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The Perfect Name

Compromise Is Key

While putting up with Leopold seemed a fair price to pay for getting Joe, that naming experience wasn't a very happy one. It was too distant. In the end, I'd rather have spent nine months (and more) wrestling about our baby's name than going into separate corners and making individual decisions.

So when I was pregnant with our third, I was determined that my husband and I find a name we both loved, and that we do it together. We spent a lot of time talking about it, and when we discovered that the new baby would be another boy, we arrived at Edward.

We sat down the kids, then 9 and 3, and told them they were going to have a new brother. His name, we said, would be Edward, and we'd call him Ned.

They stared at us, openmouthed. Ned? How could we even think of naming a poor baby Ned? Ned was a complete nerd's name!

Okay, we told them, in an effort to give them a say in their brother's name. What about Harry?

Harry? As in "hairy"? That was worse than Ned!

Now, instead of two people trying to come up with the perfect name, there were four of us, all with highly divergent and equally strong opinions. Joe alternated between strong, masculine names -- Ron, Buck—and those that were somewhat more creative: He spent some time trying to talk us into "Rainbow Boy." Rory liked the kind of dashing, romantic names that might have suited Prince Charming: Stone, Lance, or—why not?—Prince itself.

Dick and I kept suggesting the slightly musty traditional names we'd developed a taste for—George and Tom, even dredging up Henry from the archives—only to be greeted by the children's incredulous laughter. The result: another Satran baby lying in the hospital without a name.

I'm not sure where Owen came from. It was my grandfather's middle name, but Dick had rejected it early on because he had known a feckless Owen he didn't like. We hadn't even run it by the kids. But it found its way onto a shortlist that was getting desperately shorter by the moment. Nobody loved it, but nobody hated it either. And so baby Owen was named, more by default than by unanimous enthusiasm.

After three kids and seven books on the subject, you'd think I'd have this whole baby-naming business down. I still love names, and I sometimes wonder, if I had to do it all over again, whether I'd give my children different ones.

Rory loves hers, though now I might choose something more frankly feminine for a daughter: Eliza Margaret, say, which would have pleased my mother, or even Flora, which seems more charming than offbeat these days. Joe would still be Joe, and incredibly enough, he likes his middle name, Leopold, which seems more distinctive than bizarre to me now too. And Owen? Oddly enough, the name picked more through compromise than thoughtful consideration may be the one that's turned out to be my favorite of all.

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