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Monday, March 26, 2012

More on Going by a Middle Name: Getting Others to Comply; Invitations and Personalizations; Legal Stuff

Joseph's Mom writes:
I was just reading up on the above article. My son goes by his middle name for many reasons. His first name is Joseph ( it's my husband's MN, his grandfather's FN, my husband's nephew's FN, my brother's FN and countless relatives in my family's FN. The flow is much better and so are the god forbid "teenager n.n. of going by one's initials. We also have an extremely common last name, so coupled with Joseph makes me cringe with 1000's of others ie. Jennifer Jones) my questions are:

1. How do I get my in-laws to not make up their own name for him? Ie. Joey. He has and will never be known by this, especially seeing as it's their older nephew's NN. (history to make you lol, all others kids do not go by their "legal" name but yet by a nn ie. Jennifer= Jennie, Richard= Ritchie . So WTH is it a problem with our son going by his MN vs a made up NN?)

2. On invites, toys, monogram bags etc. I would prefer the MN or his every day name used, is this wrong? I know school, doctors, savings bonds it will always be his legal name or J.___

3. After reading the responses, my question is how does one have legal stuff with their MN's such as a credit card? I assumed this was not possible.

Thanks

The third question I will have to turn over to others who have had experience with it.

To continue backwards through the list, I think it makes perfect sense to use his everyday (middle) name on invitations and toys and so forth. If I knew an Andrew and he went exclusively by Drew, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see "Drew" embroidered on backpacks or stitched on bean-bag chairs or used to issue invitations. And if everyone knew him only as Drew, and he referred to himself as Drew, this would be only sensible. It would be the same if I knew a Joseph Paul Smith IV who always went by Paul: I would expect to see "Paul" on his lunchbox and on his coat tag and on his birthday party invitations. It would be trickier with monogrammed initials, but I might just not DO monogrammed initials. Usually such things are optional/decorative.

I've saved the first question for last because it is the most difficult. Going by a middle name shouldn't be any stranger than going by a nickname of the first name, but in our culture it just IS. Should your in-laws call your son by the name you've specified? Yes, of course. Can/should you force the issue? Probably not---or rather, only up to a point. I suggest reading Baby Naming Issue: Other People are Using an Unwanted Nickname for fuller coverage of this topic, and also to get commiseration/ideas from the comments section. The short version is that I do think it's possible to say in a kind but firm voice (it should be their son's kind firm voice, I think, for maximum effect and minimum relationship damage) something like "We'd really prefer you call him Paul; that's the name he'll be going by," or to politely/sweetly correct them each time with "It's Paul" or "Oh, we're not using Joey, we're using Paul."

But if they don't change their behavior in response to this, you will have to decide if it's a hill you want to die on---especially considering your son may himself choose to go by Joe or Joey when he's older. In the long run it can be the happier path to roll your eyes and spin it as "their special nickname for him" (and get a little pleasure from saying so in front of them when you correct other people), and let your son tell them "no" later on if he doesn't like it.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

My mother went by her middle name. On her checks, credit cards, etc. she used her first initial, middle name, last name. It worked just fine (it might have even been on her driver's license like that). I am not sure if you can do it without the first initial but I wouldn't be surprised if you could for some things.

Jaime said...

My grandmother goes by her middle name, but her checks and stuff like that all have both her first and middle name on them. And at least one of the guys I know who are my age (30s) who go by their middle name also has both the first and middle name on his credit card. I'm not sure about the other guy, I've never seen his card :-)

Meg @ Mr.C and Me said...

I work at a theater taking tons of phone sales and a lot of people both men+women go by middle names. Their credit cards have their first name and middle name or middle initial. It's not a huge deal for legal stuff. You just use your legal name and say "but I go by [insert middle name here]".

Elisabeth said...

Many people in my husband's family go by their middle name, and all of their cards say "First Initial Middle Name." It hasn't ever been a problem, and they can screen phone calls pretty easily because they know that anyone asking for "First Name" doesn't actually know them.

Anonymous said...

