Little Dolls

By Beck

When I was young, I had very decided tastes in names:

I liked them antique.

I liked them flowery.

I liked them long and rippling with syllables.

Arabella! Cordelia! Sebastian!

And then I got married and pregnant and found out that my husband expected to have some say in what our children would be named. Oh, and that we had VERY different tastes in names and that we would somehow need to figure out a name that we both could at least stand. So we managed, obviously, but things had become pretty tense by the time we had The Baby and she was actually unnamed for a little while, which is apparently pretty uncommon these days.

I had always expected to have a husband who wanted to be an involved father. (my own father was a stay-at-home parent for much of my childhood, in fact.) What surprised me in having a husband who also wanted to be an involved father is that his involvement would be full and not directed by me and my whims. I had thought – and this is something I’m only able to articulate now – that I would be the boss of the kids, that my husband would help out according to what I wanted and asked as I did the primary job of child-raising. I had thought that I would pick out their names and he would agree with them. I would decide what would happen with the kid and he would go along with it. You know, THAT kind of involved fatherhood.

“I went shopping for Christmas presents today,” he told me casually in mid-December of 1999. “I bought some cute things for the baby.” I stared at him, feeling at once usurped – wasn’t buying Christmas presents solely the mother’s job? – and utterly charmed that my baby had a father who was involved enough to walk into a toy store on his own. His gifts weren’t things that I would have bought but they were still just right, and over time I realized that the same could be said for all of our parenting – what he brings to our children is different than what I bring, and a blessing for them.

I found a list of potential baby names that I’d written maybe 20 years ago, tucked away in a long-forgotten book. Teenaged me had confidently presumed that I’d get married and have a whole whack of kids with dollhouse doll names and their father would tootle off to work in his dollhouse car and come home and sit stiffly at the table, while I bustled around and made all the decisions for everyone. Real married life has been more about compromise than I ever would have imagined when I wrote my silly, ornate teenaged lists, names for little china dolls to be tucked away and outgrown.

Beck blogs at Frog And Toad Are Still Friends.

26 Responses to Little Dolls
  1. Tracy
    May 14, 2009 | 10:17 am

    Oh, the names that are written down from when I was younger…ewww….
    Surprisingly, I still love all four of my children’s names.
    Parenting is so much a compromise, and as you described, my husband is a blessing to our brood, too. Good things he’s NOT just like me!

  2. Julia
    May 14, 2009 | 10:21 am

    Oh, you make me laugh about the names… I had similar taste in names when I was in my tweens and teens, but somehow they didn’t seem right when I arrived in adulthood.

  3. Alison
    May 14, 2009 | 10:30 am

    Thank goodness for involved fathers, even if their involvement doesn’t look like what we expected! I certainly wouldn’t want to make all the parenting decisions, even if it meant I got my own way all the time.

    In fact, I WISH my husband would buy some of the Christmas presents. He does other stuff, though.

  4. Mad
    May 14, 2009 | 10:33 am

    My husband didn’t necessarily want children. I am floored daily by how fantastic he is as a parent.

  5. edj
    May 14, 2009 | 10:43 am

    I could have written this post! Except that my teenage taste in names was much worse than yours.

    Donn and I had to stop at 3 kids, because we ran out of names. In fact, our second son was unnamed for 2 days. I said, “I will not leave this hospital without naming this child,” so we eventually compromised. He has always had many more opinions than I expect him to, but it’s good for me, and for him.

  6. Janet
    May 14, 2009 | 11:08 am

    My teenaged self always assumed I would balance a full-time job with motherhood, my children in daycare, my husband doing precisely 50% of the household chores.

    I’m surprised at how easy it was to walk away from my paid-position-with-corner-office-and-title and how contented I have been at home all these years.

  7. Minnesotamom
    May 14, 2009 | 11:17 am

    My husband is far more involved (and opinionated) than I thought he would be, too. And it’s such a blessing.

  8. mom.huebert
    May 14, 2009 | 12:00 pm

    Funny, our fourth child went unnamed for several days. Our well of names-agreeable-to-both-of-us had run pretty dry!

    I have always looked at our marriage as one of those diagrams from math class– you know, those overlapping circles? Our lifestyle together is a little different than our lifestyles separately might have been. But far richer and better for the overlap.

  9. Louise
    May 14, 2009 | 12:17 pm

    It was always special as a kid, getting presents from Mom-and-Dad, but somehow, presents that dad picked out on his own were so much better. My favorite pair of earrings, even though they aren’t at all my style anymore, are the little gold hoops with pearls Dad got me for my fifteenth birthday, the ones he picked out all by himself and Mom didn’t even know he had bought.

    Thanks to Dad, I grew up expecting a fully involved father, and my husband has had to adapt slightly to my expectations. I must say, he’s glad he is more involved than he ever expected when HE was a teenager. And I am too!

    When I was twelve, I was going to name my first daughter Kasmira. I think my girl will be glad my tastes changed when she’s old enough to be aware of such things!

  10. gretchen from lifenut
    May 14, 2009 | 1:15 pm

    I never factored in the father’s naming tastes, either. I had a list of 26 girl and 26 boy names, alphabetized. I can’t imagine my husband agreeing to Xanthe.

