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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News -

‘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...

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