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How Can I Make My Family Accept My Baby's Name?

My husband and I are expecting a boy this November. Before we conceived him, we both fell in love with the name Bodhi. Now that we have informed our families of his name, everyone on both sides have expressed their distaste. How do we politely tell our family that we will not be changing our son's name?

- Bodhi's Mom-to-Be

Congratulations on taking this rejection so well. It's easy for hard feelings to grow when your joyous name announcement is met with grimaces.

I'll leave aside the question of whether your families' objections should matter. Readers, I urge you to put that -- and your opinions of the name -- aside, too. The naming decision has already been made. The project at hand is to prevent an extended-family meltdown.

Mom-to-Be, you've already taken the first positive step. You've decided to care about your family's feelings, rather than taking offense and telling them to shove it. That's a smart move. First off, telling your mother-in-law to shove it always dicey. But more to the point, you don't want the name Bodhi to be linked to bad memories, or to become a symbol of family tension. You want to build a foundation of warm feelings for your son's name. Here's a four-step plan.

1. Help friends and family understand what you love about the name

Acknowledge that the name is "unfamiliar," but stay positive. Let your enthusiasm be contagious. Share the story of how you fell for Bodhi. Combat the unfamiliarity factor by sending around web links with info about the name: meanings, history, celebrity Bodhis (like Goldie Hawn's grandson -- good grandparent company!), even a Google image search for "baby Bodhi." Seeing the name out in the world should help it seem less outlandish to your family.

2. Ask your relatives to share their own tales of choosing names.

This is a way of continuing the naming conversation without actually putting the name up for debate. Perhaps the chance to remember their own naming adventures will help them empathize with you. Better yet, rehearsing their experience of falling in love with a perfect name should open some warm feelings toward the whole process.

3. Start using the name, early and often
If they get to hear Bodhi hundreds of times before your son is even born, their outrage should run its course. They may even find themselves grudgingly attached to the name.

And if all else fails,

4. Let it go.
You've picked a name you and your partner love. You've approached your family politely and tried to help them understand why you love the name, and give them reasons to love it too. That's really all you can do. So just accept their opinions, and trust that when they meet a real live tiny Bodhi with mom's eyes, dad's hair, and the world's cutest toes, naming conflicts suddenly won't seem so important any more.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

September 7, 2010 8:51 AM
By Lizzy (not verified)

My mother in law hated all our choices of names for our second son (Bodhi was on our list!), but now she tells me that she's come around and likes his name; thinks it fits him perfectly, and doesn't seam "old-man" to her anymore (his name is Oliver). She really gave me a hard time about our name choice, but we still used the name we love and his name is certainly not a topic of discussion anymore.

I think when you are still pregnant, it gives everyone the feeling that they have a say in the baby's name. But once your little one is born, everyone will accept the baby's name even if they didn't like it at first (At least I hope!).

Good Luck!

September 7, 2010 9:05 AM
By FranklinSmyth (not verified)

Good Luck again,
and really good advice except for number 1, is Bodhi that unfamiliar? I for one strongly associate it with a rather iconic movie character.

Anyway I do think they will come around sooner rather than later when they associate the name and the baby they love.

I also know a less than widely approved name started to hit home at the shower when all the personalized items started to show up... people started to shut up and accept.

September 7, 2010 9:12 AM
By Kristina (not verified)

If they are really determined to dislike the name, allow them to give him their own nickname, as long as it isn't an alternative first name. If they want to call him Baby Bear, or Sweet Pea or whatever for a little while, perhaps it will buy some time and allow them to become more used to his real name.

September 7, 2010 9:43 AM
By emily (not verified)

Name him that and they will get used to it.

September 7, 2010 10:02 AM
By Lilly (not verified)

That's great advice, but what do you do if your family member *refuses* to call the baby by his name? Both sides of our family have told us that they HATE our baby-to-be's name and will call him by his first initial, middle name, or a completely unrelated name. That's not okay with us. :(

September 7, 2010 11:54 AM
By Annee (not verified)

Would suggest to others (because clearly the ship has saled for you) that you keep your naming preferences to yourself until the baby arrives. It is true that family and friends think they can comment on a name when it being discussed before the baby arrives. But, once baby arrives, you are discussing that actual person's name -- very few think to make unkind comments then!

September 7, 2010 1:15 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

To Lilly: I would sit down with your family and have a serious discussion about how your son's name is an important part of his identity. You do not want people he will know well in his formative years to be treating him poorly and making him feel inferior because of his name. Tell them that it is important to you that your son is called by his full first name by his family, until a pet nickname is invented. A nickname should not be invented out of spite. That is cruel and unfair to the child. I would hope though, that once you have your baby, your family will not be so hateful toward your name choice.