    My husband buys his own Christmas presents for the kids. I was surprised by it, too, because my father is more the “I’ll sign the card” type. My husband bought two t-shirts for Beatrix a few weeks ago. He liked them, he likes her, why not?

    Great post.

  11. SBeacon
    May 14, 2009 | 1:41 pm

    If I’d had children at age 13 their names would be Tiffani, Charisma, and Charade. That — and a bajillion other reasons — is why I’m glad I waited until adulthood to procreate.

    I have/had a friend who ruled her house with an iron fist. Her husband was relegated to the role of passive outsider. All his interactions with his children had to be approved by his wife, who would then criticize him for every thing he did “wrong.” He fed the 3 year old a hot dog that wasn’t sliced in half! Her hair bows didn’t match her shirt! He used FOUR wet wipes to clean up after a dirty diaper! He (a mechanical engineer) couldn’t get the diaper on correctly — the tabs are not aligned!

    Yeesh — why not just chop off his testicles with a rusty meat cleaver and be done with it?

  12. Zina
    May 14, 2009 | 2:00 pm

    I like old-fashioned names and my husband likes uncommon names, so my kids have old-fashioned uncommon names. (Not flowery names like Arabella — although I do love that one — but names that were very common a century or two ago and not so much now.) Sometimes I’ll say “If it weren’t for Dean, I never would have used that name,” but then I’ll also remind myself, “and if it weren’t for him, I never would have had that child.” I’m glad that even our kids’ names reflect our efforts to collaborate.

  13. patois
    May 14, 2009 | 2:21 pm

    You’re blessed with “just right.”

  14. Heather of the EO
    May 14, 2009 | 3:08 pm

    I struggle with this a lot. I feel like I’m always directing. Always explaining my “rules” for parenting to make sure my husband is doing it “right.” I’ve learned to let go of it a lot, but I can admit I still have an semi-unconscious idea that I’m in charge of all things kids. It shouldn’t be that way though, so I’m thankful for this reminder today. I have enough pressure as a mother as it is…why add even more by trying to do it all alone, right? Sigh.

  15. Lisa b
    May 14, 2009 | 4:33 pm

    I love all those names but I couldn’t name a baby arabella.
    well maybe if she was Bella.

  16. Nicole
    May 14, 2009 | 5:03 pm

    I love this post! We struggled coming up with names for our two boys. What would happen is I would have an idea and my husband would nix it as he knew a guy with that name, and that guy was a jerk, etc. He didn’t have any ideas for names, mind you, but he had ideas about what he didn’t want! In the end we chose names that I picked and he didn’t nix. Funnily enough, we had agreed on a girl’s name early on – Elena – but we didn’t have a girl!

  17. Erin --It's Your Movie-- (
    May 14, 2009 | 5:04 pm

    My husband and I just had this conversation last night, I kid you not. We were discussing what our kids names would have been if we hadn’t compromised with one another. I actually really love the name Cordelia and would use it TO THIS DAY if my husband would let me. It reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, and has such a lot of pretty nicknames.

  18. Painted Maypole
    May 14, 2009 | 5:23 pm

    i have found that it’s best when I get out of the way… then daddy and daughter find their own rhythm and way of doing things. So my getting out and doing shows has been a really good thing for them… and for me, too.

  19. Happy Geek
    May 14, 2009 | 6:12 pm

    A very wise friend told me before I had children to shut up and let daddy do it his way when he was doing stuff with the kids. I’m so glad I actually listened.
    I had someone tell me one time, “I can’t believe you let him do that”
    “Let him”? He’s a fully grown man who loves his kids as much as I do. He doesn’t need my permission to do anything with them. Plus, they’d be named Jacori and Shadrach if he wasn’t around. Thank heavens for good dads.

  20. Omaha Mama
    May 14, 2009 | 6:57 pm

    I’ve found myself oddly annoyed at my husband for having ideas and an opinion more than once. I’m spoiled and really think I should always have my way. I don’t get my way every time, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking that way sometimes.
    I should work on that.

  21. Carrie
    May 14, 2009 | 9:38 pm

    This is so true- and you know what? I have learned SO much about parenting from my husband! From watching how he interacts with our son, firmly, not emotionally like I do sometimes, how he disciplines, how not every inch of the little one’s schedule has to be on time to the minute and he will survive, even how he plays & cuddles with him – I learn new things from him all the time. 🙂 It is neat to see the things that we both bring to the table. 🙂

  22. Jennifer
    May 15, 2009 | 12:05 am

    This made me chuckle. It also made me SO HAPPY to have found a good Daddy for my kids, as well. The benefits of shared parenting – with differences – include balance and perspective. Both of which I desperately need on a daily basis. And so do the kids. 🙂

  23. christine
    May 17, 2009 | 7:06 pm

    i know what you mean, especially when you spoke of christmas shopping. i at once wanted to do all these things myself (not just shopping, but that is an excellent example) but also have everything 100% equal. i found out that marriage is so much more complicated than that.

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