As pop culture buzzes about which name William and Kate will give to the new royal prince, and women like Katie Hopkins says “I do judge children by their names,” on a popular British morning talk show, I can’t help but wonder what sort of judgments will be made about my children when school starts.
Every year sites like nameberry.com regale us with tales of the “top ten baby names” as though they are as important as the stock market. In fact, although 2013 isn’t even ¾ of the way through, they’ve already posted their list for this year! So what, exactly, IS in a name?
Friends, family, even perfect strangers will proffer names to you for your unborn child – often unsolicited. Avidly, parents will write down names they like, and then research their history. I wanted my children’s names to be a reflection of themselves. Trouble was, they weren’t even born yet, so how could I choose wisely?
According to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, the name you choose for your baby reflects more about you than your child. “The name doesn’t belong to you – you’re making the decision because your child can’t do it for himself – but what you choose does say a lot about your personality.”
Although it may be true that my children’s names say more about me than them, it’s not stopping college application boards from using their preconceptions about a name as part of their elimination process. Dr. Hilary Levey Friedman, author of Playing to Win, Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, observed in her studies that “colleges will look at an applicant that participates in competitive lacrosse after school and immediately assume he is from an upper class. Same with names – you probably won’t find ‘LaShawnda’ in competitive rowing or applying to Harvard.” Friedman acknowledges it’s an unfair prejudicial assessment, but one that’s made regularly.
Kids Can be Cruel
Unfortunately, that gives far more credence to Katie Hopkins’ statement that she is merely ‘speaking the truth that most parents are thinking if not saying’ than I am comfortable with. Especially when she declares openly that she won’t let her children play with other children after school whose names are “too common,” like “Taylor” or “car names, like Mercedes” because she fears a child “of that lower class” (meaning middle class, in her case) won’t be appropriate as a playmate.
It’s bad enough that children are mean to other children, creating terrible nicknames and taunts, but to have the parents openly discriminate as well?
My best advice to parents: choose the names you like. Then teach your child respect for others. Remind them that they cannot judge a book by its cover and you simply can’t make an accurate assessment about others without getting to know them first.
If my daughter is ever denied the right to play at someone’s house due to name-discrimination, I shall simply remind her that friends like that aren’t worth having. Hopefully the majority of parents out there will agree with me and teach their children acceptance and tolerance to go with their healthy dose of decision-making.
Kimberly Carlson is a freelance writer, author and mother of two fantastic children that are defining who they are and what their names mean to them every single day.