Family & Education

Tsoris for grandparents over children’s baby name choices

Almost 20 per cent of new grandparents are unhappy with the name chosen for the child


Almost one in five grandparents — 19 per cent — admit to hating, or having previously hated, the name chosen for their grandchild.

A new survey, carried out by Mumsnet and sister site Gransnet, has revealed a catalogue of reasons for the disapproval including: it’s too old-fashioned, it’s too unconventional or it doesn’t follow tradition.

But more than a third of parents (38 per cent) feel the choice is none of the grandparents’ business, with six per cent of parents saying they fell out with their own parents over the name.

And when grandparents were first told the new baby’s name, three per cent of parents said the first response was laughter, while one in 10 grandparents simply said: “What?”

One Jewish grandmother who reacted similarly was Dawn Warren, a 62-year-old from Borehamwood who has two granddaughters, Emmy and Marley and two grandsons, Seth and Jordan.

“They’re all very sweet and very different but when I first heard Marley’s name I was just like ‘wow’. It was such a completely different name and made me think of Bob Marley. I wasn’t disappointed but try explaining that to my own mum, who’s now 89. She was like ‘ooh, what’s that?’. I’m used to it now because she’s an incredible kid and it really does suit her. ”

According to the survey, one in 10 grandparents were annoyed that the parents had not followed family custom. This can be complicated among Ashkenazi Jews, where tradition dictates babies be named after dead relatives.

Marilyn Wigodsky, 64, has eight grandchildren. She said: “My daughter asked me if she had to name after my late father. I told her: ‘No, just choose a name you love and Poppa would be proud.”

When Victoria Cookson announced her baby’s name, her mother-in-law was delighted as his middle name was that of her late husband. But others were less impressed with his first name: Jesse.

Mrs Cookson, 36, said: “When I told my granny Jesse’s name she said: ‘We we used to call someone a Jesse as an insult’.”

Gloria McEvoy recalls a similar experience after her son, now 50, was born.

She said: “When I told my booba we were going to name our son Adam, she said: ‘Do you have to? I don’t like these modern American names!’”

In an attempt to avoid using the hated name, nine per cent of grandparents use no name at all when they refer to their grandchild, the survey showed.

Lisa Davidson Oren, originally from Glasgow, has first-hand experience. Mrs Oren’s husband Yaniv is Israeli and they live with their three children — Ariel, 12, Mika, 10 and Itai, eight — in Jerusalem.

She told the JC: “My grandma thought my youngest’s name was ridiculous and refused to address him with it. He was only a baby when she died in 2010 so she got away with using no name at all.

Four per cent of grandparents felt the names their children had chosen were too difficult to pronounce. That figure could be considerably higher in the Jewish community, where many look to Israel for inspiration.

Originally from London, Dr Joel Blaiberg lives in New Jersey with his British wife Deborah and their four children, Talia, 13, Eitan, 11 and twins Ilan and Yael.

Dr Blaiberg, 45, said: “My mum was really concerned when I told them that I wasn’t interested in giving my kids separate English and Jewish names like me and my siblings have.

He and his wife opted for two Hebrew names for each child — Talia Rivka, Eitan Seth, Ilan Zvi and Yael Leah.

Dr Blaiberg said: “My mother was convinced I had become mega-frum (I certainly had not!), but it was more the fact that she was concerned whether she could pronounce them.

“I never liked the fact that my English and Hebrew names had nothing in common. Plus the fact that I have a very Jewish-sounding surname made any attempts to Anglicise a first name seem silly.

Dr Blaiberg said he “didn’t take it as criticism” and added: “It’s not an issue now, though we sometimes have a good laugh about it.”

Marlene Sugarman, from Chigwell, Essex, has five grandchildren aged between 19 months and 23.

“They are my life,” shesaid. “The name doesn’t matter at all. It becomes wonderful once given to a grandchild, whatever it is.

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