Dear Rebbetzin Chaya-
My husband and I really want a certain name for our baby, but the grandmas-to-be have each been pressuring us to use a name that’s special to them (especially that of my mother-in-law’s father, who unfortunately died last year). How do we handle this?
B’Sha’a Tova!! What an exciting time for you! Choosing a new baby’s name is such a powerful experience. One minute this child didn’t exist, and suddenly there is an actual person who will be going out into the world for their entire life with this name that we are picking for them! It’s kind of awe-inspiring. Thankfully, we believe that we have a certain amount of Divine assistance, even a tiny bit of prophecy when it comes to naming our children. This process of bringing a child into the world and raising it, G-d willing, is a partnership of only three: you, your husband, and Hashem. You absolutely have every right to be the ones who choose your child’s name based on the values that are important to you, and not anyone else. If either of the grandmas-to-be were writing to me, I would tell them to let you make your best decision, and not to offer any advice that wasn’t asked for. (I will send a copy of this to my children, so they can use it as insurance against my future meddling).
However. Is it possible that while the pressure that is being exerted is unfair and has no merit, the actual suggestions do have merit? Sometimes our (fair, appropriate, understandable) desire to make our own decisions clouds our ability to hear valid points. If you haven’t yet, I think it might be worth having one more conversation with your husband about this. What names are they suggesting? What would be the pros and cons of using them? What are your reasons for wanting to use the name you have chosen? Pretend there was no pressure, just a desire to find the best name. One that has depth of meaning, and honors the past. A name can link a child to a chain of tradition in a very powerful way. And of course, one that you look forward to using every day! If you truly dislike the names that are being suggested to you, are there other names that could be used to honor those people? Could you keep your chosen name in reserve for a potential later child without being too disappointed? Is it worth being flexible for the gift it will give a grandmother? If after that conversation, you still feel committed to the name that you have chosen, then you can move forward, guilt-free, knowing you did exactly what was necessary. Remember, I am not pushing you to do what you are being pressured to do, only that you not default to NOT doing what you are being pressured to do.
At the end of the day, the chances are that at least one, maybe two grandmothers will be disappointed. How to handle the pressure and potential disappointment? I would stick to a few rules:
1)Shut down any pre-birth conversations about names, as sweetly as possible.
“We are still talking it over. Thanks for the suggestion, that’s a lovely name.”
“We will add it to the list! Thanks!”
2) If possible, do not share your chosen name until the baby is actually named. It is very hard to be angry and disappointed when snuggling a delicious baby.
3) The pressure is coming from a desire to make sure that loved ones are being remembered. Try to honor the intent behind the suggested names, even if you don’t name after the people being suggested. This is especially true for the great-grandfather who passed away recently. Can you mention these loved ones in a speech at a bris, or privately in communicating with that grandmother? Can you use a blanket that they made, or include items of theirs in the baby’s nursery? Is there an heirloom that you can give to the baby, that the grandmother will find meaningful? Be creative.