September 7, 2010 1:21 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

That's a shame, Lilly. Your family members are being childish. It annoys me when parents think they can bully their kids into choosing names THEY like for the grandchild-to-be. After all, they got to do the name choosing at least once already -- now it's your turn. It's one of the perks of parenthood.

I think the most you can do is learn to not care what other people think. When it comes to names, the only opinion that really matters is that of the person who bears the name. If your son ends up liking the name you chose, great. If not, it will be in his power to change it when he turns 18.

September 7, 2010 1:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is exactly why we thought it was prudent to not reveal our son's name (Tobin), not even to our parents, until after he was born!

September 7, 2010 1:31 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

The English-speaking side of my brother's family (my side) all hated the name Alma for their youngest daughter, though some of us recognized it as the parents' stewardship and kept our mouths shut. Still, Alma came along and i can not imagine calling her anything else. My mother was determined to call her by her middle name, but she never did. Alma suits the girl, or at least it has come to suit her. I used to think of it as either a grandma name, or a Utah boy's name, or.. the name of a particularly annoying college roommate from the Philippines. Now it is the name of a delightful and loving eight year old girl.

September 7, 2010 1:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Agree with above - this is why we didn't tell anybody when we made our choice - they were all so disagreeable when we told them what names we were thinking about. But *nobody* made anything but positive comments when our kids were born. That's generally the way it goes.

I knew a grandma who started out using a nickname for her grandchild that wasn't Mom and Dad's favorite, but she came around and now loves the original name. I didn't like that name either, when I first heard it (not that I was so rude as to tell them that) but after the baby was born, couldn't imagine another name for him.

They'll come around to associating all the loving feelings they have for your little boy with the perfect name you chose for him. Whether they want to or not! :)

September 7, 2010 2:18 PM
By jenny (not verified)

I disagree with the name lady- I think you SHOULD tell your m-i-l to shove it, and anyone else who doesn't like your name that you've chosen.

Lilly- I can't BELIEVE that your families are doing that to you. I think you should tell that that if they don't like it, they don't have to call him that, since they will never EVER see him. that might shut them up quick. UGH i can't handle people like that!

September 7, 2010 4:10 PM
By with an E (not verified)

Sometimes names are hard to overcome. I now have a niece named Bailey. When I hear it, I still visualize the limp dead baby Bailey in the fireman's arms after the Oklahoma City bombing. Of course I never told this to my sister, but I still don't really like the name.

September 7, 2010 4:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You and your husband are the only people who have to like the name. In my sister's case, before the birth, they decided to give their firstborn her last name; after their son was born she suggested to her husband that they give him her husband's last name instead but he wanted to stick with their original choice. Needless to say, his parents were not happy, in fact, the grandfather was nonverbal and rude when he came to see his grandson for the first time. My nephew is now a wonderful teenager and his grandparents couldn't love him more. My advice: stick with Bodhi; if the relatives remain so petty, perhaps they aren't people you want to have around your son...

September 7, 2010 4:17 PM
By Lara Jane (not verified)

I've told this story so often but it's certainly relevant to the issue:

Everyone in our families, all of our friends (with the exception of ONE), and nosy strangers hated our name choice. I faltered at one point under all of the criticism, but my husband -- who initially disliked the name as well! -- kept me sane and we stuck with it.

Of course everyone loves it now, and not because the name has skyrocketed in popularity. One of my old-old naming books says, "the name becomes the child," and that is so true.

They get over it, even the ones (like my mother) who vow to only call the child by his middle name. :)

September 7, 2010 4:22 PM
By Lara Jane (not verified)

By the way, it could just be that I'm a long-time NE, but I detest all of my nieces' and nephews' names, and many of my friends' choices as well (Wow, do I sound like a first class snob, or what?).

I won't name them here (though I doubt any of you have used these names!) but they are UBER-trendy and dated, and most of them have to use their last initials in class, just what we were trying to avoid!

September 7, 2010 4:58 PM
By Penni (not verified)

I love that phrase "the name becomes the child."

I have been disappointed in the past by telling people I love and trust names we are considering for our baby only to have them express disgust, so much so that when we picked our daughters' names we kept it secret until they were born.

I guess if I was a single parent I might feel the need to air my names, but I think my husband and I have different enough tastes, sensibilities and experiences that the process of coming up with a name between us is enough of a filter to scare out the really "out there" names.