I go by my middle name, and I pretty strongly recommend against naming your kid with the expectation of using a middle name. It’s a constant low-level hassle of trying to remember which name you used where, of doctors constantly calling you by the wrong name, of having your full name somewhere and your first initial full middle somewhere else and trying to remember. It’s not –that- hard to get credit cards with different things on them: I have some that just have my first initial and my middle name. Getting them isn’t the issue, because having them, and trying to remember all the time which is what and to figure out what name you want to go by is just a needless pain in the butt. The thing I really hate is when doctors’ offices refuse to call you by the name you choose. Many of them will attempt to, though they rarely remember, but some just flat out refuse to acknowledge anything but the name the insurance company recognizes. It is hard to have a good relationship with a doctor who doesn’t know your name. I’ve considered changing my name, but either way every time I fill out a formal legal document I have to put down other names I am known by, and explain a little extra, and the whole thing is so much more annoying than having a nickname is, and it gets worse the more digital the world gets. I have generally gone by my middle name or a nickname for it, and I have never had nearly as much trouble with the nickname as I have with the middle name. Unless you have a really, really good reason to do it, just save yourself and your kid a little bit of trouble. I know someone else who goes by her middle name and likes it, because it automatically sorts out her junk mail from her real mail, but I have hated it my whole life.

Julia said...

when my son was younger, our neighbor insisted on calling him Pete and it made me cringe. all was solved when he was about three and said, "oh, Mr. XX, I not Pete, I Peter, ok?" problem solved.

Anonymous said...

When we were naming my middle son we decided to go with Elijah. We made the mistake of saying (before he was born) that we wanted to call him Eli.

Then he was born, and he was not an Eli at all. We call him Lijah or Lijy (lie-zhee). That's what he calls himself, etc.

We've had people in our family try calling him Eli. At first we just let it slide. I mean it didn't seem to be hurting anything. Then Lijy got old enough to talk and understand. And it caused him so much distress when people called him Eli that he would sob and tell us, "I Lijy. I Lijy." Heartbreaking.

So we got a backbone and told people that his nickname is Lijy, and his name is Elijah (which he's also okay being called.) No one took offense and no one calls him Eli anymore.

I think people dance around issues too much. I learned the hard way by seeing my son upset. My opinion is that if you want people to call your child a certain name, be up front about it. Do it politely and people will appreciate your straighforwardness. It will also save your child a lot of grief.

Clarabella said...

How awful are we that our son goes by a NICKNAME of his MIDDLE NAME? Prepare the gallows!
Honestly, we have had so FEW problems, I can't even think of one good example. Yes, it's kind of a pain at the Dr.'s office, but we just asked that the name he goes by be added to his file. In fact, I made sure it was. The Dr. may call my son by his first name once, but he quickly remembers what he goes by because it's written right there that he goes by X.
I feel like I ALWAYS comment on these posts the same way, but I just don't understand the problem; or, maybe more accurately, I'm SO thankful we've never HAD a problem. When we decided on our son's name, we said "THIS is his name." No room for anything different.
We DO avoid monograms, and since he goes by a NN of the MN, he'll have to put his whole name on all legal documents and credit cards & such. While I think it's something to consider, for us, our son's name was the only name he could have, so I think in the grand scope of things that will be annoying to him in his life, having to use his full name for official things is pretty low on the list.

Linda said...

My brother has his legal stuff as "L. Jeffrey LastName." He signs himself Jeff LastName on most stuff, but his credit card, checks, mortgage, etc are in the name of L. Jeffrey LastName.

Kelly said...

Anonymous #5: I don't think you'll have as many problems as you think you will with a legal name change. When you mentioned having to mention other names you're known by, that usually applies only when needing to check prior records that haven't been changed (e.g. prior work or medical records, or a criminal history check); in your case that would be fairly simple to explain ("Some records prior to such-and-such-date may be under this name [what is now my middle name] rather than my current [first] one").

Anonymous said...

Several people in my family--my mom, my husband, my daughter--go by middle names. It's never seemed to be an issue. My daughter was originally called by both names, FirstName Grace. She made the decision in day care to become Gracie. We live in a small Southern town, so maybe it's more of a norm in our area.

Kelly said...

More to my last comment: Now if you were changing your whole name (entirely new first, middle, and last name) it might be a little more awkward to explain, but there's been plenty of people who've done it (including many adoptees, although except for early medical or birth records they usually won't have the things like a credit report, diplomas, etc. in the old name that most adult name changers would). (If you're really interested in minimizing references to your old name, contact someone transgendered who's legally made the switch and they may have some tips on doing that.)

Kelly said...

Some more clarification: What I meant to say in my first comment was that when they ask for your "name history" it's usually to assist them in checking/keeping your records (and certainly not all "formal" documents will be of the kind where they'd want to know). In your case you shouldn't feel uncomfortable explaining (after all, your former first name would still legally be there, just in the middle instead).

Sarah said...

