I Seriously Regret My Child's Name —​ And This Is Why

parenting family

Four months in, the luster just... wore off.

I was an English major. Lord of the Flies was the first book I ever understood in any sort of literary sense. My favorite character was Simon, the embodiment of spirituality. He was gentle and kind. He helped the other children. They killed him with a rock to the head.

My husband and I always agreed that we liked the name Simon. But somehow, with boy #1 and boy #2, other names won out: kickass names, unique names, names you remembered. By the time boy #3 came around, we were scraping the barrel when it came to amazing saint names.

I liked Francisco, so we could call him Cisco; my husband said that was a rap star or a dog (in his defense, we did know a dog named Cisco). We were stuck.

What about "Simon"? Simon was OK. His middle name would be Peter, so we'd get the uber-Catholic double-name Simon Peter. But Leo was cool, too. We went back and forth for a while, and found ourselves debating it on the way back home from brunch.

"His name is Simon," our then-three-year-old announced, unasked. Well then. There's not much you can say to that.

My OB loved it. Simon Peter! We could call him Rocky, an esoteric Christian joke related to popes. She called him that my whole pregnancy. I said that if he was born on Halloween, I was going to call him Spooky (it didn't stick). So we were at a lack for a good nickname right off the birthing table. Simon it was.

I liked it at first. I really did. But then, it grew... off me, I suppose. I didn't like it quite so much anymore. One event really cemented the dislike for me. My husband's grandfather, when told his name, snapped, "Simon! That's a Jewish name!"

And it is a common Jewish name. And a common English name. We are neither English nor Jewish. Nor, especially, common. It was common. A friend introduced me to a woman who had a Simon the same age as my middle son. It confused my boys, who couldn't fathom that someone could have the same name as their little brother.

I learned of another Simon. My older sons have deeply Catholic, deeply unique names they'll likely never see another of. And then there was Simon.

Simon was suddenly everywhere. The actor Simon Pegg irrationally annoyed me. The character that I'd liked so much became grating. Some character on The X-Files was called Simon.

My son had a common name. I hadn't thought it that common before he was born but now it seemed to be everywhere.

It didn't help that when Simon was about four months old, I met some friends at a park. We got to talking about names.

"It doesn't match the others! We expected something more from you!" one friend told me. "Something, I don't know... weirder. More funky."

Now my son's name wasn't funky enough. They were right — when you think Simon, you don't exactly think funky. So I came up with a solution. First, I admitted to myself: I made a mistake. I didn't like my son's name. I tentatively brought it up with my husband.

"You know, you can change their name until a year with no penalty or cost," I said.

He was a) appalled that I didn't like Simon anymore, and b) totally against any name change because "He's Simon." That avenue exhausted, I decided on a nickname.

Simon was one of the happiest babies anyone had ever seen. He rarely cried, and as soon as he could smile, he smiled constantly. So I called him Sunny. A good, California hippie name. It matched his blond hair. It shared the same "S." So I ran with it.

I called my son nothing but Sunny. Soon his brothers picked it up, then my husband, on occasion. My friends adopted it right away, without any kind of discussion.

Sunny just seemed to fit his gap-toothed grin better, his wild curly hair. It wasn't staid and solemn. I love Jesus as much as the next girl, but naming your kid Simon Peter? It's practically saying he'll grow up to be drunk maniac escaping his destiny as a priest.

Then I was filling out "Sunny" on applications. Yes, he's two, but the homeschool association wanted to know his name. The pediatrician's office asked if there was a "preferred name" for a two-and-a-half-year-old. I wrote down "Sunny." It felt like a victory.

Now he's old enough to tell you what he prefers.

I ask him about once a week, "Which do you like better, Simon or Sunny?"

He smiles his wide, chiclet smile and lisps, "Sunny."

"You like 'Sunny' better?" I ask, just to make sure.

"Sunny," he says with finality.

And even though I know what's on his birth certificate, I know what his real name is. And I feel better.



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