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
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.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.