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Would It Smell as Sweet?

I was approaching eight months pregnant and on the treadmill at my parents house. I had turned the TV in their living room enough so that I could see it in the next room, where I jogged/walked with my watermelon of a belly.

This was where it happened. This was where, after months of scouring through books and online resources, this, it was decided. There, as I huffed and puffed and watched a re-run of Will and Grace, destiny struck my heart and I pressed *STOP* on the tread long enough to call my husband at work with the news.

Lila.

It was our daughters name. Finally. (And also, the name of the baby that belonged to Grace – the fictitious character on Will and Grace – but let’s just let that go.)

It was new to me and it was music to my soul. My daughter would have a name.

Still, I went home and made sure to check it with the databases online. Lila. Tell me, oh, Interweb, how popular is that name? In 1998 it was at 929. In 2005, it was 449. Obscure enough for me, but without being weird.

Great.

Immediately after she was born, I remember telling others her name and having them seem surprised. What an old world name. How unique. Lovely. Not something you hear every day.

And then, she turned one and two, and I began to notice, other Lilas (and Lilahs and Lylas) and with it came the shock and awe that my daughter – my obscure without being weird daughter – was now bearing a name on the upswing.

Same case with our son, Asher. It wasn’t a name that I had ever heard of, it wasn’t even one that I liked much at first. I loved the meaning of the word. Asher: Happy and Blessed. Wonderful.

But it was my husband who convinced me that it was THE name, as he rubbed my stomach and whispered to him inutero. Asher, Daddy loves you. 

If nothing else, I thought, he’ll be unique.

Two weeks old, and we met another Asher at our local playground.

Evaline, she’s our most unique name, and the one with the least “umph” to me. We chose her name based on the nickname “Evie” which we both liked. We chose Evaline (pronounced Ev-ah-LINE) after finding it in a book from a Saver’s Discount bin on a road trip to Pennsylvania.

Seriously. We pulled off from the highway in search of a bathroom and a break from the car and stumbled across a Baby Names book. I think it means hazelnut and/or life. Or something.

Still. Only 20 other babies in the US, since she has been born, share her name.

So. What, exactly? Woo-hoo?

Maybe it’s because I’m not having babies anymore, but I’m feeling oddly silly now for ever having been overly concerned about where on the chart of popularity my kid’s names sat.

I read a thread tonight that was started by a fun, lighthearted post with a link to a story about the top names of 2013. Is your little one on the list?

Of course, Lila, Alex and Asher are all on the top 100 list. Were they five years ago? Nope (well, Alex was, but he’s a pass. Classic names are, well, classic.)

Will they be in five years? Maybe. Depends on how long lasting the Emilys and Jacobs, Lilys, Arias and Jacksons are around.

What has struck me lately is how this has become just another area of Mommy competition. No one openly admits to it, but most of us do it. We want our kids to be unique. We take pride in branding our child something that is SO clever and SO beautiful and SO meaningful that EVERYONE will have a moment of pause and think, well, googly-moogly, what I was I doing, wasting my time on names I liked, like, Isabella or Michael.

WHAT was I thinking?

And then, when we bring our super-named-baby to a public place and we meet *another* baby with the same name (*horror*) and we just have to know – who did it first. Is the other child older or younger? Which parent can claim trendsetter status, and who is just, well, trendy?

Okay. Maybe that’s extreme, but I’m talking to myself here too. And, aren’t we all just a little silly when it comes to names?

Thing is, I don’t really love my own name. Actually, I don’t really care one way or another about my name. It means dark. It is neither strange nor mainstream. I have survived a litany of nicknames, some of which, sure, I wish my parents had considered prior to naming me – such as, Smelly, Smelly-Melly, Mel (which always reminds me of Mel’s Diner a la the 70’s sitcom Alice.)

But, it’s just a name. I haven’t ever thought, man, I am unique *because* of my name. It’s just what I answer to, it’s not my DNA or my definition and it’s not going to be my legacy.

So, why do we as parents feel the need to scour lists to make sure we set our children apart from the masses, as though what we call them has anything to do with that?

I’ve known some pretty outstanding Jennifers and some pretty forgettable –insert “unique” name here-s.

What we can do, as parents, is raise unique children by teaching them to do good and to be good in a world that expects the least of them. We can raise them to love without fear and to fight for what they want to accomplish – to fight their own complacency, to fight the odds.

We can raise children to laugh at themselves when they fall and to smile against the rain when their souls are downcast.

We can raise children to extend grace, to opponents and to themselves.

And above all, we can teach them that their purpose in life has little to do with THEMSELVES at all.

So. Sure. Lila has risen from just on the fringes of 500 to in the realm of the 150-100’s (depending on which list you consult), in terms of popularity. And yes. I noticed.

And, if you had asked me how I felt about this rise in her name’s popularity, when she was, say, two, I would have had a heavy sigh and a hard head shake of lament, citing how I did my best to make her unique.

But now, I realize, that’s not my job at all.

And, truth be told. If she meets another Lila in her life at some point, that’s great.

She still makes my soul happy, and I still know that it was meant to be her name.

It just.

Was.

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