Picking a name for your baby is a hard task to accomplish. There’s so much pressure; it’s such an enormous responsibility.
After all, this is what your kid is stuck with for life – unless of course they jump for a name change as soon as they’re legally allowed (I’ll revisit this in a bit). My mom always said that she knew from her single, college days what she’d name her son and daughter one day – that it wasn’t even up for discussion with my dad. For my brother, she picked out Darshan, which means to pray in Sanskrit and for me she chose Shraddha, which means faith. She always says, “to pray, you must have faith”. Simple eh? Not so much. Not for me anyways.
Ok let’s get back to that name change…it crossed my mind so many times. I hated my name as a child; it was butchered on a daily basis. It’s hard to hear your name said incorrectly every.single.day. And with my parents shortening their names to a simple “Jay” and “Mina”…it made me wonder why they would choose such unique but hard names for my brother and me. Growing up in a small Southern town where we were one of a handful of Indian families…my kindergartener teacher basically changed my name to, phonetically, “SHUH-RAAAAA-DUH” because it was too hard to pronounce. It just kind of stuck and I went through elementary, middle and high school known as “Shra-dah” instead of how it’s really pronounced “Shruh-thah”. My brother was known as “Dar-shawn” instead of “Dhur-shun”. Bless their hearts and bless ours for never ever saying anything – that changed in college, but I digress.
Bottom line, selecting a name is not an easy task…one that many couples are excited about initially but then can’t seem to agree on and often times you end up the with the opinion of everyone else whether you ask for it or not…making it all the more challenging and confusing.
One thing I know for sure was that since I had a hard time with my own name, I knew that I’d make it easier for my kids.
I also always knew that I wanted my kids’ names to have meaning , be linked to their Indian heritage and be simple enough to pronounce for anyone. I’ve never been into fads and ‘what’s currently in’ for names or what sounds unique, trendy. So as soon as I learned that I was pregnant with twin boys, I just had this intense feeling to name them after their grandfathers. My husband was on board too although he had a few other names that he really liked. But in the end, the meaning behind both names and the fact that our boys would carry a piece of their grandfathers with them forever was strong enough of a pull to get us both to agree. These names also met all the other criteria we wanted, which I’ll get to below.
We decided on Jai (after my father Jayanti) and Kush (after Hitesh’s dad Khushal). Jai means victorious and Kush means happiness and I feel like they are both their namesake. Sadly, we don’t have Kush with us anymore but just thinking of him brings all of us incredible happiness. And Jai, well…he’s been our family’s victory, our little fighter through all of his short life so far. I know he will continue to be.
Here are 7 things we considered before selecting names that may help you too.
- Do start discussing names with your spouse or partner early on. This is usually easy because both of you will probably be excited to talk about names. It’s one of the first fun things to do when you’re expecting. You’ll be driving around in the car thinking of names, in bed discussing names and over meals. Everywhere. But the point is to have these discussions because you want to be open about the definite no-no’s and also the traditions that either of you hold really important. For example, in our Gujarati culture, children take their father’s first name as their middle name. I wasn’t dead set on this tradition (even though I love having my father’s name as my middle name). But Hitesh had a strong preference to carry this on. We talked about it early on so I didn’t spend any time thinking of middle names in addition to first names.
- Don’t start discussing names that you’re considering with family and friends early on or until the baby is born or close to being born – unless of course you’re prepared for honest reactions that you may not want to hear. Let’s face it, everyone will have a response to the name you select. And while you’re patiently waiting for a positive reaction because obviously you love the name you’ve picked…you may not get one and be incredibly disappointed. You have to be prepared for that. The name you picked could very well remind your sister of that boy in her seventh grade English class that picked his toenails on the bus, the boy whose name still makes her cringe. If you’re stuck on the name…this tiny bit of negative information, even though it’s your sister’s association to the name, may influence you. I’ll never forget my brother telling me that he wouldn’t name his daughter a certain name because the first thing that showed up when he googled her name was a gentlemen’s club. After that, even though I liked the name, I just couldn’t get past it and told my sister-in-law that I didn’t like that name either anymore. With this said, stay true to the names you love and that you decide on with your spouse and most of all don’t let anyone ever pressure you into a name you don’t like!
- Pronunciation of the name. This was a big one for me. I wanted easy to pronounce names for my kids since my name has been and continues to be so hard for everyone. We kept our boys’ names short and in my mind easy. But even still, Jai (pronounced like Jay) still is mispronounced…think “sigh” but with a “J”. It annoys me because we purposefully chose simple names but I guess the spelling throws people off. Another thing to consider – spelling.
- Meaning, origin of name and connection. Another huge one for both my husband and me. We both agreed that we wanted Indian names that linked our kids to their Indian heritage – a heritage that is an essential part of who they are and we wanted their names to reflect that. And most importantly, we wanted the names to be meaningful. We were thinking tradition over trend. It was easy for us because our fathers have names that could be shortened into names that we loved and those names have meanings that we love – victory and happy. Consider whatever traditions are important to you and your family and/or things, places, people who have special meaning to you or you have a unique connection to. Makes the name you choose all the more meaningful and special.
- Consider initials & nicknames. Both of our boys’ initials ended up being all consonants so it wasn’t an issue. But I did think about initials when we first started brainstorming. I kept thinking about my friend who told me about one of her childhood friends, Priya, who was tormented all through grade school because her initials were P.I.G. She was on the chubby side and kids called her Ms. Piggy. Children can be cruel so it’s not a bad idea to think ahead, anticipate and bypass obviously mean or embarrassing nicknames that they could potentially come up with. Take a little extra time and consider these things.
- Write full names you’re considering down/type them out. It’s helpful to see the first, middle and last name on paper and visualize it right there in front of you. Sometimes seeing it helps you narrow choices down even more, bringing you that much close to actually having the one. But with that said…
- Have a back up or two. This doesn’t happen often…but it can. You may think you’re having a girl but then surprise, it’s a boy! And another thing to consider is that the name you picked out may not ‘fit’ once you see your little one. You may simply find that the name you had your heart set on just doesn’t suit your new baby’s face. Narrow it down to a couple of choices that you both agree to (for both genders if you’re keeping it a surprise) and pick once you have your little nugget of love in your hands. Staring into his or her eyes may make it completely clear the name that fits the best.
And by the way, I’m over the name change and have come to absolutely adore my name. It took many years to realize…but I really think it’s my namesake. Thank you, Mom. Thank you for my perfect name.
How did you decide on names for your kids? Did you name after a relative or something special that you and your spouse share? Share any tips you have for making this process easier too. Love to hear from you!