When granny can’t get to grips with little Geronimo
A recent survey says that while your parents might love your kid, they quite likely hate that you called him Kasper, writes Sarah Caden
‘If everyone’s trying so hard to be different, they all end up the same...’
ABOUT two years ago, at a party, I stood talking to a pair of younger women who had both just had their first babies. They had met previously, while both pregnant and were each keen to find out how the other had fared, what they’d had and, of course, what they’d called the offspring. “Axl, no ‘e’,” said one. “Thor,” said the other. “Cool,” said the first, “They could be in a band together.”
That about summed it up. That was the aspiration. These were cool young women and their naming of their children had to do with the modern-day aspiration that if you bestow coolness on a child from the get-go, then that’s how they’ll turn out. Edgy, special, different — though I have changed their names.
The new Irish parents, mid40s and under, have drawn a line under generations of Seans and Mauras and set their children out in a different direction. With every Sonny and Mimi, they unhook their offspring and their aspirations for them from the past and the grandparents aren’t blind to this.
Last week, mumsnet.com ran a survey on the degree to which grandparents participate in the naming of their grandchildren. Sounds innocuous enough, but the passion of the respondents caused a sensation.
It would seem that grandparents were only waiting for someone to ask just what they thought of little Esme, Juno, Archie or even Elvis. Not much, would be the answer.
One-fifth of grandparents surveyed said they hated their grandchild’s name. Four per cent of grandparents had fallen out permanently with their children over the grandchild’s name. Three per cent of parents who replied to the survey said that the grandparents laughed when told the child’s name, while three per cent of the parents said the grandparents’ response was: “What?”
Not being able to say aloud the grandchild’s name was one significant thing that arose, albeit merely out of distaste or embarrassment, not due to the difficulty of pronouncing the name, although, apparently that is an issue. Personally, I know of a grandparent who asked, “What’s the name again?” for about the first three years of a grandchild’s life.
You could take this as grandparents being generally disposed to pointing out how their children, as parents, are making a balls of everything, but there’s more to it than that. Grandparents aren’t stupid. They see that the bestowing of previously unheard-of-in-the-family names isn’t just a case of having notions, it’s a rejection of the past.
While there’s a whole raft of Irish men in their late 30s named for the Pope’s visit, these days a child is more likely to be named for where they were conceived, or a musician their parents are into. And Irish names are struck out as old-fashioned or ugly unless they are unusual, abundant in dhs and bhs or flaithulach with fadas. So Maire is out but Sadhbh is acceptable.
And, understandably, the grandparents take this as a rejection of them. And it rankles. After all, they’re good enough to mind your kids five days a week, but god forbid you’d name any of them after you, or christen them something they’re not mortified to tell their friends.
Where generations in the past named their children to assimilate them with the extended family and the family of their faith — after their parents, after grandparents, after the saints — many modern children are named to set them apart from all that. And the parents are a wide net for inspiration.
Of course, it would be easy to blame the celebrities for this phenomenon and it wouldn’t be entirely misplaced. You could go all the way back to Bob Geldof for a kicking-off point here. Oh how we laughed when he and Paula Yates named their firstborn Fifi Trixibelle, but she’s small potatoes to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Apple, if you’ll forgive the expression.
Then there’s the likes of Kim Kardashian’s North West, which is just unfair. There’s Brooklyn Beckham named for where he was conceived, which spawned a lot of that sort of thing, so to speak.
There’s Jamie Oliver’s brood, which started with the relatively low-key Poppy and progressed to his fifth child, a son, River Rocket. And then there’s Beyonce’s Blue Ivy, followed by the new twins, Rumi and Sir.
Sir, seriously. That can only be trumped by the now grownup son of Jermaine Jackson, who has the unfortunately hilarious name of Jermajesty. When George Clooney recently became the father of twins Ella and Alexander, he said that he and wife Amal “didn’t want to give them one of those ridiculous Hollywood names that don’t mean anything”.
The not meaning anything may well be the problem that grandparents have with a lot of the names these days. What do they stand for other than a desire to be different, and what’s so great about that? Also, when everyone’s trying so hard to be different, they end up sort of the same, as we’ve observed in the wedding business in recent decades.
Expectant parents check the annual CSO lists to make sure they’re not calling their child something too popular, or, more accurately, common. Some ascertain that their chosen name, combined with surname, still exists as an available domain name before they bestow it on the baby.
In my own case, both daughters have names that give a nod to the family, one of which has become a moderately popular name in the nine years of her life. When she was born, one grandparent confessed that they had been worried that we’d choose a weird kind of name.
The name of my second daughter is so contrary that we’re nearly meeting ourselves coming back in terms of connecting to the past. Which is to say that it was once uncommonly common and now it’s so rare that we’re practically rebels.
The problem with names is that you’re never going to be entirely unique. Which causes actual real upset when little Juniper arrives at big school to discover that there’s another Juniper in her class.
There was a time when school classes in Ireland struggled through multiple Johns and Marys, but that was in a time when to stand out was almost a sin, and to set yourself apart was to think you were great. Which, as we know, was the most mortal sin of all, and it is that, perhaps, that modern parents are bucking against. And bucking they are, putting it up to the previous generations that not only are they doing their lives differently, but that their children are breaking the mould from the moment of their naming.
Every newly arrived Ruby, Casper, Dante, Luna, Tallulah, Bo, India, Dexter, Archie, Alfie, Buster and Sienna says to the grandparents, in particular, that the parents of today are going rogue.
To the extent perhaps, that there’s probably a child called Rogue in a classroom in Ireland somewhere today.
WEIRD IS THE NEW NORMAL: From left, Kim Kardashian, who called one child North West; Victoria Beckham, who went for Brooklyn; Beyonce, who went for broke with Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir; Jools Oliver, who called her brood Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear Maurice and River Rocket; while Amal Clooney stayed traditional and picked Ella and Alexander