Politics of Naming a Child
After a mix of excitement, fear, and anticipation typical to any Caesarian delivery, or any delivery for that matter, our family welcomed the birth of a baby boy on March 1. “Baby Boy” is my sister’s third child and the welcome party feasted on fresh fruits and tales of how we siblings went through our own trip from the womb.
Baby Boy is a week overdue, though, so imagine the anticipation. By 10:37 a.m. the baby belted his first cry in the mortals’ world. I saw him only on March 3, our father’s 55th birthday celebration.
As soon as the mother saw her 7-lbs offspring and when she was done narrating her ordeal with childbearing – discussions shifted to name-giving.
Oh, that supposedly sacred exercise.
But our simple discussion led to an exercise of influence.
It involved the obviously elated grandparents, the intervening siblings of the mother, the father who tends the hospital fees, the baby’s elder brother and sister, and friends of the family who peeped on the newborn and the mother.
There’s the aunt who insists on giving the baby two names, one bearing the parents’ preferred name and her own choice. Aunt proposed the name of her ex-boyfriend for the second name. So you could hear her “suggest” names like ‘Geoff Steven.’
But the baby’s father is reacting. He said it is unfair to name the child with someone’s memory who is already out of circulation (in family circles).
He then suggested the child should be named after someone successful so he might be able to inherit part of their blessings and good vibes.
Then the names of typically successful people were floated like “Lucio” (Tan), “Sam” (Milby), “Mar” (Roxas), “Barack” (Obama), “Manny” (Pacqiuao), “Albert” (Eisntein), “Mike” (Arroyo) and many others.
Someone from the family asked who are the successful people and how do we measure their success.
It drew a brief debate on the definition of “success”. The major clash points include the idea that popularity is success, that winning an election or a boxing match, or being able to file libel charges against journalists, and also that having the money are measures of success.
In the end we decided to expand our criteria beyond “successful” people’s names based on material victories. I even suggested that we should, instead, name the baby “Success” if indeed we wanted the child to carry it by his name.
Baby’s father then agreed to skip the “successful” tag and made a condition: just a short first name. He cited the problem his eldest son went through learning to write his name: a combination of all the first letter of the names of our family’s members.
His name: “Jewahjihan.” The baby’s father also detested the nick name given to shorten the unfamiliar sounding name: “Warren”. He said it connotes “war.”
So the chat went to naming the baby after a good person so that he may in one way or another would become good (when he grows up). So “Benedict” (the Pope) was floated. No body affirmed the move, but no body also objected it.
Everybody in the family, except my Protestant father and the baby’s elder brother and sister, knows the 77-year old pontiff.
My father’s protest was civil. But my nephew and niece were more vocal. “Who is he?” they asked.
When showed a picture of the leader of the Roman Catholic church, they said “why should a baby get an old man’s name?!”
Instead they suggested “Gerald”, which is the name of a matinee idol who won in a reality TV Show over a television network.
I reacted harshly (batting for “Benedict” for its timelessness). I told them the celebrity will soon fade away from the limelight. But those kids were designed not to understand that yet.
Besides, I have to subdue my reaction. in May 1977, some screaming matinee idol fans among my relatives suggested to name me after actor Navarro. So I got this name thanks to 1970s media.
We decided to add another criteria: uniqueness. That is why the suggestion floated to name the baby after “Kaamulan” because he was born on the heels of the celebration.
Then a friend of the baby’s grandmother seconded saying “Mulan” could be a good nickname, which means “survivor”.
I suggested “Malampuson” the Binisaya name for “successful” so we do away with Western sounding names. It fell on deaf ears, of course. I would rather wait for my turn to name my own child.
In the confusion and the desire to make it a healthy exercise, we gave ourselves a week to finalize the baby’s name.
Other families probably have less hassle on this matter. Probably, most of them already knew if the baby is a boy or a girl because of pre-natal services, so they got ready names to give.
Besides, most parents decide on the name on their own in finality.
In our family, it appears to be more democratic. Or is it? Everybody was given a chance to suggest a name that would go through a consensus. Hopefully, someday, the baby wouldn’t regret getting a name just because someone popular has it.
We’ll see whose suggestion prevailed in the marketplace of ideas.
Come Monday next week, “Baby Boy” will have his name. That is his universal human right. (Photo grabbed from a website on baby pictures. To be updated.)