I remember the first time I asked an expectant mom what she was going to name her baby. She was about seven months pregnant, a coworker’s wife I didn’t know very well.
“We’re not revealing that,” she told me. “You mean you haven’t decided?” I responded. “No. I mean we’ve chosen a name and we’re not telling anyone until after the baby is born,” she replied firmly.
It got awkward. I felt like I’d said something wrong and didn’t understand what I interpreted as caginess. I was only making conversation.
Fast forward 20 years and that conversation now makes perfect sense. My daughter is pregnant with her second child, and I totally get why people choose not to reveal their baby’s name before birth.
I personally prefer traditional names. My three kids are Hailey, Luke, and Shane.* I tried to pick names that were distinctive but not unusual enough that they’d get teased or have to spell out or repeat their names each time they were introduced to someone. I was marginally successful. There were several Haileys in my daughter’s classes throughout the years.
Hailey and her husband named their son, my first grandchild, Alexander Paul. Paul after a relative on his father’s side and Alexander because they liked the name. Alex’s entrance into the world was regaled with the level of enthusiasm befitting a first grandchild. If anyone disapproved of their name choice, they kept it to themselves.
Baby number two, a confirmed girl, is due this winter and at six-plus months in, the obvious question is: “What are you going to name her?”
And the response that I got shocked me: “We’re leaning toward Rogue.”
My first reaction was that Rogue sounded like a great name for a pet or a racehorse. But for a child? It seemed kind of…well, weird.
“That’s interesting.” I smiled and tried to keep my tone and expression neutral, because even though I didn’t initially jump for joy at Rogue, I fully and immediately realized that I had zero say in the matter. She had not asked me for input and didn’t ask me if I liked the name after she revealed her choice to me. I also know my daughter well enough to know that she still has a holdover rebellious streak and that any displeasure expressed over her choice would only make her dig her heels in.
She went on to say that she hadn’t decided and that there were other names she liked but Rogue was what she and her husband kept coming back to. I offered a couple of unsolicited suggestions. Now, this is potential thin ice territory, so read the room and proceed with caution if you decide to do this. I never said I didn’t like the name Rogue, but I threw out things like, “Hey, I just watched the latest episode of Only Murders in the Building and what do you think of the name Mabel?”
About thirty seconds after I’d texted my daughter the Mabel suggestion, my phone buzzed. I opened the text from my daughter and saw the one-word response:
I stopped suggesting names after that.
According to The Bump, Rogue is a gender-neutral name that means “unpredictable.” If you’re a fan of X-Men, you’re probably familiar with the female hero that went by the name of Rogue.
See? It’s starting to seem less weird, right?
For me, the name Rogue took a little settling into. New things often seem strange until we get used to them. Not that it matters, because my feelings for my grandchild-to-be aren’t contingent on her name. When she’s thirteen and complaining about how her mother doesn’t “get it,” I seriously doubt I’ll be stuck on, “You should have been a Mabel.”
Unfortunately, not everyone sees this as I do. My mom wasn’t shy about telling my daughter how she felt about her choice of names. The (unsolicited) feedback ranged from “Why not something sweet and simple like Ellen or Rose” all the way to “That’s terrible, why would you do that to a child?”
The ripple effect was a conversation with my mom about my daughter’s horrible taste in baby names and couldn’t I do something, followed by a conversation with my daughter about my mom’s rudeness.
That’s when I remembered something I’d forgotten over the years.
Hailey was originally going to be Florence. I thought Florence was classy and old-fashioned. I still like it. When I told my mom, her response was, “That’s terrible, that’s an old woman’s name. You can’t saddle a baby with the name Florence.”
Having someone pooh-pooh my choice was disheartening and made me feel inadequate. I was on the precipice of taking on a responsibility I didn’t feel ready for and squashing Florence made me feel as though I wasn’t ready to make big decisions.
My daughter has more backbone and confidence than I did at her age and told my mom she didn’t want to discuss baby names with her anymore. She knows who she is in her late 20s way more than I did and made it clear who did and didn’t have input, although the unfortunate side effect is tension and upset.
So if you have the urge to comment on someone’s — anyone’s — choice of baby names, ask yourself this: Did they ask “What should I name my baby?” or say any form of “We’d love your input”?
If the answer is no, which it likely is, keep your opinion to yourself. Bringing a new person into the world is complicated enough. Fighting the battle of the names with someone who doesn’t get a vote? Nobody needs that.
And besides. A name meaning “unpredictable” is actually kind of cool. Maybe she’ll keep us all on our toes and that’s not a bad thing.
*All names — except Rogue — have been changed to preserve the family’s peace.