Names: Fitting In vs. Standing Out

October 7, 2010 Eileen 0 Comments

Lately I’ve been obsessed with baby name books.  One book that I personally own is called, “Beyond Jennifer and Jason”.  I bought it years ago and when the book is set down, it naturally flops open to one well-consulted, dog-eared page.  At the top of the page are the words “Fitting In vs. Standing Out”, a list of names that in the opinion of the authors will be unique, yet not weird.  And while I might disagree with the authors that a boy named Barnaby would fit in, while an Aiden (as I said, this is old) will stand out, I do agree that “unique, but not weird” is a balance I’d like to strike.

When I was with family at a recent reunion in Idaho, I threw out a few names and was surprised by the reactions.  Across the board, family members felt that a unique name would be a hinderance to our son.  Their reasoning was that a Chinese boy who will be in predominantly Caucasian classrooms will already stand out and that an uncommon name would be just one more thing that would classify him as different. Fitting in, they thought, should be of the utmost importance.  “Why not Jake or Ryan?” they asked.

As a group of adoptive parents, I’d love to hear your opinions.  Do you feel you’re more or less likely to use a unique name for your internationally adopted child?  Did their Chinese heritage influence your naming decision?  Has a unique name been a hinderance to your child?  Have any of you chosen a name and then changed your mind once you met your child in China?

These kids are being asked to give up so much and make so many changes.   I don’t take that lightly.  Their American name, as much as anything, is a symbol of their new life.  It’s a life where I hope my son always feels like he fits in, even while standing out.

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