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Baby Name Turf Wars

More Baby Name Turf Wars

By Amalah


I have a little question, and I have no one that I can ask without it getting back to my SIL, so I’m coming to you.

I guess a little back story is required here. My SIL is ridiculously competitive with my husband and me.

It seems like every step of the way my DH and I are asked to quell our happiness because it upsets her if she hasn’t reached the same milestone. My IL’s asked my DH and I to not talk about any of the following things around her because they would upset her… our engagement, our wedding, buying a house, our pregnancy, and the birth of our son. This has been going on for years; each time we accomplish something (those are just the biggies), we are told to keep our mouths shut because it’s not fair to her. (Although why it’s any of her business I’m not sure).

Each time we accomplish something, she rushes to do the same (going so far as to meet and marry a guy in 8 months because she said she couldn’t stand it if she at least didn’t get married the same year that we did). Before we became pregnant, my DH and I had already discussed baby names. We decided that we wanted to do traditional Celtic names since he’s Welsh and I’m Irish. We picked out a boy and a girls name that were both very old Celtic names. When his sister found out, she told us and her parents that she loved the names so much she was going to get pregnant first so she could steal them. (And she didn’t say this jokingly).

Fast-forward a couple of years and my DH and I found out we were expecting a little boy, so, we named him Seamus as we had planned.

He is now 4 months old and we had SIL and her husband over for dinner the other night and she started talking about baby names. She became very serious and said “well, I’ll tell you mine, but you can’t steal them”. I laughed and said okay. She then said that she had decided not to take our baby names (gee thanks) but that she really liked that we had decided to use traditional Celtic names, so she was going to do the same thing…

Now, I know I can’t call dibs on an entire genre of names, but this still really irks me. My DH and I chose that because it’s very near and dear to us (we hold our heritage very close to our hearts.)

We love the names that we have chosen, and chose them because we wanted something unique; it’s not really very unique if she names her kids the same way.

I guess the reason this bothers me so much is because this isn’t the first time we have done something out of the box to stay true to ourselves, just to have her come along behind us and take our ideas. (We also did some out of the box things at our wedding just to go to hers and see everything that we had come up with being done there). After finding out that I used to be a nanny and was now finishing up my degree to become an elementary school teacher, she suddenly felt that it was her “calling” to work with children also, and has just switched careers so she could be a nanny. When she goes shopping I get picture text’s of clothes asking “is this something you would wear?”

I know that imitation is the best form of flattery, but at some point it just becomes annoying.

Everything else I can over-look. I have ignored her taking our wedding ideas, deciding to follow in my steps career-wise, and everything else, but the baby names is the last straw.

My husband is just as irritated as I am, but we don’t want to cause a rift in the family by complaining about it to anyone but ourselves.

Do you have any advice? Even if it’s just to tell me to try to continue to ignore it, I had to get this off of my chest.

Thank you in advance!

Yeah…on the scale of 1 to 10 on the Baby Name Stealie McStealerson scale, I have to admit that this is one ranks squarely in the “let it go” end. Your history with your sister-in-law as a serial competitive copycat is (understandably) clouding the situation, but from over here in Neutral Third Partyville, I’d say that this is probably not the hill to die on. Or do anything but add it to her long list of sad, eye-roll-worthy moves to demonstrate her massive insecurities.

She’s not stealing your particular chosen names, either for your already-born child or your held-in-reserve-for-a-potential-future-girl child. That happens a fair amount, and even in that situation, there’s not much for parents to do but  ignore it and not cause unnecessary drama. Baby names rarely are worth the turf wars and hurt feelings they manage to inspire. Because most likely, one day, you will be at a playground or scanning a class list and see a child — or multiple children! perhaps even one of the opposite sex! wtf! — with your carefully chosen, unique and totally personal name. And then the same thing will happen to the annoying dirty thief who stole your name.

In this case, she’s picking from the same “kind” of name. And the Celtic/Gaelic/Irish name pool has been pretty definitively popular for a few years now, if I’m not mistaken. The Aiden/Brayden Juggernauts are both Irish names, and my kids have gone to school with Bridgets and Connors and Gales and Kegans and yes, even a Seamus. Plus, since she is an in-law (she’s your husband’s sister, I take it?) she also has a personal tie to the Welsh heritage. Even if it’s “just” through marriage or she’s only suddenly started to “care” about that heritage since hearing your naming idea…well, you cannot and do not own this particular naming convention and complaining about it publicly will only result in defensive hurt feelings and unnecessary drama. BELIEVE ME.

I really don’t see how you could possibly come out and say, “SIL, I’ve kept quiet about *insert long litany of complaints* but naming your baby one of the thousands of Celtic-inspired names freely available to anyone with a book or Internet connection because we called dibs is the LAST. STRAW.” without sounding petty. Instead, try thanking her for the nice tribute to Seamus and the cousin’s shared heritage. HIGH ROAD. IN YOUR FACE, SIL.

Her baby name choice does not affect you, really. It doesn’t diminish the specialness of your son’s name or rob him of any uniqueness, because his uniqueness is inherently HIS, who he is, not what his name or nickname is. If anything, her baby name choice is just more evidence that she’s kind of an uncreative and insecure type who probably idolizes and envies you guys in varying amounts and has a really awkward way of showing it. Roll your eyes, enjoy what you have (because it’s obviously what she wants), and let go of the cataloging of offenses and bitterness over wedding ideas.

For the record, I’ve yet to attend a wedding where the couple DIDN’T draw inspiration from other weddings they attended or read about online…and if her imitation was as obvious as you suggest than anyone who attended yours first probably noted it. And anyone who didn’t attend yours probably still guessed that she’d gotten the “out-of-the-box” ideas from someone else. And even if they didn’t and complimented her on her “totally unique” wedding…eh. It STILL doesn’t invalidate your wedding or make it less awesome than it was. Just like the baby name shadowing she’s doing now. It doesn’t matter. It says nothing about you and everything about her, so let it go and stop allowing her weirdness to get under your skin so much.

As for your in-laws asking you to not talk about things…well, that’s also weird. Sad, even. And also says so, so much more about her than anything. Even her parents view her as a fragile, delicate little thing who is so unhappy with her own life that she can’t possibly muster up happiness for anyone else…even her brother and his wife and new nephew. Yuck. But again: those are her issues. You have what she wants, and no amount of copying/shadowing/imitating is going to fill whatever is so desperately empty inside.

Let’s hope that — perhaps — having a baby will in fact, complete her in some way and give her the confidence to be her own mom and her own person. Or just that you won’t be writing back in three years complaining that she’s now Single White Female-ing her way up your chosen preschool’s waitlist.

Published July 2, 2012. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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