Would you let someone pay to name your child? As ridiculous (and tacky) as it sounds, bribing parents in a bid to have baby naming rights is an actual thing.
Frank Hudock came close to accepting such an offer when his grandparents insisted he bestow his firstborn son with the same title that had been handed down for generations: yup, you guessed it – Frank.
His wife Jennifer’s immediate response was “That’s never going to happen.”
But then granny and gramps sweetened the deal – a whopping $10,000 in exchange for choosing the family’s traditional moniker.
Ms. Hudock’s company didn’t have a maternity leave policy, and she wasn’t going to get paid for several months. She agreed to think it over.
“For thousands of years, choosing a family name was really how it was done,” says Linda Murray, the editor in chief of the website BabyCenter, which maintains a database of 40,000 possible names. “Now parents are really trying to choose a name that is unique, that suits their child and that says something about their personality.”
Expectant mums and dads are going so far as to pay consultants to choose a name that will do big things for their progeny. It’s serious business these days. With plenty interested investors, apparently.
The Hudocks’ case, like many others, describes how society’s construction of existential meaning has shifted from using community and family as primary sources to the singular individual.
Family names also ensure an immortality, of sorts, for those who have gone before. It’s about communicating a reverence for lineage, too; the importance of ancestral history.
Or, at least, it should be.
But when consolation sums of cash are involved, it all suddenly becomes irreverent. And it smacks of utter disregard for the person who’ll be saddled with a begged, bought and borrowed name.
Maryanna Korwitts, a naming consultant also based near Chicago, said one client’s grandfather offered a family business if a baby could be named after him. Another’s in-laws suggested a dream wedding the mother never had and could not afford on her own — the price being the right to name the first child.
The Hudocks, though, stuck with their original choice – Max. They chose to honour another grandparent: Jennifer Hudock’s father, also named Max, who died when she was 7.
“It was a decision we made together as husband and wife,” she said.
Naming ceremonies may have been a collaborative affair way back when, but things are different now. Mothers and fathers have increasingly less involvement in their offspring’s lives; we exist in an individualist age, and kids are just growing up faster.
Choosing a name is one of the rare, precious privileges of a modern parent. And one of the few big decisions you’ll be able to make for your child before they become old enough to assume they know better.
You can’t put a price on that.