If I was in this situation, I would avoid the discussion until after the baby is born. If people ask about names just smile enigmatically and say that you've decided, or that you're letting one sit with you a while or some other vague comment. Then I'd announce the name as if it was new again.

If they bring up Bodhi then I'd simply say with as much lightness of voice as possible that you feel sure they will love your baby no matter what you call him.

Or, if you prefer mischief you could always tell everyone you are planning on making up your own name using only vowels (or every letter of the alphabet), and they might be quite relieved you called him Bodhi after all.

I think sometimes people with no imagination can't think past their own generation of names, especially if they aren't in touch with kids. Bodhi is unusual but it's unlikely he will be the only Bodhi he ever meets. And he won't be in a class of kids with "normal named kids like Carol and Mike", his classmates will likely be a mix of very old-fashioned names that would sound dated to many people (Albert, Stanley), unusually spelled names (Mykael), culturally diverse names (Yoshi, Jin) and vocabulary words (River, Bear). I overheard a woman in a shop saying about her new granddaughter "we thought they would choose a conservative name but they went for Daisy." To me this is, if not conservative, a very popular choice reflecting the naming zeitgheist. How much do you bet she will suddenly start seeing little Daisys everywhere?

September 7, 2010 8:03 PM
By TrixiesMom (not verified)

Lara Jane, Please start naming names! Really! I am now dying to know your son's name, as well as the uber-trendy names. Nothing makes me happier than a post that elicits lists of name, good and bad, old and new, and of course this post doesn't.

We were very careful to list all of our favorite girls' names every time we talked about our daughter, including the name we had long chosen, but pretended we hadn't decided yet. Josephine was our name from the first minute, since it had everything I wanted, traditional, no doubt it is a girl's name, loads of nick names, not common, very beautiful. I kept repeating that list of requirements as I pretended to pour over lists of names. It worked like a charm, and though I am sure it seemed terribly old fashioned to everyone who had ever known a Josephine, it seemed fresh and lovely to me. And of course she had arrived when everyone heard it and it has become her in every way.

I am saving Daisy for a cocker spaniel. Love that name!

September 7, 2010 8:55 PM
By elleireland (not verified)

I would bet money that Lara Jane's list includes Katelyn, Megan, Tyler, Ryan, and Justin.

I have the name sensibilities of Lara Jane, and was recently appalled by a relative's name choice for her baby. As much as it pained me, I kept my mouth shut.

This is a child whom I will be calling "Honey" and "Sweetie-pie." Because I love her. And her name is so terrible that is does not bear repeating.

September 8, 2010 7:18 AM
By Julie (not verified)

This is a little late, but keeping the name a secret can be a good idea for this reason. My sister-in-law went with the name Jordan for her son, but didn't tell anyone until after the birth. I am NOT a fan of this name, but once I saw him, I didn't dare say anything about it. (Side note: Since we didn't have anything else to call him during the pregnancy, we adopted the name "Carlos," a la "The Hangover." My husband and I call him "Carlos" to this day.)

Of course, you've already told your parents, so you don't have that same course of action. I agree with the Name Lady: explain why you chose the name and what meaning it has for you. You might suggest pre-approved nicknames that you are comfortable with, for the inevitable person who refuses to use his full name. In time, his name will define him, and not be simply a name.

September 8, 2010 10:55 AM
By Lara Jane (not verified)

LOL! Trixie's Mom, you could probably guess quite a few, as elleireland has done!

Here are a few others: Brittany, Cody (both in their late teens), Dylan, Kayla/Mikayla, Morgan (girl), Tristan, Bl@yden (yeah), Bl@yke, M@riyah, K@meryn, K@rlee, Jewels, C0leby (because she wanted to call him C0le, she thought this spelling would be better), T@iylor (no typo!), J@xon, Krist@nn ("Kristen"), Jaden (my cousins thought they invented this one! haha!), Is@ble -- we gently talked my sis-in-law into changing the spelling on that last one!

Okay, not all of these names are hideous, and some are actually nice (Isabel). It's just off-putting that some people like what's trendy -- not cutting edge, mind you! What is already super-hot! -- or they want to be "unique" and change up the spelling, which doesn't make a common/trendy name more special, it makes it harder for people to spell/pronounce, and it makes the parent(s) look uneducated. I have one of those weird names, and my dad, God rest his soul, had to correct everyone on the pronunciation, whereas Mom wanted to name me Jennifer. :)

Our son's name is Henry, and when we announced this to everyone during our pregnancy, they laughed or made ugly faces, and they all openly criticized it. They said it was too old-fashioned, too nerdy, too "weak," or that it sounded like a farmer's name. Of course, this was back in 1999, and most of these people used names like I referenced above and still don't see anything wrong with those choices.

