Our Children's Names

I know this pic is probably from Game of Thrones, but I'mma pretend it's Boromir from LOTR.

Jen has asked the impossible highly challenging of herself and any others who wish to take up the challenge: 7 posts in 7 days, starting today.

I think I'll start today by writing about how we chose our children's names. It was an idea provided by Team Whitaker and I am just such a sucker for talking about and dreaming up baby names, and I always have been.

When I was about seven or eight, I received two dolls for Christmas, a boy and a girl. My parents asked what I would name them, and I puzzled over it for most of the day. Finally, I decided that I would give the dolls new names everyday, because I just couldn't settle on only two that I liked!

For me, the best part of playing dolls, Barbies, house, even Legos was coming up with the names of the characters involved.  As a child I told and then wrote many, many, MANY stories.  From my earliest times (like age two, I think) I would tell stories.  Before I could write for myself, I dictated them to my mom for her to write.  When I could write, I spent many hours on paper and then on the computer working on stories.  Some stories were nothing more than a list of names (first, middle, and last) of characters in the story.  

One time, when I was 19 or so, I was on a babysitting gig.  The kids were in bed and I was chillin' on the couch.  The parents had left to go to a family wedding, and it got me thinking about attending the weddings of my siblings someday.  I wrote down on a scrap of paper what I imagined my siblings' spouses would be named and what they'd name their kids, and when they would get married.  (Boy, have I been wrong on that one!)  I was also wrong about when I would get married (I was gunning for 22).

All of that to say that I love names and the act of naming is probably one of the most beautiful things about bringing a child into the world.  Names are significant; they are not to be wasted.  They have something to do with the act of creating; God spoke the world into being, and he invited Adam to be a co-creator in two ways:  in the ability to father children, and before that, by naming the animals and even naming his wife!  

Without further ado, here are the stories behind our children's names:

Ruby Rose 
May 24, 2010

Ruby's full name came to us long before she did.  We came up with the name Ruby on a road trip to St. Louis, back in June of 2009 when we were engaged.  To pass the time in the car, one of the things we did was to compare baby names we liked.  It seemed that we had little agreement, especially for girl names.  We started going through names by type: names based on calendar months, names based on flowers, names based on precious stones and gems. When we came to Ruby, we both remarked that we liked it.  

"So, what about a middle name that goes with Ruby?" one of us asked.  I don't think it took long for us to come up with Rose, which is Allen's mom's middle name.  We liked the alliteration of it, and I like to joke that with a name like Ruby Rose, we've set her up perfectly for  a career in country music or writing romance novels.

Of course, we didn't realize that only 11 months after our conversation about that name that we'd actually get to put it into use!

Max-Pascal James 
March 25, 2012

Max had not been a name on our radar initially.  Before we knew that Ruby was a girl, we were going to go with Benjamin Wade if the baby were a boy.  But when I found out that I was carrying a little brother for Ruby, I couldn't help but consider the name Max.  You know…

Although to be fair, I knew them from the books; I'd never seen the TV show before Max was born.
Allen was agreeable to the name, so Max it was.  But as you might know, Max is usually short for something: Maxwell, Maximilian, Maximus, Maxim, etc.  We weren't sold on any other those long form names, so we decided just to stick to Max as a first name. 

Well!  That was just not okay with some people who pointed out that a person might want a name that didn't sound like a nickname for their whole life.  The no-nickname lobby was strong, so we started to consider what Max could be short for.  We tried making up some names: Maxelo (Allen's suggestion based on basketball player Danilo Gallinari) or Maxlowe (an homage to my maiden name).  They didn't seem quite right, though.  

Finally, at the 11th hour, I suggested Max-Pascal for two reasons. First, because his birthday was supposed to fall within the Easter season, and Pascal means "associated with Passover" (and by Christian extension, with Easter).  Second, I wanted to give a nod to one of my favorite philosophers from my St. John's Days, Blaise Pascal.  As to why we did a hyphenated first name instead of having Pascal as his middle name, now we could officially say that Max is short for something: Max-Pascal.  And it left the middle name slot open for James, which is both his dad's middle name and my dad's first name.  

I will say that a hyphenated first name is a big pain in the bureaucratic butt, as I suspected it might be.  Lots of computer programs don't like hyphens for first names.  But it hasn't been a huge problem.  I did overestimate the number of people who would know how to pronounce Pascal (pass-CAL).  Many the pediatrician and nurse who has called out, "Max…Paskul?" (rhymes with rascal).  Oh well.  

Benjamin Augustine
October 4, 2013

As I said before, the name Benjamin was always in the running, so when we found out that we were having another boy, it seemed the natural choice.  Neither of us is related to a Benjamin but we like the name and its nicknames Ben and Benji.  

His middle name is for St. Augustine, another of my favorite philosophers/theologians.  It is also in honor of Allen's grandpa's middle name, which is August.  We thought about doing Benjamin August, but I lobbied hard for Augustine because it contained August in it and was a wonderful saint's name.  And Mommy always gets her way in the end when it comes to names…so far, at least!

Funnily enough, Ben has developed a nickname that neither Allen nor I came up with.  Ruby has called him "Benna" for most of his four months, and I say it a lot too.  Allen's not so wild about it but I think it is sweet.  

So, there you have it: Ruby Rose, Max-Pascal James, and Benjamin Augustine.  Our wonderful kids and their wonderful names!  And--not intentionally--they all happen to be named after literary rabbits: Max and Ruby Bunny from the Rosemary Wells books and Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter.  I guess if we have another son we'll just have to name him Peter?  


  1. Seeing the name Max reminds me of a dear family friend. I love your combinations and the stories behind them. Thanks for sharing! ~K


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