How many times have you asked a pregnant couple what they plan to name their baby, then, after they proudly let you in on their decision, you find your foot squarely in your mouth. Yikes.
Be careful wading into this conversation. If you don't have a credible "poker face," then you might want to practice your reaction. Try a quick, big smile, coupled with an appropriate enthusiastic response, such as, "I love it," or, "Wow, that's a wonderful name."
Read more about The Name Game: Deciding What to Call Your Baby.
Stop Cringing and Start Smiling
Whatever you do, don't cringe, make a face or give unsolicited advice on your idea of much better names. Your reaction can ruin a relationship. Trust me, the new parents will remember what you said.
Any negative comments—even those that seem off-hand to you—often have long-lasting consequences for the new parents and your relationship with them.
I know this because I hear about these interactions during the prenatal visits. I've known moms who were so traumatized by comments from family members that they are reluctant to share possible names for fear of being dissuaded.
What Not to Say:
I had a dog with that name.
You're joking, right?
What are you thinking? Jeez!
That's my cousin's name and he's in jail.
Oh my, you really shouldn't do that to the kid—they'll get bullied.
How about this instead? _______ (Fill in the blank with your favorite name.)
Check out the "naughty and nice" list for a little fun.
For Expectant Parents
This is the advice I give my patients: Have a list of names that you'd never in million years consider for your precious new baby. Names like Bathsheba, Osgood, Thurston, etc. When someone asks, you can throw that name out and watch their reactions.
During my own pregnancy, my patients and friends couldn't help themselves. They offered plenty of unsolicited advice, comments and suggestions. "You should really consider the name Matthew, Jordan, Dustin, Alfonso.…" The list went on and on. Finally, I devised my own counter plan, announcing, "We are naming the baby Sparky."
Really! I told everyone that his name was going to be Sparky. They thought I was naming him after a dog or after Sparky Anderson, the famous baseball manager.
And, yes, there are a few people who still call my son Sparky, which makes both of us smile. Giving him the pretend name of Sparky during the pregnancy was plausible enough to stop all comments in their tracks. It left people confused and guessing, and it provided me much-needed relief from the unsolicited and well-meaning advice, at least on that topic.
Since the name Sparky wasn't my real pick, I had no emotional reaction to the few people who couldn't help themselves and reacted with shock and negative comments. It was my little inside joke (pun intended).
It worked for me. I hope it works for you. Leave a comment below to share your pretend names and strategies for keeping other people's comments from pushing your "name your baby" buttons.
And, in case you were wondering, Sparky grew up to be an amazing guy named Giancarlo.
This blog originally appeared on Nurse Barb's Daily Dose. Barb Dehn is a women's health nurse practitioner, award-winning author and nationally recognized health expert. She practices with Women Physicians in the Silicon Valley of California.