I was 24 when my first child, Tristan, was born. At the time I felt pretty old and mature, but looking back at 35-years-old, it feels like I was a child about to have a child. My wife, Mel, was the same age. We’d been married for about a year, and once we discovered it was going to be a boy, we started throwing around names. I’ll be honest, I threw out some whoppers. I can’t remember all of them, but the two that stand out were Ebenezer and Flip. I cannot explain my reasoning for Ebenezer other than I thought it sounded fun, and I assumed that my son would stand out with a name like that.
Naturally, my wife looked at me like I was committing a crime by suggesting that name. The pregnancy was obviously showing by this point. She placed her hand on her stomach and said, “There’s no way we are naming this child after Christmas’s greatest villain.”
I pushed the subject a little more. She got her mother and my mother involved. Everyone thought I was bonkers. Everyone acted like I was an immature dick-face for suggesting this name for my child. And thinking back, I was being immature.
I just don’t think I understood the full ramifications of naming a child. I wanted my son to have a name that stood out, but I didn’t really ponder on how the name would stand out. Ebenezer was a notorious name, sure. But it wasn’t a strong name, rather a name associated with the greatest literary Christmas curmudgeon.
I later suggested Flip for his first name. I wasn’t met with nearly as much push back as Ebenezer, but it wasn’t a hit either. But at the same time, it almost felt like a compromise at this point. After much back and forth, Mel and I agreed to name our son Tristan Flip Edwards. The idea was, that he’d have a cool middle name, and if he wanted to, once he was older and has his own opinions, he could go by Flip.
Here’s the thing with naming a child: It really doesn’t matter what you name them, family and friends will have their opinions. They will tell you it’s too common, or its odd, or someone will change the pronunciation beyond recognition. They will say that someone they once knew had the same name, and he was a jerk, as if that means anything to you. They will make suggestions, and you won’t like them, but they will push the topic.
Why this happens, I don’t know. But what I can say is that if you give your child an uncommon, or even slightly wacky, name, you will get some odd looks for the rest of your parenting life. They will also look at your child with the same compassion one might give to a child who clearly doesn’t bathe regularly.
Tristan’s 11 now, almost 12. With every parent-teacher meeting, with every medical document, with ever school form, or official this or that, where we have had to list Tristan’s full name, everyone, every single person, has paused and said, “Your son’s middle name is Flip.” Then they give me a twisted lip look that makes me wonder if they are about to reach for the phone and call CPS.
And honestly, is Flip really that bad of a name? No. In fact, I have to assume that someone reading this is named Flip, or knows someone named Flip. I had a friend growing up whose dad was named Flip. He was a cool guy. I don’t know if he could actually do a flip, but that’s a different story. And sure, there are worse names. I was once at a park, and I met a kid named Pantera. Listen, I’m trying to not be judgmental about what we name our kids, but I’m going to be a hypocrite right here and say, “Pantera?” I mean, I enjoyed the “Cowboys From Hell” back in the ’90s, but those parents must have really liked it.
Anyway, back to Flip. The reality is it’s not a very common name, and people seem to obviously have an issue with it. Now that Tristan is old enough to have his own opinions, and trust me he has several, he doesn’t go by Flip. In fact, he doesn’t even go by Tristan. He goes by Little T. I didn’t see that coming.
Could this all change once he gets to high school? Could he suddenly decide to go by Flip? Maybe. Who knows? But Tristan doesn’t bring up his middle name at all. When people discover his name, he flinches a little. Kids will say the same thing adults say, “Your middle name is Flip?” Then he looks at the ground.
So right now, in this moment, I kind of, sort of, regret his middle name. Is it the end of the world? I doubt it. It’s not a huge regret, just a little one. Not enough to change his name, but enough to wonder what I was thinking in my 20s. I’m sure there are other parents out there with the same regret. Perhaps they named their child something that sounded good at the time, but now, it doesn’t. Perhaps you named them after someone you can’t stand anymore, or someone who went on to hurt you. Is it a big enough deal to change their name? Probably not. But it’s there, and it’s real, and every once in a while you get the opportunity to look back and wonder what you were thinking.