It wasn’t unkind, hurtful or intended to influence her decisions as an adult, but the name kids called Candice Fleck as a child impacted her deeply.
“I was one of a couple Candices in my grade growing up,” Fleck says. “So I was always ‘Candice F’ not just ‘Candice.'”
As a result, the mother of five wanted to ensure her children’s names were unique, even rare. She named her son Kodiak and her daughters Lace, Cadence, Jade and Lilith.
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She’s stood by all of her choices, except for one. When her daughter was only a newborn, the then-mother-of-three started second guessing the name Cadence.
“A couple people were like, ‘Oh, I know a Cadence,’ or, ‘My niece is Cadence.'”
A run-in with a neighbour at the park sent Fleck over the edge.
“She said, ‘Oh that’s my daughter’s name!'”
Fleck marched home and told her husband they had to change their daughter’s name. They decided on Willow, which was her middle name from birth.
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Laura Wattenberg, a veteran author on international baby name trends, says that sort of baby name remorse is on the rise among this generation of parents. It’s due in part, she says, to countless options and naming trends.
“If you think about in past generations, you couldn’t get a name wrong if you were naming after your grandfather or you were naming after a Saint’s Day,” Wattenberg explains.
“The way we’re naming is fundamentally different. We’re choosing objects of style.”
Wattenberg says parents are choosing names as a way to market or distinguish their child in a competitive world, with a kind of “public-facing” meaning.
“The problem is that we’ve abandoned the idea of a normal name – we can name our kids anything – and at the same time we’re putting more pressure on ourselves to be distinctive, to choose a name that isn’t too popular. Now, popular just means well-liked, so we’re choosing from a limitless array of options and we’re crossing out all of the most appealing ones.”
Wattenberg has some tips for parents hoping to avoid baby name remorse altogether:
Do your research
“One of the biggest sources of regrets is things we didn’t know about a name. ‘Oh I didn’t know Aurora was the name of a Disney princess,’ ‘I didn’t realize that Noah was so popular today.’ It’s good to be informed.”
Don’t nitpick your favourite names
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“When you’ve narrowed down to your short list of favourites, you’re tempted to think of what’s wrong with each one, to cross names off the list. Don’t do it. Instead, think about what’s right about each name, think about what you love the most to make names rise to the top. That leaves you – instead of with worries or doubts – with a rosy glow about what you love about this name.”
“I think it’s still a good idea to choose a couple trusted confidants whose style you like so as to avoid surprise in the future.”
Don’t wait until the last minute
Wattenberg doesn’t believe parents will magically know what to name their child the moment they see them. She advocates choosing a name before the birth.
“It’s good to fall in love with a name in advance and talk yourself into it in advance so you don’t make last-minute decisions.”
Go with your gut
“The best lesson, at the end of the day, is to follow your heart. Deep down you know if you love a name. Whether that name is a little too creative, a little too popular, that all pales beside how much you love it.”