Last week my social media feeds were abuzz over a pair of delightful infographics that use Social Security Administration data to chart the most popular names for both girls and boys, by state, for babies born in the last 53 years. The Jezebel posts seemed to confirm what we all, deep down, knew from experience. If a woman is now anywhere between 29 and 43 years old, there is a pretty decent chance her name is Jennifer (I am sure one "n" Jenifers count for this, too). And her male counterpart is likely to answer to Mike.
All this attention on name popularity reminded me of an age-old parenting dilemma. We all want our kids to be thought of as original and creative. But must parents choose a one-in-a-million name like Blue Ivy, Jermajesty or Zoltan to reflect their kid's uniqueness? Or, do all the little Sophias, Emmas and Jacobs (the #1 names in 2012) stand just as good a chance of being standouts even if their middle school locker mate is likely to be a namesake?
To be honest, I'm not sure my parents did me any favors by giving a name that very few people I ever met, either growing up, or even now, could pronounce right off the bat. Everyone, quite understandably given the spelling, wants to pronounce it like the South Asian garment--"Sah-ree." But do you really think my native English-speaking parents would choose to name their child "Sorry," even if the labor and delivery was truly miserable? And unless you are Michael Jackson and call your kid Blanket, it's not many folks who can get away with naming their kids after a swath of fabric.
And no, never being able to find my name on a fake license plate or keychain at cheap gift stores when on vacation didn't make me feel special. It made me feel left out.
My husband, on the other hand, is a Michael. Yes, the dreaded Michael of "most popular boys name of the last 50 years" as confirmed by the SSA. This means, he claims, he was never called by his first name by any of his guy friends in middle and high school, but instead always by his last. He felt he was always one adrift in a sea of Mikes in every class or meeting he's ever been in. I think he wished his parents had picked something that didn't feel so generic.
So when it came time to pick names for our own kids, we clearly came with our fair share baggage. I advocated for names that were familiar, easy to spell, and couldn't be mistaken for a dress from another culture. My husband wanted names that wouldn't have six kids turning their heads when shouted from the sidelines during youth soccer games. Neither of us wanted anything that would potentially embarrass our children by rhyming with a bodily function.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
Like when we brought our oldest to the pediatrician for the first time after we moved to Madison and the nurse looked as the chart, and then back at our nine month old. "Hmm, you don't look that old." she said with a smile. As it turns out she had the wrong chart. The chart of another Madison kid with the same name -- Eli -- thirteen years his senior. What were the chances?
And people actually ask my daughter, named Hope, how she spells her name.
Yes, I now understand why Michael Jackson, who probably knew at least 15 kids with the same first and last name combination growing up, ended up calling his son Blanket. And Blanket, I'm pretty sure, will one day father a set of twins named Mary and David, two classic names totally due for a comeback.comments powered by Disqus
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Verona resident Melissa Wardy got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.