BTW, my mother does call Henry by his first name. I can't remember how long it took her to come around, but I'm guessing she forgot she planned to call him James the minute she first held him. :)

September 8, 2010 4:22 PM
By Alli (not verified)

@Lara Jane

Blayden? Yikes. That gave me a good laugh. :)

September 8, 2010 6:32 PM
By kiki (not verified)

She seriously wanted to spell Isabel as Isable? Like "Is Able"? That's... well that's just somethin'...

I know someone who spelled their daughter's name 5ummier instead of Summer. Pronounced as Summer though. I didn't know about the spelling until I saw it on Facebook and I have no idea about the reason behind it. Maybe they just couldn't spell?

I also know someone who's daughter is named Aer0n and (again) until I saw it posted on Facebook I thought her name was Erin because they pronounce it Air-in but they're from the south so I just thought it was Erin with an accent.

With all of this crazy stuff out there, Bodhi doesn't seem so bad. Actually, I think he'll fit in with all of the other creatively and you-neekly named kids who will be in his class. Perhaps pointing this fact out to your family members will help them come 'round to loving the name sooner rather than later.

Blayden, LOL!

September 9, 2010 4:50 AM
By Charly (not verified)

If grandpa really can't stand it, he'll just call him "Bode." My great-grandparents thought the now-ubiquitous Isabelle sounded "ethnic," but at 9, she's still mostly called Issy, anyway.

September 9, 2010 8:05 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When we named our younger son, who is now 9, my husband and I originally picked a name that was a compromise, neither of us loved it or hated it. Well, my family HATED it and said so. We were trying to honor my husband's deceased mother by picking a boy's name similar to her first name. In the face of opposition, and our own ambivalence, we eventually made it his middle name. That seemed to satisfy everyone. Actually it was my older son's idea, and he was 4 at the time!

I also believe that the "name becomes the child." I never understand the idea that you have to meet a baby first and see what name they look like, or changing your pick, because the child "doesn't look like a so-and-so." Pick the name you love and eventually you and everyone else will not be able to imagine calling the child anything else.

September 9, 2010 8:46 AM
By Essy (not verified)

I really like the spelling of Bodhi, and it reminds me a bit like George Harrison's son Dhani, although that'd be a terrible sibset. but generally you don't get a name with that same feel very often. I likey!

I think it all really depends on WHY your family doesn't like it? Perhaps different members like it for different reasons which is all the more complicated. I would simply say, that is the name we have chosen and be done with it. If there is no changing it why engage them to argue? I think by constantly bringing it up wouldn't it be an invitation for them to show their dislike? People tend to do that as often as they can. I'd just stay mum until the birth and actual baby name announcement.

September 10, 2010 11:37 AM
By AllieP (not verified)

Which just goes to show you that what one person thinks of as trendy another thinks of as cutting edge. Lauren wrote the babynamer book because all the playground moms thought they were alone in liking Olivia. I happen to think Henry is too trendy to use (though I love it, too). There are LOTS of baby Henrys in my social circle.

The downside is that pretty much every name I love is something that is beloved in my social circle. No Sophias for me!

September 11, 2010 11:50 AM
By Lara Jane (not verified)

AllieP, please note that my son Henry is a 10-year-old, not a baby, and in my social circle, Henry was far from trendy in 1999! :)

Given the openly negative reactions to our choice at the time, we never imagined that Henry's name would have a resurgence in popularity. When strangers in the mall where I worked told me they disliked the idea of calling a baby Henry (yeah, that happened, and more than once), we thought our choice was pretty safe as far as bucking the trends.

So as far as we knew, yes, we WERE cutting edge back then. It's quite frustrating, actually, that 99.9% of people thought Henry was a bad idea in 1999, but just as many people love it in 2010.

September 11, 2010 11:54 AM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

AllieP: funny thing about Henry -- when my English cousins chose that name for their son about, oh, ten or so years ago, I remember my mother expressing disbelief and dismay. She just could not get her head around Henry for a baby, I guess because, to her, it's a grandpa name. Anyway, Henry is now hugely popular in my social circle as well (although it took a few years to trickle across the Atlantic -- we live in Canada) and is now too trendy to use. Funny how the trends go.

September 12, 2010 7:25 PM
By Kate (not verified)

My mother recently threw a huge hissy fit over the names my cousin and I had both picked for our to-be-coming daughters. My cousin chose "Katrina Quinn" and my boyfriend and I had decided on "Freya Lynn" We both had very deep reasons for the names we chose, but now my mother is muttering about "Naming your kids after goddesses and hurricanes! (No, she did not name her daughter after the hurricane. That's just tacky) What's next? Why can't you pick a NORMAL name like Emily!" As somebody who has the name "Kathryn", the last thing I want my daughter to have is a "normal" name.

