There’s nothing parents enjoy more than judging other parents.
Don’t believe me? Go post a picture of your toddler in his car seat and see how long it takes for someone to question the way he’s strapped in.
Nobody knows better for your child than some other child’s mom or dad and nobody is quicker to let you know.
Especially when it comes to names.
If I were to write a list of things that get parents feeling superior, this post would literally never end. I would be writing it on my deathbed and new topics would be popping up on my Google Contacts Lenses every two seconds. Some of the things that cause superiority and self-righteousness in the parenting community are legitimate, like babies being left in hot cars, and others are not, like Bronies.
Maybe the most ridiculous thing to be concerned with is what someone else names their children. And yet we can’t stop talking about it, and it’s the one parenting criticism no one objects too.
Whether we’re discussing the year’s most popular names, the hottest pop culture-based names, the most outrageous baby names, or what the latest middling celebrity has named their newborn, baby names are a popular topic. Articles and listicles and infographics and blog posts about baby names are all over our social media feeds almost every day, as are the comments deriding the offending parents for naming their kids something so bizarre/stupid/made-up/inspired-by-Twilight.
Unless you’re looking for inspiration, I don’t understand why you care. Once you’ve already named your kid? I don’t want to hear a peep, beyond a simple “Hmm, that’s a weird name!” to your spouse when you get home. I get it, it’s easy to mock a unique name. We all do it, especially when it’s one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids.
Celebrities are the easiest targets, of course, because the only thing we like more than pointing out the ways that stars are “JUST LIKE US!” is pointing out the ways stars are NOTHING like us, the loonies! And the excessive lifestyles and out-of-touchness of certain stars does sometimes seem to extend into the way they parent their kids, whether it’s by leaving them with their five nannies or by giving them names that seem to have no purpose other than to start a trend. (The other easy targets are people who use “made-up names” and/or create weird spellings for names, which disdain always carries with it a disturbingly racist – or if you’re being generous, classist – overtone.)
I’m not going pretend I don’t have the same knee-jerk reaction as everyone else when someone famous – and these days, anyone with a Facebook page is “famous” – names their kid something I consider ridiculous, like Apple or Quinoa or Katniss or Johnny Football. But in terms of things that have a real impact on my life, it’s pretty far down the list. Whatever Xtina Aguilera or the chick from “The Hills” names her kid has about as much impact on me as whatever Xtina Aguilera or the chick from “The Hills” has in her shopping cart or wears to the gym or puts up her nose.
Who cares? I get some of these names are good for laughs, but there’s no reason to act like this is a big deal. Naming your kid is one of the easiest, most enjoyable (also hardest, most difficult) aspects of becoming a parent. It’s a blast, playing God by naming your new property something absurd just because you can, and a lot of parenting isn’t a blast. So go nuts! Unless, you name the kid Jeeves (or Hitler), I don’t think it’s going to matter much in the long run. Someone named “Weird Al” just topped the Billboard charts.
Names are important, sure, but they aren’t permanent, not if someone doesn’t want them to be. If a kid really grows up hating his or her name, or having problems because of his or her name, there are ways around it, like going by a middle name, or using a nickname (Detective Munch!), or straight up changing your name. Besides, if children want to make fun of you, they’re going to find a reason, whether you have a super-cool bad-ass name or the world’s lamest name (i.e., Pantry, my son’s real name).
Even if I thought there was a place for judging other parents (and I don’t), coming down on them for naming their kid something questionable probably wouldn’t rate. Not when there’s poor hygiene and bad behavior and terrible nutrition and co-sleeping and crying it out and formula and going to the movies and flying on planes and eating at restaurants… There are so many other topics to attack people about!
About the only “good” thing I can say about the rampant name-judgment is that unlike a lot of the other criticisms-pretending-to-be-advice that you’ll get, no one will ever question your kid’s name to your face. Probably because it’s understood that there’s not much that can be done about it until your kid is 18 and largely out of your control, so calling it out just makes you look like a jerk. Calling out anything that’s not quite obviously endangering a kid is not exactly polite, but telling someone that the name they chose for their heir sucks? That’s off-limits to even the biggest jerk parent. But we have no problem talking trash out of earshot.
Maybe we should have a problem with it.
After all, that funny name is just another choice someone else has made on the long, experimental journey that is raising children, and we’re all doing our best, so lay off! Or the next time I hear you go off on some kid’s “goofy” name, I might start throwing around a few choice names of my own.
(I’M TALKING ABOUT SWEAR WORDS.)