Jul 29, 2009

Week 11: Baby Names

So, I have been meaning to write about this at some point, but got my first question here (thanks Bounty!) about if we have started to look at names for the baby. Of course, we have plenty of time; we don't know the sex of the baby yet; but I also know that this is something that takes people FOREVER to decide. And with good reason! Your baby is stuck with that name for the REST OF THEIR LIFE!

The short answer is: yes, we know what our baby's names will be. For anonymity purposes - I will say B or G in this blog for the names (b for boy; g for girl). Sorry!

So- What is the long story that I wanted to share about our kid's name?................. I am a naturally born (as opposed to naturalized - I'm not making a statement, just clarifying my culture growing up) white American, brought up in Northern California (Contra Costa County). My husband is Jordanian and grew up in the Middle East (mostly the Gulf). I bring this background info up because of how the baby's names are chosen within that culture vs with most people in the US.

In the Arab world - and this can be Christian, Muslims or Jews who are Arabs (although please allow for family preferences as I'm sure you can find people who DON'T do this) - people are MAJORLY into their family. If you think that the US is in any way family orientated - it is nowhere NEAR family-orientated compared to cultures in the Middle East and Asia (and bits of North Africa). In many of these places, there is a very BIG emphasis on the goodness of marrying and having kids and treating your parents well, etc.

How does this relate to a baby's name? Well, it is pretty common (although not for everyone) for men and women to know what their child's name will be by the time they are around 13 years old. At this time, the children are hitting puberty and one way to honor their transition into adulthood is to address them, as an adult, by their future children's name. (yes, the male names usually come first) You may have seen in the news or history books when someone is called Abu (name) or Om (name). This literally means Father of (name) or Mother of (name). (it also goes the other way with Ibn - son of (name)) You are proud of your children (of course!) and likewise - once the child is born, it adds to the idea that you don't want to do anything bad so that your parents are associated with something bad you do (obviously this can be more complicated, but I'm giving general gist's here).

So, my husband knew what he wanted to name his kids by the time he was 13. He would be CALLED by this name within his family. It's a pretty big deal.

Now, this isn't to say that I have no say in the matter. And I'm sure this comes up a bit more within Arab-to-Arab marriages... And, this does seem to only be something that comes from people who grew up in that area - I know Arab-Americans who have never put this thought into the naming of there kids (lol - which has created some drama as they name their kids and it's not following the 'traditional' practices... Well, more confusion on the part of the family still in the ME rather than drama. "The middle name is what? That doesn't make any sense! How will they know who the father is?")
Anyways, I know that if I don't like the names or something like that, I can discuss that and we would find a new name. But, this was also something that we talked about before we even got married (naming the kids with an Arabic name that is; more than anything else - although I think I knew the names because F would be called by it).

So, I like the names and kinda' think the entire process it interesting - also, I didn't have any names in mind anyways. :) Our biggest issue now is trying to figure out how to SPELL the names in English so that it is pronounced correctly. We are not going to switch the names because of this -- at some point I would like to move to the Middle East (probably the UAE due to jobs) and these names are super good ones for that area. The biggest problem in the US is the pronunciation - Americans usually pronounce one part of it with a hard 'a' where it should be more like an 'an' like in 'ton.' lol - we keep coming back to this and how to spell it to help it be pronounced correctly in the US! But, I technically still pronounce my husband's name wrong (I actually have to think in a British accent to pronounce Arabic correctly - it's because of the vowels) so I'm not too worried about this :) Poor kid!

So, I wanted to share this in my blog because it's a part of me and because I know that to many people it sounds like I'm losing out on the 'naming process.' I already got at least one comment on that. I like to share the background to the naming process instead of just saying, " yes, it's ___________" because I think it's a very unique cultural thing that is not bad... It's different from how we name in the US, but it's not bad.

In our family, the mix of American and Arabic cultures is a major part of who we are and I want to share that with people because I love to answer any questions people have - based on MY personal observations, of course - and I think that this type of dialogue is very important. I encourage my family to ask questions and likewise, please let me know if you have any questions. Btw, we have been married for about 5 years, so I should be able to answer most questions - heck, I've probably asked them, plus more!

Oh - yes, we also plan to raise our kids to be bi-lingual (I also want to throw in French, but I don't know much so I'm not sure that will happen). I have read a bunch of cool stuff about this, but please let me know if you have any advice. A friend of mine has 3 kids (she is German and her husband is American) and she said the biggest challenge is making the language learning fun and that the kids will tend to speak English to each other because that is the dominant language here and in school. (she had a great plan for a while where she would send her kids to Germany in the summer for soccer camp... fun + have to speak German to get along with other kids!)

Anyways - I did like the baby names link at http://www.bounty.com/babynames and found some Arabic names that I didn't know were Arabic!

Aida - Girl Meaning - Reward
Akilah - Girl Meaning - Intelligent, Logical
Amber - Girl Meaning - Reddish-Yellow Precious Jewel
Anisa - Girl Meaning - Friendly
Bethany - Girl Meaning - House Of Poverty
Cala - Girl Meaning - Castle
Jed - Boy Meaning - The Hand
Kadin - Boy Meaning - Friend, Companion
Kamilah - Girl Meaning - The Perfect One
Leila - Girl Meaning - Born At Night, Black (well, I think I knew this one)
Martha - Girl Meaning - A Lady (ok - I'm wondering about some of these! Huh, I found another one that says Aramaic so I can see that now)
Rihana - Girl Meaning - Sweet Basil
Selima - Girl Meaning - Peace
Shakira - Girl Meaning - Grateful (this makes sense - the singer is half Lebanese)
Tabitha - Girl Meaning - A Gazelle
Xavier - Boy Meaning - Bright (another one I question - huh, I looked it up and had Arabic, Spanish and Basque under origins!)

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