September 12, 2010 7:32 PM
By Cecily's Mom (not verified)

I haven't read through everyone's comments so I'm sorry if this is redundant. I think that a lot of people feel that it's okay to express dislike for names before the baby is born. They assume you're just trying the name out and that you aren't set on it yet. I think most of us have weighed in on names with expectant mothers.
We have 3 children. My mom didn't like the names we chose for the first two.
Not all, but most people have enough sense to not say anything negative after the baby is born.
Now my mom now says things like that he really seems like a ---, or that name really fits her perfectly. Since my mother adores my children I take these statements as compliments.
A few years ago my cousin named her daughter Athena. I thought it was beyond strange. Now, however, I think it "fit's her perfectly." She has the most darling personality that deserves a name rich in history and tradition.
Just remember, you've had since before you conceived to think about and fall in love with this name. They just need time and they will too.

September 12, 2010 11:57 PM
By angel (not verified)

I think Bodhi is a cute name, and somewhat different! You should name your baby boy whatever you want to name him, he is your child!! My mom didn't like my son's middle name which is Austin,I'm not sure why,but I didn't care.

September 15, 2010 8:00 PM
By Echo (not verified)

My parents hated my son's name when I first mentioned it. They thought it was a totally weird name because it isn't common (his name is Milo). Long story short, he's 6.5 months old and they LOVE his name, because they love him. They got used to it during my pregnancy once they realized we were not changing our minds. I grew up with a super common name, and there were always 3 or 4 in every class in school. I was determined that my child's name would be a little more unique. I can tell that some of my friends don't like it, but then again I don't like some of their kids' names either!

September 19, 2010 1:36 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We named our first son Nixon. Not after anything or anyone in particular, we just liked the name. I had never heard of anyone named Nixon (Excepting the president, but I mean first names) until after he was born then it seemed like Nixon's popped out of the wood work!My MIL didn't like the name but now she does. I say, shove it. No matter what someone won't like your kids name. So good thing its not their kid, right? Name them what you feel will let them flourish.

September 25, 2010 10:01 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think all this talk about what is trendy or overused is silly. Those of you who are spouting off about how unique your children's names are are showing your ignorance. I am a teacher, and all of the names people here mention as unique are the ones that I have 3 of in a class. If you find a name that you love, and your husband loves it too, then that is what you should name your child, regardless of popularity or unpopularity. Who cares if other people are named that? You're the ones who count.

October 15, 2010 3:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)


My inlaws didn't really care for the name Adelle, which we used for our firstborn, and even though they weren't mean about it, they asked for permission to call her Addie, as they did like the ever popular Adaline. I said, "Call her what you want." My daughter would come to their house, and if they called out "Addie!", she wouldn't even turn her head. It wasn't her name, and she didn't respond to it. They quickly gave up and called her what worked -- the only name she's ever known. I bet your family will too.

October 21, 2010 2:10 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When we decided on the name of our son we didn't tell a soul until he was in my arms. And even though my family thought his name was a little.....odd, they came around. It's not about a name it's about a baby, ya know? My sons name fits him perfectly...even though I've never met another Carmine in my life.

December 29, 2010 4:22 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's not so unusual that no one has ever heard it. I think of actor Bodhi Elfman (Jenna Elfman's husband) and Bode Miller, the Olympic skier known for his wild personality and fearless skiing style. If your parents don't like it, maybe you could suggest to them that they call him Bo, which is a cute nickname. Eventually they will come around.
My mother-in-law hated all my ideas for names for my son. When I was pregnant the first time, I mentioned that we liked Dashiell (I think the nickname Dash is cute) in addition to a few other names, even a family name on her side, and she didn't like any of them. She pushed my husband to veto anything that was not a "classic American" name! So our son was named Benjamin. It suits him well, so I'm happy with his name, but there are a lot of other Benjamins around.

Now we are expecting another boy, and the first thing my mother-in-law said about my pregnancy, after saying congratulations, was "don't name him Dashiell." My husband and his brother both have "safe" American names, and they expect us to do the same. Luckily we have moved 3 hours away from them, so they don't have as much influence this time, and we have decided to keep all our name ideas to ourselves this time.

My point is that now, I am even more determined to name this child whatever we want and not worry about what my in-laws think. So keep your name- you will never regret choosing a name you love, but you might regret not choosing it.

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