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What's in a name? Clearly, hurt feelings
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • When my husband and I were first talking about having children, he suggested my mother's name and his mother's name or our fathers' names. Now we are having a little girl, and my mother-in-law has not stopped making comments to my husband and me about how her name has been given as the middle name and my mother's as the first. It is getting to be old news, and I am not sure how to handle the situation, or if it should even be approached. We didn't give her an explanation for our choice, as we didn't foresee the "commentary" that would follow. My mother-in-law enjoys drama and likes to be controlling, so I already know I should proceed cautiously. Please help.

Irritated in California

Dear Irritated in California • Truly, there is no limit to the stupid things people will fixate on to convince themselves that they matter. (And persuade others to remain a safe distance away.) The easiest route here is to choose two non-family names for your baby. And, experience should also tell you that the easiest route to this easiest route is to keep the new name to yourself until it's on the birth certificate. Do gently warn them it's coming, though: "Oh, nothing's set in stone. ... " When she hears the baby's name and (presumably) flips, say simply that using the grandmothers' names meant someone had to be first and feelings had to get hurt — and so you both thought better of it. The second easiest route is to stick with your original name plan, and explain your reasoning. Specifically, give your mother-in-law a puzzled look and say, "Well, someone had to be first, so we decided to be fair and do rock-paper-scissors." Now, saying that will possibly get her more fired up, by suggesting you middle-seated her not through careful deliberation (or dramatic conspiracy), but instead according to playground law. But, I respectfully submit that any distress she feels will be self-inflicted. The toughest route here is to treat the subject as open to perpetual discussion. State your case as matter-of-factly as possible — whatever that case may be — and indicate that you meant to honor the mothers, not hurt them.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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