10 Times A Baby Name Choice Led To Some Awkward Family Drama

"Grandparents sometimes find it difficult when they realize they have less influence over their adult children’s decisions," Sherri Suzanne, a baby name consultant, told HuffPost.

Parents-to-be face all kinds of pressure when selecting a name for their baby. A name should be cute enough for an infant yet also sufficiently dignified for an adult professional, familiar enough to be pronounceable in the language of the child’s birth country and any other languages spoken in the family, and unique enough that they won’t share a first name with half of their preschool class but not so unique that anyone is seeing the word for the first time. In other words, not too weird, not too dull. Just right.

But when parents finally settle on a name, they may find that grandparents or other relatives have feelings about it. Sherri Suzanne, a baby name consultant at My Name For Life, told HuffPost, “Rather than arguing over namesakes, the greatest conflicts I find come from generational differences in name styles.”

Today’s grandparents, Suzanne said, were part of a generation that broke away from traditional names and brought us choices like “Ashley, Brittany, Justin and Brandon,” and they don’t understand the draw of “antiques like Theodore and Hazel.”

However, some of today’s trends, such as “surname-type names, nature names, unisex names and ‘word’ names, don’t seem like names at all to many grandparents,” she added.

Many of the conflicts with grandparents that Suzanne has come across in her practice arose unexpectedly.

“In one [family], a grandfather was so saddened by the unexpected loss of his wife that he could not bear for his granddaughter to share her name, which is what the expectant mother wanted,” she said. “In another, two pregnant sisters claimed the name of a beloved relative, and the grandparents sided with one. In another, a daughter-in-law did not want her little boy to be ‘IV’ in a generation of fathers and sons with the same name.”

If you do run into any sort of conflict with grandparents or other relatives over your baby name, Suzanne said that you should handle it just as you would any other unwelcome advice or overstepping of bounds.

“Grandparents sometimes find it difficult when they realize they have less influence over their adult children’s decisions; adult children sometimes find it difficult when they realize they have to move forward without the approval of their parents,” she said.

Suzanne recommended that parents “kindly acknowledge the good intentions of grandparents” without overpromising by saying something like, “Nice name ideas. Thanks. We’ll think about them and make the best decision we can for the baby — just as you did for me.”

And if you can’t imagine saying all of that, a simple “thanks” works, too.

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“Grandparents sometimes find it difficult when they realize they have less influence over their adult children’s decisions,” Sherri Suzanne, a baby name consultant, told HuffPost.

In some European traditions, Suzanne noted, there is a “pecking order” designed to prevent intrafamily name conflict, such as the first child getting the paternal grandmother or grandfather’s name and the second getting the maternal grandmother or grandfather’s name.

There are other methods, too. A Jewish tradition is to give a child a name that shares a first initial with that of a recently deceased relative, while it is a Hindu tradition to give a baby a name that begins with the same letter as their solar sign, which is determined by the time and date of their birth. Today, parents can choose whether to honor a cultural tradition or select their child’s name through another method.

When it comes to resolving conflicts or tricky situations, Suzanne doesn’t advise that parents “forgo a name they love to ‘keep the peace.’” She has seen families come up with a number of creative solutions.

If two siblings are fighting over who gets to use a family name, for example, they might both use the name for their child’s middle name. The middle name can provide an opportunity to honor any family name, Suzanna said. She added that she has noticed an uptick in parents choosing to honor their own grandparents (their child’s great-grandparents) with their name choices.

In the case of the grandfather who did not want his granddaughter named after his late wife, the mother initially chose another name but was “distraught,” Suzanne said, and “legally changed the baby’s first name to honor her mother, which gave her joy and peace.” The family now calls the little girl by her middle name, which they feel suits her best.

We asked the HuffPost Parents Facebook community to share their stories of baby name conflict or disappointment. Here’s what they said.

“My husband’s grandmother told us we shouldn’t name our son Dante because that is a ‘Black kid name.’ We still named him Dante.” — S.K.

“All our family members were against us naming our son Ezra. In Brazil, it’s not a common name, so for months, my older daughter spelled his name for everyone who asked. And when they said it was too difficult a name, she replied: ‘I’m four! If I can learn to say it, so can you!’” — Michele Lempek Rosa

“We had a great aunt tell us our daughter’s name was a dog name.” — Shelene Crane

My maternal grandmother was slightly upset that we named our daughter after her father’s mother. But we explained that my mother would get to hold her in her arms and see her grow up. His mother lives overseas, so we could at least give her that, and should I have another daughter, I would sneak my mum’s name in there somewhere.” — Marie Flechas

“Was told my oldest was going to hate me for his unique name. At almost 17, he loves having a name that he doesn’t share with anyone else we know. Glad I didn’t listen to my parent in that situation.” — Ashley Elder

“My oldest’s middle name is an ‘old lady’ name because it’s after my great-grandmother. We paired it with a mildly trendy first name. My in-laws had a lot of opinions about the middle name and gave me grief about it for years.” — Carrie Mertens Montemarano

“We made the mistake of sharing our three possible name options before our son was born. So everyone in the family picked a favorite. When we announced our decision after he was born, people reacted like they’d lost a contest.” — Joe DeProspero

“All the sons on my hub’s side were called by their middle names. With my son, David Isaac, they immediately started referring to him as baby Isaac before he was even born. My hubs was David, his father was David, and I would not let him be called Isaac. But even after his birth … it was ‘Isaac this’ and ‘Isaac that’ till I lost my temper and said, ‘No! It’s David! And if you don’t like it, tough shit!’ They came around pretty quickly after that.” — Leslie Stroud

“My ex had a grandfather whose name was Louis. When our first child was born, we honored him by using his first name as our son’s middle name. Well, my ex and his mother never told me how to spell it, and after his mother asked him if he was sure he wanted to sign the acknowledgment of paternity, I didn’t really care to speak to her again, and my ex did what he always did and disappeared. So when it was time to sign the birth certificate, I spelled it ‘Lewis.’” — Jenny Jacobs

We gave our second son my father’s middle name for his first name. When my dad came to the hospital and I told him he went, ‘Ugh, I hate my middle name.’ I said, ‘Dad! We named him after you!’” — Sarah Crossley

(Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.)

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