand parents are naming their daughters Maria. But you're pretty safe. It looks like it's plateauing."
We talked about how careful you have to be when telling people the names you are thinking about naming your child because people have strong opinions and little tact. One of the ladies said, "She (the other pregnant woman sitting there) wanted to name her son Stetson, but I told her that's a cheap cologne." A few of the names Heather liked (and I didn't) I had her ask the other ladies. Heather asked (tentatively), "What do you think of the name Axel?" In unison: "Axel Rose." "Or I think of some grease monkey covered in oil and overalls." They didn't hold back with their opinions. We all shared a good laugh.
There are so many reasons not to choose a name...even one that seems good at first glance. It rhythms with something dirty sounding, it's too popular, too weird, is the same name of someone you hated in high school, same name as an ex-girlfriend, has a weird origin. A tip I learned from a friend a while back is to never actually argue about the name. Agree that you like the name, but then pronounce it a little funny. Like if she says, "how bout Helen?" And I say, "perfect, Hel for short right?"
Part of the conversation with our new friends at Carl's Junior naturally flowed into some deeper stuff. Some of the names had some spiritual meaning. Matthew: God's gift. Emmanuel: God is with us. Zachariah: The Lord remembered. We talked about the joys and challenges of parenting. I resisted steering it any further, and enjoyed letting the whole conversation just happen. I was reminded of how many natural ways we can connect with others, and how much of this thing called humanity we share. As I watched my kids play with strangers - sliding climbing, roaring, crawling, chasing, I was amazed at their natural ability to make friends. How do kids do that? They just assume that this person is a friend and potential playmate. When do we stop doing that? When do we start to assume that others are a threat, that they are "other." This little conversation was a rare gem compared to all the hundreds of times I sit alone in a crowded place, aware of all the reluctance strangers have to smile, talk, and connect. Humans are social creatures, and as a New Kind of Humanity (at the NT describes Christ-Followers) we are to love (trust, hope, be kind...1 Corinthians 13) the stranger... maybe especially those who we would naturally build walls to keep from because they are different from us.
I am tempted to end this post by listing our top name choices, but I know you will just criticize and judge them. I know you have strong opinions. You just can't help yourself. But next time someone says they're going to name their child, Oscar, Mortimer, Dorcas, or Fatima, just try not to make a face like you just sniffed your milk that's past its expiration date.
Our Due Date: March 25 (ish)