This week, on the Freakonomics podcast, there was an episode titled How Much Does Your Name Matter? It got me thinking about everything my husband and I went through when choosing our son's name. Here's the story:
In the past, I'd wondered at parents who chose their child's name and broadcast it to the world before he/she was even born. What if they changed their minds? What if a Brutus came out with narrow shoulders? What if a Brady didn't get his mother's red hair? True, maybe those parents didn't care about following stereotypes (more power to them), but I did. I didn't want to give my son the wrong name to carry with him through life.
So my husband and I decided to narrow our options down to three or four and wait until our son was born to decide for certain. We wanted to see him, hold him, and determine his name based on how he looked and felt.
As it turned out, that was a stupid idea, because when the moment came for us to name him, it was too overwhelming a decision. You can't tell a baby's personality or future based on how he looks minutes after being born. Furthermore, the name we gave our son turned out to be the first name we both liked and the front-runner throughout the process. So we might as well have just chosen it, stuck with it, and shared it with the world. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably do that. My husband says his first thought when my son came out was, "Why didn't we decide on a name?" In that moment, he could only remember one name out of our finalists, and it was Edwin, my grandfather's name.
I'd gotten the idea for naming Edwin after my grandfather months before. My Grandma Evelyn (Edwin's wife) passed away four years ago this week. In life, she was a very spiritual person, connected to the universe in a sometimes mystical way. Since her death, I've dreamed about her several times, and she always tells me things. Within a month of learning I was pregnant, I dreamed that she told me I would have a boy (this was well before the gender sonogram) and that I would name him after my grandfather. To this day, I'm not sure if she meant it as a prophesy or an order, but either way, it turned out as she said.
I instantly liked the idea of Edwin because I've always believed that there's a certain element of predestination in names, and I would love for my son to inherit some of the qualities I admire in my grandfather: humor, generosity, an easy-going nature, a love of learning, and a lot of brains, to name a few. Another more superficial reason for Edwin is the symmetry with our last name, Sowul. Both have five letters with a "W" in the middle. I thought that was pretty cool. After he was born, I added another reason: Edwin looks just like my husband and nothing like me, so I like that his first name, at least, is connected to my side of the family.
As for his middle name, Michael, that was a no-brainer. Michael is both my father-in-law's name and my Grandpa Markowitz's name. The "M" initial can also stand for both my parents' names. So Edwin Michael Sowul could not be more rooted in his family.
Our only hesitation with Edwin was that people might call him Eddie or Ed, which neither of us really like as nicknames. But so far, neither of those names seem to suit him at all, so there's no temptation for anyone to call him that. And why bother nicknaming Edwin anyway? It's short, and takes less time to say than "Eddie." If he wants a nickname, maybe "Win" would work. (Who wouldn't want their kid to be called Win?) I also wondered if Edwin would be too "old" a name for a baby, and it did feel that way at first, but now it seems to fit him perfectly.
So my husband and I had many reasons for choosing this particular name for our son. But there was even more behind the decision than I knew: societal influences that reveal our (not Edwin's) race, education, intelligence level, and even politics.
Intrigued? Listen to the podcast, and stay tuned for part 2 of "Choosing a Baby Name"!