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Carolyn Hax: Making a mess of children’s names

Hey, Carolyn: I’m getting married soon, and my fiance and I want to have two kids in the next few years (best-laid plans, I know, but roll with me here). Neither of us is changing our name, but we don’t want to do the “kids get Dad’s last name” thing, I don’t want to make up a new last name, and he doesn’t want to hyphenate. So, what we settled on is, one kid will have my last name, one will have his, and they will each have the other parent’s last name as a middle name (so: Molly Jones Smith, John Smith Jones).

Does this sound horrifying to you? Because it sure did to my sister, who freaked out when I told her. She thinks the only moral choice (her words) is for a woman to take a man’s name, so we’re clearly not on the same page to begin with, but she thinks this is an act of cruelty to children. I don’t think it will be that big a deal, and might have some advantages, like that each kid will have her own identity in school without the expectations of being Someone’s Sibling. – Kids’ names

“Horrifying,” no, “cruelty,” no, “immoral,” no – but forced and cutesy, and damned inconvenient for people trying to figure out how you’re related to each other and how to address envelopes? Yeah.

It’s easy to say, well, we’re doing this on principle, and things like envelopes are trivial. However, in opting for negotiating-table surname contortionism, you both come across as more interested in holding your individual ground than you do in building something together.

So even if you have no sympathy for the people who get stuck saying to each other, “Hey, let’s see if the Smith Joneses/Jones Smiths want to come to the pool with us,” then at least have some sympathy for the idea of throwing your lot in with each other on the big things. The first step is embracing the idea, both of you, that it’s better not to get your way on every little thing.