We Wanted To Name Our Kid This But It Started a War Between Our Families
By Craig Stephens
Photo © michelleluo/Twenty20
Aug 12, 2019
It's extremely early when I bolt upright suddenly in bed.
In fact, it’s 3 a.m.
I'm all wired because there’s something I need to get off my chest. And it can't wait. I need to talk about this now.
I nudge my sleeping wife who leaps up, expecting the worst. “What’s wrong?!” she asks. “I don’t like the name Piper,” I say. “I want to change it.”
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She rolls over and mumbles: “It’s too late... she’s three... go back to bed!”
Piper. That name carries a lot of baggage in our family. Let me say that it is a perfectly fine name and I mean no offense to the Pipers of the world. In fact, we liked the name so much, we almost named our child Piper. Little did we know that the name would ignite a family squabble the likes of which we had never seen.
It started in between contractions in the hospital. I tried to distract my other half as she laboured by writing a list of a half-dozen or so possible names on the white board in the delivery room. We were the type of couple who wanted to meet our daughter before assigning her a lifelong moniker. How could we possibly know her name without ever having met her? Makes sense, right?
So, at 10 days overdue, punctuated by five trips to the hospital, four attempts at induction, an epidural, three missed meals, zero sleep for two days and the birth of our only child, we set out to give our baby a name.
The Origin of Piper
As the nurse handed her to us the first time, she let out a little piping cry. How cute, we thought! She’s our little Piper!
That name, which hadn’t even made it to the white board, was suddenly the front runner.
Opinions Piped In
Our families quickly divided into two camps: The pro-Pipers and anti-Pipers. Some thought the name was whimsical and captured the free-spirited actress/poet/airline pilot she was bound to be. Others thought the name was silly and would surely sentence her to life on the margins of society.
My mother-in-law called to say we had the right to name our daughter anything we wanted (she was pro-Piper). My mother called to remind us this was her granddaughter, too, and she too had the right to weigh in on the name (she was anti-Piper).
How can one baby name elicit so many wildly opposing responses? And what is in a name anyway? I never thought very much about my own name before naming my kid. I come from an exceedingly long line of Johns. My name is John even though I have always been called Craig. My father was John. My nephew is John. My father-in-law is John. Even my brother-in-law is John.
“Why is everyone in our family named John?” my daughter asked a while ago, “And if your name is John, why are you called Craig?”
“John has always been a popular name,” I explained. “And they called me Craig, my second name, to avoid the confusion of having two Johns in the house.”
“Why didn’t they just give you a different name in the first place?” she asked.
Naming as a Competitive Sport
I conceded that she had a point. Which got me thinking that maybe people give way more thought to names today than they did in the past. Long before Apple and Archie, parents named their offspring after other people in the family in the name of tradition. Now it seems as if naming your child has become a bit of a competitive sport — who has the hottest name, the most unique name or the most vintage name.
Research is conflicted about the long-term impact of a name. It seems that names do send certain signals about your family, culture, social and economic backgrounds, among other things. And while a name may not impact how a person sees themselves, it can influence how others see them.
We took a pass on Piper as her first name and settled on a name we both liked and had meaning to us. We tucked Piper in between her other family names. We managed to make both family camps happy by including Piper, but burying it where most wouldn’t actually see it.
Sometimes, I must confess, the name sticks out like a sore thumb among all her more traditional names and I want to change it — like that night at 3 a.m.
But mostly, it reminds be of that little piping baby we met years ago. No matter her name, she will always be our little Piper.
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