What’s in a (Baby’s) Name? – Millennials vs Boomers

NLW baby picture

Our adult daughter has her 32nd birthday this week. It’s her birthday, she gets to celebrate, she gets the gifts – but the memory of the day belongs to me.

Since I was the one who did ALL the work and was present “in the moment” while she made only a brief, late and loud appearance.

My husband was indeed present but not for the entire event. Later a nurse told me he appeared somewhat faint and had to (was asked to) leave the room. He triumphantly returned for the “it’s a girl” announcement and it was he, not me, who responded when the question came –

“What’s the baby’s name?”

Choosing a baby’s name was – and is –  the fun part. But far different today than it was 30-some years ago.

My husband and I felt the weight of expectations of generations that came before us when choosing a name.

Our daughter, pregnant now with her 2nd child, does not feel this weight. Her husband doesn’t either.

It’s not that they are selfish, it is just that they are millennials.

I have done absolutely zero research to reach this conclusion, unless you call my frequent perusal of websites such as babynamewizard and nameberry – and many similar sites for expectant parents of every demographic stripe.

We (boomers) did not have the internet to guide us in selecting a baby name.

We had exactly two sources:

1. Our parents memories and wishes which we listened to.

2. Books of suggested baby names (printed on actual paper) which we read.

When I was pregnant, my aunt sent me a book on baby names designed to help Jewish parents come up with names that honored their deceased relatives as fits our tradition.  I wanted to use my mother’s Hebrew name as a starting point. That led to its own set of arguments as my dad and my mother’s brothers had different recollections of what my mother’s Hebrew name actually was. And she wasn’t around to tell us.

My husband wanted to honor the memory of his grandmother who helped raise him. And I (respecting my own 1970’s feminist ethos) wanted to give the baby my own last name as a middle name.

I was also influenced by, a somewhat inexplicable in retrospect but fervent at the time, admiration for the British royal family owing to a business trip I took to the UK just before I became pregnant in 1983.  Images of babies named Charles, Diana, Edward and Elizabeth filled my dreams.

Ultimately, our daughter and then our son were given lovely, traditional names to honor family members no longer with us.

Our daughter and her husband have more naming options – and stronger voices of their own, like their millennial brethren.

They will pick a name that suits them. And them alone. It won’t be fanciful, or celebrity-based or (I hope) have a bizarre spelling.

Their biggest concern? They don’t want to select a popular baby name that “everyone else” is using. So I know not to expect to have a grandchild named – Daniel or Noah – or Ava or Emma. (sigh, I am fond of those names.)

It’s their baby – and I respect that (though as I edge towards sleep each night, I make mental lists of names I hope they won’t choose – “Please, let them not chose Cole, Cooper or Cale.” Nothing against those names if they are in your family, but they make me squirm.

My husband and I endlessly discussed and discarded baby names (“Kenneth,” No, that sounded like a dentist. “Douglas,” No, that was someone my husband didn’t like in grade school. “Diana,” my husband put his foot down at that one. “Beth,” too timid, as in the famed Little Women character of my childhood favorite book.).

Our millennial daughter and her husband will use spread sheets to guide their baby name decision-making process.

Our son-in-law (yes, you guessed it, he has an MBA) and my born-an-organizational-expert daughter invented a method for their first child’s name that they will adopt for their second.

The other night at dinner this method was explained to me as follows:

  • A month before the baby’s due date, a spread sheet is created
  • The spread sheet contains three columns
  • Column #1 is where our daughter lists her preferred baby names
  • Column #3 is where our SIL lists his preferred names
  • Spread sheet is shared by both parties
  • In the center Column #2  is created on which the overlapping names agreed upon by both parties are listed
  • Spread sheet is again shared
  • The process continue until there are several overlapping names in Column #2
  • Baby name is selected by joint agreement of both parties from among the overlapping names in Column #2

An efficient and effective millennial method of dealing with a highly emotional decision, don’t you think?

