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Carolyn Hax: No wish to name baby for dead uncle

Hi, Carolyn: My husband and I are expecting our first child. We have been receiving a lot of family pressure to name him after my uncle “Ben.” Ben suffered from severe depression and bipolar disorder his entire life; two years ago he committed suicide.

There was quite the family drama 10 years ago, and our relationship with him was severed. I never knew the whole story (family refusal to explain) except that the incident was “unforgivable.”

Understandably, the entire situation is surrounded by “what-ifs.” There is a lot of shared guilt over my uncle’s death.

Everyone seems to think the solution is to name our future child after my uncle.

This puts me in a very awkward position. I have calmly expressed my discomfort to the family. I feel it’s unfair to place all of the burden on our shoulders.

My husband has said he will stand by me in whatever we decide; however, I can tell he is approaching the limits of his patience and is ready to tell my family, “If you bring it up one more time, the answer is no.” This is our child. It’s starting to feel like we have no say in the name. Am I being unreasonable? – Confused

Has even one of these people thought about how they’re going to explain to a young child the origin of his name?

You’re not being unreasonable, you’re being a parent. Welcome to the roughest part of the job, where you have to do what’s right for your child even knowing it will come at considerable cost to you.

You do it, though, because your family is placing “all of the burden” on his shoulders. They’re looking to dump all this historic freight on a baby just so they can keep dodging that painful trip to the mirror. Shame on them.

You needn’t say that, though. Just this: “I agree we all need to heal. It is not a baby’s job, though, to heal us – he comes into the world just as himself, with a clean slate. I don’t expect you all to agree but hope you’ll respect our decision.”


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