Relationship Connection: Should we have a say in naming our grandson?

Photo by monkeybusinessimages iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

Question

My son and his wife will deliver our first grandson in December. My son is the only son of an only son of an only son, (name plus III, the third).

Since our son was born we have always said to him that if and when he has a son we hope the baby would be the fourth, and he agreed. When we first learned of the pregnancy, our son and his wife told us that if a baby is a boy his name would honor the previous generations and he would be called the fourth.

Now his wife has decided she doesn’t like the name and she has chosen another name. Our son says he is upset but is not willing to make it an issue. My husband was stunned and is extremely upset, feeling that he, his father and grandfather should be respected and honored by naming the baby after them.

My son and I are caught in the middle. Do you have any advice to help us resolve this?

My fear concerns the fissure this will cause between my husband and daughter-in-law. I just want a healthy grandson, but I do think our daughter-in-law is being selfish.

Answer

The short answer is that you don’t get to choose your grandson’s name. That is the privilege of his parents.

Even though your son and daughter-in-law are split about what to name him, they ultimately get to work out those details. This isn’t a committee decision where the three of you can overrule your daughter-in-law.

I don’t want to be insensitive to the importance of your husband’s family name. It’s a special connection these men share. Names have meaning and can link generations in a unique way. Your family name is special to your son, husband and his father, however, it’s not the only way your grandson can connect to previous generations.

Even though your grandson won’t have the same name as his father, you don’t have to scrap the longing to connect your grandson to these men and the larger family.

Yes, this is a surprise to all of you and it will be an adjustment to accept her preference. Please don’t alienate her with your hurt feelings. She’s not doing anything wrong by wanting a different name for their son. It’s important to stay close to her and your son so you can build a strong relationship with this grandson.

You have so many ways to carry on the legacy of these important family ties. It’s no secret that this adjustment will be hard for you, so no need to pretend that this hasn’t been difficult. However, let your son and daughter-in-law know how much you want to connect your grandson to his larger family. These conversations have the potential to produce great ideas. For example, you might write up simple stories complete with pictures that they can share with their son when he’s older. Keep talking and exploring how you can keep this little guy close to these important relationships.

As you talk to your daughter-in-law, you may learn what’s important to her in naming her son. She obviously has strong feelings about what she should name her son. Encourage your son to work closely with her so they both feel good about their son’s name instead of triangulating him into your grief about the broken name-chain. Your willingness to understand her perspective will make it more likely your daughter-in-law will want to bless her son with more influence from your family.

He may not have his father’s exact name, but your grandson will have his father, your husband and other family members who will remind him who he is and why he matters to this family. Please don’t get hung up on this tradition and let it create a fracture in your family.

You’ve got a beautiful future in front of you as you pass along all this family has to offer to your new grandson.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • ladybugavenger September 20, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I agree, it’s a short answer. No, you don’t have a say.

    With all the troubles in the world, you get upset over a name? No need to get upset over this. The mother has a right to name her child too and you took it away by prenaming a baby. Let the parents name their child. If your son is upset, let him and is wife work it out. It’s really none of your business grandparents. Do not be interfering and intruding it will lead you on a road that you don’t want to be on- for example, them not wanting you around.

  • mctrialsguy September 20, 2017 at 9:36 am

    You do not have the right to interfere with the naming of the child, they need to work it out as they please. If family is so important, stay out of it, and show them the respect that they deserve, and do not mettle in their affairs.

  • desertgirl September 20, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Stay out of it and respect your daughter-in-law’s choice; her child not yours. btw The fourth? Really? Move on.

  • Icomments2 September 20, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    No you don’t have the right what so ever to name their child or have a part in it!!! You had your turn in naming your child, now its his and his wife’s turn… And besides a lot of people
    now a days don’t name their first son after the father, they name the second son after him… Ever think of that???

  • comments September 21, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Maybe the name they want is Bert. Young Bertrand the IV

    • comments September 21, 2017 at 6:48 am

      If all else fails name the kid Bob. Not Robert. Just go ahead and put Bob right on the birth certificate. Young Bob IV

  • Wolverine September 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I can certainly understand the legacy, however, No, you don’t get to choose or override the parents. I can see how honoring a name used for several generations would be a good and special thing. However, after working with Data and Demographics in Education for many years, and having 3 generations of the name John in my family, I can tell you it’s a Pain in the Azz to have mutli generations with the same name. Mail, banking, medical and other records can get very confusing, not to you per se, but to the people that work in those institutions and not paying attention. These kinds of errors can cause a huge issue in applying the correct information to the correct person. It may not seem like it should, but it does, a lot of people don’t really pay that close of attention.

    Give the situation a rest, and accept the name they choose. It’s your grandson, who really cares what his name is, he will have no idea the turbulence surrounding the choosing of his name, but he will have to live with it.

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