Could I live with a new grandchild named Cooper, Cole – or Cale?  Of course. Unless they decide to spell the latter name, Kale, in the ultimate millennial joke on their boomer parents. Then all bets are off.









Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Books, Communications, daughters, Empty Nest, Family, Husbands, Marriage, Moms, Parenting, Women

9 responses to “What’s in a (Baby’s) Name? – Millennials vs Boomers

  1. Having an unusual name that needs to be spelled, explained, corrected and not remembered is not as much fun in the uniqueness category as parents may think!


    • ShepW

      I agree with you: Consider how many different variations there are with Shepard (my full first name): Shepard, Shepherd, Shephard, Shepperd, Sheppard, and Sheperd, The 60s astronaut, Alan B. Shepard, spelled his last name w/one P, and he shared his last name with a fictional character from the TV show “Dallas”: Sue Ellen Shepard. Then consider the original poster, the blogger Miriam Daniel’s name: Both names have biblical associations: Miriam was Moses’s sister, while Daniels is a derivation from the Jewish prophet from when Jews were a captive people in Babylon (remember Daniel in the lion’s den?). Biblical names run strong in my family, and when I say that just now, I’m reminded of Luke Skywalker’s saying something similar in “Return of the Jedi”: “The Force is strong in my family: my father has it, I have it, and my sister has it: You’re my sister, Leia.” 🙂


  2. Miriam Daniel


    On Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 1:06 PM, Witty Worried and Wolf wrote:

    > Nancy Wolf posted: ” Our adult daughter has her 32nd birthday this week. > It’s her birthday, she gets to celebrate, she gets the gifts – but the > memory of the day belongs to me. Since I was the one who did ALL the work > and was present “in the moment” while she made only a” >


  3. ShepW

    Being a boomer baby (born in ’57), my folks, especially my Mom, thought a lot about what to name me: Samuel for Mom’s decedent Dad, or something else. Here’s that story that I learned at my family reunion in April 2011: My name, Shepard, had to be a name that was a French translation of Mom’s family name. Why French? Because Mom is a francophile, a lover of everything French, including the language and art. Mom and Dad discussed what Mom had in mind and before making a decision, “slept on it” before deciding. Then the solution hit my Mom with the proverbial light bulb lit up over her head. That’s it, she said in her sleep: I would be called Shepard. My middle name came from somebody in either family and the last name is already there. My Hebrew name would be Shmuel Ben David (Samuel, son of David), the Samuel coming from my decedent maternal grandfather; there was a Samuel on Dad’s side, but he was still alive when I was born, so I couldn’t be named Samuel. Dad’s father’s name was Harry, and he was still alive when I was born, so I couldn’t be named Harry either. At least I’m not stuck w/Harry because that sounds like a lounge lizard (aka Bill Murray’s character in the 70s version of Saturday Night Live).: -)


  4. I love this post! I went through a stage (mostly when I was pregnant with my fourth baby) when I was obsessed with discussing baby names, not just for my last baby (I knew he’d be the last) but for ALL babies. I even wrote a short story baby names about that got published in two literary journals and one audio journal. I’m going to leave a link to it here. It’s very short! http://www.literarymama.com/fiction/archives/2010/03/david.html


  5. T39

    I am a teacher and sadly many of my preferred names were no longer options due to their association with a particular student or student “type.”


  6. I remember buying every baby name book I could find. How archaic that seems now.


  7. Bonnie J. Weissman

    Happy my older daughter and her husband stuck to classic names and honored late grandpas for their twin boys (who will be two in April): Adam Joseph (my dad was Joseph) and David Alton (Alton was my son in law’s late grandpa). Her dad and I were an interfaith couple and we named her Sarah for several reasons: it was strong and feminine at the same time, everyone laughed like Abraham when told I was pregnant, and I wanted to honor her Jewish ancestry. Her middle name is Katharine after her late Polish Catholic great grandmother. Our younger girl, Wendy Anne, is partly named for the late feminist playwright, Wendy Wasserstein, and because we both loved the name. Her middle name is from Anna Bornstein, her late Polish Jewish great grandmother.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s