Q&A: changing a child’s name

Here’s a really interesting one for a Monday morning. Nicole writes:

"I wanted to know if you could tell me about name changing. I changed my
child’s name 6 weeks after he was born and now I feel like the worst parent on
earth and I feel I messed the rest of his life up. Could you please help me."

You didn’t mess the rest of his life up. (Assuming, of course, that you didn’t change his name to Adolph, Saddam, Pol Pot, etc., which could make a person’s life extremely difficult.)

Names are really important, because they help define who we are. and some people definitely seem to be the perfect incarnation of their names. But I don’t think that means that only one name will fit a person, or that being named the "wrong" name will change the course of a person’s life.

I don’t know how old your son is now, but it can take awhile to adjust to a name. I was convinced for the first month that my older son had the wrong name (his dad named him). Now I can’t imagine any other name for him. One of his friends was given a name in the hospital, and when his mother came home she realized it was a name she really hated. And then she didn’t come up with one she liked until the baby was 5 weeks old, so he was nameless in that time! (I was kind of confused and flummoxed when she told us what the new name was because it was so normal and traditional–I’d thought that she had this raging internal debate over two wild names. It turned out the other name was traditional, too.) Now, of course, he totally fits his name. But you know what? He’d fit the other name, too.

There may be other issues here that you didn’t tell me, like naming him after someone you didn’t really want to name after. But if it was just a matter of changing from one name to another, he’ll grow into the name and you’ll probably look back and laugh at the first name you chose. Or else he’ll get it changed when he’s an adult and you can offer to pay the legal fees for the change.

Anyone else with big naming angst? (And if you’re talking about names you hate, better not mention the actual name in case someone else reading just named their child that name. I feel safe disparaging the names of brutal murdering dictators, but every other name is liked by at least someone out there.)

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