What do you consider when naming your child?

Naming your children is an important endeavour. / Net photo

One of the most important decisions one can make, as a parent, is choosing their baby’s name. Although, it can be fun, the responsibility of naming another human being can make it a bit intimidating. After all, your child will carry that name throughout their life.

In today’s world, a name is more than what people call you — it has become more of a personal brand than a mere identity.

While all generations have certain baby names they embrace or a trend of inspiration, some names become so common there are often several children with the same name.

Parents sometimes name their children after virtues they hope they will possess: Charity, Peace, Joy, Patience, and for family’s sake, parents usually concentrate on surnames since they are the most important way of identifying people who are related.

In many Rwandan homes, for example, you’re likely to find a Teta, Umutoni, Umutesi, Umuhoza, Keza for girls’ names or Manzi, Shema or Ganza for boys’ names.

According to Robert Munyangeri, 52, in traditional Rwanda, parents waited till birth, as names often had stories attached to them.

“Picking out names was influenced by circumstances, positive or negative, the family found themselves in around the time a child was born. From the day or time a baby was born to the circumstances surrounding the birth, several factors influenced the names parents chose for their children. If the parents were wealthy with cows, they chose a name they could share with their children,” he says.

He adds that most of the names were standard, and it was a just a matter of time and circumstance before they chose which one to give their child.

Changing trends

Today, however, many parents are drifting away from common names and going for unique ones, but also familiar enough that it won’t raise eyebrows.

Doreen Mutesi, a mother of one, says having one of the popular names in school was a challenge for her and her namesakes. Therefore, when it came to naming her child, she had to be creative.

“We were four girls in school with the exact name and we didn’t even have middle names to at least pick from. When it was time to pick names, I carefully came up with unique ones. It’s a matter of adding or removing a letter or two from common names you like or you can combine parents’ names to make one as long as they can be easily pronounced or spelt,” she says.

For Geoffrey Gatsinzi, a father of two, the new trend of names today also determined by parents’ exposure to more options.

“Today there’s just so much more access to names. In the past few years, there’s been an explosion of baby name blogs and websites, suggesting names and meanings. Also, social media exposure to celebrity and iconic names has also had an impact, which is why we have many kids today called Sasha, Lincoln, Kimberley and Michelle, or parents who go for cities like Florence, Chelsea, Louisiana and Austin,” he says.

Young people, however, he adds, are also increasingly shifting from colonial names to give their children local names all through.

The golden rules of child naming

Each parent finds inspiration differently. Some may have a long list of names the moment they find out they’re expecting, while others wait until the baby is born to choose a name.

However, while it’s up to the parent to choose a name, the choice will be a defining piece of the child’s identity for a lifetime.

“Remember that your child’s name is for identity purposes and not to prove to the world how cool or exposed you are. Choosing a name that is ‘unpronounceable’ due to its unusual nature will make a child’s life difficult for years into the future,” Mutesi adds.

Also, having ridiculously many names is not only troublesome to the child, but is also a waste of time, according to Lilian Uwamwezi, a mother of two.

“Most registration forms and documents have restrictions on the number of characters in the name length. Giving a child too many middle names because you were spoilt for choice or wanted to involve friends and family in the naming process will not help the child at all,” she says.

For Gatsinzi, the basic part is to avoid negative connotations when determining the name of your child, as he believes that sometimes the meaning of the name can affect the child’s attitude towards life.

“If you had the child unplanned for or the child was born during terrible events in your life, just don’t hold it against the child. You don’t want your child to be bullied because of a name they had no say in,” he says.


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