Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Naming Pressures

It's a busy week for extended family simchas.

Tonight, my cousin is making a modest bar mitzvah party for her son, the oldest of 8. This is the first great-grandchild's bar mitzvah for my grandmother, and it comes just after the first yahrtzeit for my grandfather, ob"m. I won't be there, but RaggedyDad is on his way to the party now. I know it will be pretty moving and emotional for my grandmother.

On Shabbos, the bar mitzvah boy will read from the Torah in his community. However, my grandmother will be in another neighborhood, at the bris of the first baby boy born since my grandfather's passing. The baby was born to another cousin (different family) and his wife, the newest member to join the family. I hope the new mother realizes what's riding on this bris!

The level of emotionality surrounding the reaction to the illness and subsequent loss of my grandfather is hard to describe. To say that it has been a genuine heartbreak for every single member of this large extended family is an understatement.

It is a very strong assumption on the part of some of the elder family members that the name given will be my grandfather's. And I would say that there's a good 98% chance that that'll be the case. But when I talk to my grandmother and it's clear that this is a done deal in her mind, inwardly I cringe at the thought of the very remote possibility that another name will be given. Stranger things have happened.

It's rough sometimes, as young parents, feeling that very intense implicit (or explicit sometimes!) pressure to give a particular name. Or to choose between names that both sides feel ought to be given. Or to find that you just don't like the name you feel like you're "supposed" to give.

I can be objective and say that although I hope to have the merit to use it for one of my own kids someday, my grandfather's name is not on any top 10 or maybe even top 50 list of popular Jewish baby names. And the nickname options it provides are extremely limited. With our kids, we were fortunate to be able to go our own route in combining naming for people and ensuring that we actually liked and wanted to use those names / combinations of names. There was also not the same degree of emotional pressure at the times when our kids were born.

Sigh. I really do wish the new parents nachas from the newborn and the confidence and intuition to make the best of this first of many of their own parental choices.

13 comments:

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I hear that there is pressure a lot from both sides when each side wants to name, it's tough. I understand your pain.

torontopearl said...

...and I just heard someone say on Shabbos that sometimes, at the last minute, at a baby naming for a girl or bris for a boy, the father tells the rabbi a name different than the one he and the mother "agreed" on. Can you imagine the scenario that follows that?!

Honestly Frum said...

Been there done that. After we choose the first time not to go with the "name" (it has already been used twice as a secondary name) there was a lot of pressure the next time to use it. The truth is, is that although it was not our first (or even 10th) choice of name he is so cute that the name fits him. Sometimes making the grandparents happy is important as well.

SephardiLady said...

I can only wonder what the name is. But only simchas to your family. Imagine. . . . someday we will all G-d willing have our own grandchildren and great-grandchild and will be around to juggle all the smachot. What fun! But we will all need our own personal assistant.

the apple said...

Baby-naming is a sticky issue sometimes. Luckily, my dad is sefardi, so my parents knew that the babies would all be named for grandparents. No doubting there!

With regards to parents not liking the names they "have" to give their kids, someone told me that a name commonly given in their family is Bina (I think it was a grandmother or something). Her sister absolutely hates the name, though, so when her first child was born, he was given the name Binyomin to be yotzei, instead of Bina. There were definitely some family members who were insulted.

Mazal tov on the simchas, and may your family share in many more!

Jewish Deaf Motorcycling Dad said...

When we named my daughter, we used my grandmother's name for the first name, and my wife's grandmother's name (mother's mother) for the second name. My mother-in-law actually offered me a large sum of money to switch the names.

Later, when my wife's sister named her new daughter, my mother-in-law was so upset that it wasn't her mother's name that she started calling airlines to fly back home early. Yikes! (they managed to talk her into staying, but almost regretted it as she was very cold to them the rest of the visit)

In all cases (I have two girls now, plus my sis-in-law's 1 daughter) my father-in-law insisted that if the baby was a boy, we MUST name it after his father, plus he MUST be the one to hold the baby during the bris. Now after seeing how his wife reacted with the granddaughters namings, he said he won't insist on names anymore. We'll see when the time comes...

Ezzie said...

Wow. Pet peeve, so I'll keep it short. (Thankfully, this is almost never an issue in my family - my brother DID name his first son for my grandfather, who was the ONLY great-grandparent who was not alive at the time. Not bad, eh?)

People in our family generally make it clear WELL in advance that we will pick a name we like first, and if we happen to like the name of the deceased, we'll *consider* it. If anyone doesn't like that, too bad. So far, this has worked. :)

Ways of Zion said...

I always seem to give in to my husband......

RaggedyMom said...

Update - Whew! They gave "the name"! All is right with the world. LOL.

They should have lots of nachas from their baby, and limited future interference! :)

table nine said...

Naming pressure can be INTENSE. Especially if the name isn't on your "top 10", "50", or even 100 list! Throughout my pregnancy with our son I secretly (and not so secretly sometimes, sorry DH!) shivered at the thought of telling people our son's name, which is that of my husband's grandfather, ob"m. But in the end I feel like the name fits, I do really love its meaning, and while I did not ever get to meet the man for whom our son is named, I have a feeling he has "inherited" quite a few of his wonderful attributes.

And as a bonus, I always get a kick out of hearing people outside the frum world trying to pronounce it!

mother in israel said...

Grandparents shouldn't interfere with baby naming choices.

PsychoToddler said...

I think you need to be prepared to be disappointed.

When my wife's grand mother died, several kids were born the following year and we waited to hear what the names were and were bitterly disappointed when they paid only "token homage" to her name. But to be fair, her name, kinda....sucked.

Sam said...

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