My baby has a normal name - am I a bad parent?
Am I lacking imagination because I couldn't think of a crazy name?
Editor / July 16 2018
It all started when I got an excited phone call at 7am from my close friend, Sarah, to let me know she had given birth. “I’ve had a baby girl,” she whispered excitedly. “And we’d love you to be her godmother!”. “Ooooh, congratulations!” I squealed down the phone. “What’s her name?” “Green,” she said. “She’s green! Is she OK?” I asked, worried. “No,” said Sarah pointedly. “Her name is Green. We want her to be special. Don’t you just love it?”
That was a tricky question. Love it? No. To be honest I wasn't sure about it at all. After all, every baby is special, regardless of its name. But what could I say? This was my new goddaughter and I didn’t want to offend her mum seconds into my new role. Thinking quickly, (which at that time of the morning probably took about half an hour), I came up with a line that still makes Sarah and I chuckle. “I think it’s very memorable...which is just lovely.”
Now, five years on, I can’t imagine Green (or Greenie as she’s known) being a Claire or a Louise but that’s probably because she shares a classroom with Breeze, Ellenaida, Bentley and a Kenickie (named after the character in Grease). Of course, there are a few Olivias, a couple of James’ and two Bens in her class too but I’m not really sure when or why naming your baby became a game in trying to out-do your friends with weird and wonderful creations?
My daughters are called Ruby and Ivy. No crazy spelling and no explanations needed. When my husband, Tom, and I first discussed baby names, I was pregnant with Ruby, and we set ourselves some ground rules. Firstly, we didn’t want her to be forced to spell her name three times whenever she phoned the bank. Secondly, it couldn’t be a faddy name that would date with age and we wanted her to be proud of her name and not have people laugh or query her parents’ sanity when she introduced herself.
When I announced Ruby’s birth, I did feel a little embarrassed that it was so well, normal. Reactions to it varied from “That’s a nice name” which is code for “That’s a bit boring, isn’t it?” to “There’s a lot of Rubys around right now” which means, “She will always be one of five or six Rubys in her school!"
So am I dull and boring? Do I have no imagination? Or worse, will my children be overlooked and fade into the background because their names don’t make them stand out? I hope not, but then I would like to think it would be their creativity, personality and talent that will make them shine in life, not just the name I choose. I don’t believe your name makes you instantly more successful or dynamic than your personality allows. Look at Kate Moss, Guy Sebastian or David Beckham – hardly krazeee names but the people are certainly unforgettable.
I can’t pretend it hasn’t troubled me, though. Sometimes I feel Ivy should be called something like Peppermint or Honey-pie because at least she and I wouldn’t feel so alienated from other kids. But then the irony that a traditional, run-of-the-mill name can make you stand now out isn’t lost on me.
New research shows that the trend of creating a name for your kid began with celebrities, basically because they love to be as dramatic and creative as possible. Like most celebrity trends though, it’s caught on and now you don’t need to live in Hollywood to be called Suri, Zuma or Sparrow. But researchers say that while having a unique name can help create a more individual personality, it can also isolate little Morpheus from fitting into groups when he starts school, university or even a job.
But what can I do? Clearly it’s every mums right to name their baby whatever they want. And rightly so! So, apart from trying to convince everyone that I do have an imagination and I’m not trying to suppress my daughters’ lifetime ambitions, I just have to perfect my fixed-smile-through-gritted-teeth when someone asks me their name and looks pretty bored by my response!
Frances Sheen has been a magazine and website journalist & editor for the last 20 years - both in Australia and the UK. She's appeared on countless TV and radio shows to discuss parenting and launched her own social media parenting brand. She's the mum of two little girls and juggles that with a busy working life.