The Malta Independent 17 September 2019, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Newborns - A name is for life

Thursday, 15 August 2019, 10:18 Last update: about 2 months ago

One of the first and most important duties of new parents is giving their child a name.

Many go for the most traditional, at times choosing the name of a relative who passed away, or going for one that they would have liked to have. Some prepare the name before the child is born, especially if they already know the child’s gender; others draw up a list of possibilities during the pregnancy and then decide once they hold the newborn in their arms. There are many parents who wait to see the child’s face before deciding which name suits him or her most.

Over the years, there has been a steady shift towards choosing names which are rather unusual, perhaps even unique. A look at the numbers provided by the National Statistics Office shows that traditional names are still, by far, the most commonly used in Malta. But it must also be acknowledged that names of footballers, pop stars and artists have become more popular, while some parents try to be more creative and come up with what for others is a strange combination, be it a mixture of two or more names or an outright invention. Some go to great lengths to be innovative, but this does not mean that they make the right choice.

We will not give examples here. It is a decision we are making so as not to single out some names over others – the idea behind this editorial is not to throw more light on these out-of-synch names but to encourage parents to think deeply before making their choice. They must remember that a name is for life, and that their son and daughter will be the one who has to face the world with it. So they need to be careful, and must first of all keep in mind that what might seem cute for a newly-born son or daughter will not remain so when the child goes to school and later grows up to become an adult.

There was a time when limits were imposed on names, with the Church exercising an even stricter regime than the State when it came to accepting to baptise children under a given name. There were occasions when priests refused to baptise a child with the name chosen by the parents. Over the years, both the State and the Church have become more lenient, and this is why some parents have been allowed to make extreme choices which, in our view, could have repercussions.

We are talking here about the possibility of the child being bullied because of his or her strange name. There are known cases of young children being ridiculed, teased and mocked, and this is simply not right. Bullying should always be condemned, for whatever reason, and providing the platform for such bullying to take place via a chosen name could be something that the parents could live to regret.

But it is not only childhood bullying that should be kept in mind before a name is given. That child will grow to become an adult, and putting him or her in an uncomfortable position because of the name he or she carries is a matter that needs to be given consideration.

Each and every person is unique by nature, and there is no need for parents to seek to make their newborn unique via the name given.

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