Over the past year, an unprecedented number of my friends and relatives have either become pregnant or given birth, inundating my Facebook timeline and my postal mailbox with birth announcements, sonogram images, and baby pictures. The parenting advice is likewise flying fast and furious.
Since I don’t have children of my own, I have little to say regarding sleep schedules or swaddling techniques, but there is one piece of advice I feel very qualified to give. It is as follows: Parents, please do not give your child the name equivalent of the April birthstone.
As an April baby myself, I’ve lived my entire life with the disappointment of having the diamond as my birthstone. In theory, it’s an enviable gem to have associated with your birth month. Diamonds are beautiful, valuable and, as the traditional choice for engagement rings, a symbol of eternal love.
In reality, however, it doesn’t play out so well. When I was in elementary school, birthstone jewelry was popular amongst my circle of friends. The gems were artificial, of course, but they were sparkly and colorful, which are the most important things to little girls.
My friend with a May birthday had a ring with a green sparkle representing her emerald birthstone. My friend who had a February birthday had a necklace with a purple sparkle to reflect her amethyst birthstone.
I, on the other hand, didn’t bother buying any birthstone jewelry because it wasn’t worth it. All April got was a clear piece of glass. It didn’t even sparkle. I considered buying the January birthstone jewelry because the fake garnet was such a beautiful shade of deep red, but I felt it would be dishonest.
Now that I’m an adult who can ostensibly afford the real version of my birthstone, I face different conundrums. Cubic zirconia has become such a common and convincing substitute for diamond that most people can’t tell if the diamond you’re wearing is real or not – and they’ll generally assume it’s not. Why pay for a real diamond when no one will recognize it as such?
Also, there is no way I can wear a birthstone ring – real or otherwise – without people congratulating me and asking me when the wedding is. Really, given all the challenges diamonds pose, April might as well not have a birthstone at all.
Parents don’t have much control over their child’s birthstone, but they do have control over something far more important: their child’s name. Names are an essential part of daily life and therefore much harder to overlook than birthstones. Potential parents, I encourage you to consider every aspect of your child’s name before you finalize it lest it become a source of disappointment to them instead of the joyful indicator of identity it should be.
Here are a few ways to avoid making a name the equivalent of an April birthstone:
- Make sure the first name matches well with the last name. Justin, for example, is a great name for a boy, but you may want to rethink it if his last name is Case.
- Abstain from unusual spellings of traditional names. You may think “Mayri” is a lovely alternative to Mary, and your daughter may one day agree. In the meantime, however, you’ll be consoling her because her friends all bought those personalized keychains at the dollar store for their backpacks and she can never find anything with her name on it. This is to say nothing of the challenges she’ll have in explaining the correct spelling and pronunciation of her name to teachers, doctors, and the world at large.
- Think about how the name might be received in a professional environment. Honey might be a sweet name for a little girl, but it may create some awkward situations for your daughter when she enters the business world. If you absolutely want to give your child a cute first name, consider giving them a more traditional middle name that they can use professionally if they desire.
- Consider associations with popular characters or public figures. Any boy named Troy is liable to be serenaded with songs from the “High School Musical” movies at some point, and every Kevin will be asked to make the “Home Alone” face at least once in his life.
These guidelines aren’t intended to discourage parents from giving their child a name that has a complicated spelling or comes with associated cultural baggage. They’re simply an encouragement to think about potential names from a variety of angles and the impact your child’s name might have on their life and their relationships with others.
The most important characteristic of a name is that it should be meaningful, perhaps because it’s a family name that’s been passed down through the generations or it’s a name that represents your child’s ethnic heritage or perhaps because of what the name means in and of itself. The significance of the name to your child should outweigh any complications he or she has to deal with as a result of having it.
I wouldn’t trade the name Teresa for anything, in spite of constantly having to tell people (even my relatives) that there’s no H in my name and having been referred to as “Mother Teresa” by some of my Sunday School classmates. To me, my name is worth these minor frustrations.
My birthstone, on the other hand, is not. If anyone with a January birthday would like to see about swapping birthstones, let me know. I still think garnets are quite lovely.
– Teresa Santoski
Originally published April 2, 2015.