I'm with Clarabella. I don't really understand the big deal. I guess it's really common in the area where I live. One of my sons goes by his middle name, my brother does, my uncle does, my grandfather did. My husband and dad go by nicknames of their first name. I have friends who go by nicknames of their middle names, etc. I can think of tons of examples of people who don't go by their first name that it just seems like a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

Another who doesn't think it's a big deal. When some friends named their baby with a plan to call him by his middle name, they sent out a little email announcement that said something along the lines of "we're delighted to welcome Baby X Y Z---but you can call him Y!")

Similarly, we call our son exclusively by a nickname of his first name, and named him with that intent (long story...) To further complicate it, there are two very common (and very different) nicknames for his "real" name. We did more formal birth announcements, but found a wonderful design that said "X is here!" in huge letters and then had a separate smaller space below for the full name and details. We put the nickname up at the top and the full name below. Worked out perfectly--no one has been at all confused, and no one calls him by his full name or the other common nickname, either. Easy peasy.

Swistle said...

Clarabella, Sarah, and Anonymous- Yes, clearly it varies: some people have trouble with it, and some people don't. But enough people DO have trouble with it that it's an often-brought-up issue.

Kate said...

I'm stepping away from the "is using a middle name a good idea" discussion, since it's been done before and also because the letter writer states that her son GOES by his middle name, so it's a moot point in this instance. But I have input on the third question: my bank accounts/credit cards are all under the name J Kate (ie, first initial, middle name) and I've never had any issues getting them set up that way. I do have to make a specific request when opening an account, but that's not a big deal, just a matter of mentioning it to whomever is doing the paperwork. I think one reason that it hasn't been an issue is that there is an obvious corollary between my "legal name" (my driver's license has the full Jennifer Kate) and the name I want to use- I don't think they would be so sanguine if I asked to have my credit cards issued to the name Jane Smith, or something completely unconnected. When filling out info online, or wherever, I use 'J Kate' as my first name, complete with space and leave the box for middle initial blank. Good luck with the in-laws!

Anonymous said...

I think too much is made of being polite to or scared of the in-laws. You are your child's advocate and the parents are the only people who wholly have their best interests at heart, so firmly say "I want you to call him x" and, if necessary "It's upsetting us, and therefore him that you don't call him x." Be firm.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I think it's more that reality needs to be faced here: that it's easy to advise someone to "Just tell them to stop! Just INSIST on it!!"---but that if they WON'T stop, it probably isn't an issue serious enough to be worth tearing the family apart over it, and so other options for coping with it need to be considered.

Therese said...

A close friend of my family's had a grandson who went by a nickname that was a combo of his first and middle names (extra confusing...). His grandmother (my mother's close friend) absolutely HATED this nickname and refused to use it. She instead called him by his first name and middle initial (William C.). The grandson is now a young adult and to my knowledge she is the only one who calls him that. Everyone else (including him) uses the nickname that his parents gave him. I say this to reiterate Swistle's point of "what hill are you willing to die on." I am sure it was frustrating to the parents that she used/uses a different name (the grandmother in question is the mother's mother...not sure if that makes a difference) but in the end, it wasn't worth a fight (and she wasn't going to change anyway).

Laura said...

I'm confused about what the issue is here - is it "How do I tell people to call him by his MN?" or is it "How do I deal with the fact that no one calls him by his MN?" Those are two different issues.

If it's the first question we are addressing, then you have to very clearly say "His name is Paul, not Joseph or Joey." You have to reinforce this by always using Paul whenever you refer to your son. If you sign birthday cards from the whole family, sign them "Love, Jane, Sam and Paul." If you make a gallery of photographs of him on Facebook or Flickr, they have to be named "Paul's Birthday" or "Paul's First Beach Trip." Eventually people will get it, although mistakes will be made.

My father goes by his middle name because he's a junior, so his whole life he's had to answer to both depending on the situation. (FYI, Doctor's offices and airlines tend to use his first name.) Legally and professionally he's chosen to use his first initial and middle name on credit cards, legal documents, checks, etc. (As an example "T. James Smith, Jr.") While it can be slightly confusing sometimes, we're also Southern and going by your middle name is very common for men and women here.

If we're addressing the second question ("How do I cope?"), sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bear it. My daughter's uncle calls her a nickname I hate. I told him I hate it, he doesn't care. He thinks it's cute. I decided not to make a big deal out of it - when she's older she can argue with him about what she wishes to be called.

Anonymous said...

THere are a lot of comments here about how it hasn't been a problem for other people. I'm not sure how that's helpful, when it is a problem for the writer. Maybe the people it hasn't been a problem for could share their tips.

AmyRenee said...

for the family that doesn't get the verbal hint - give them a visual! If the baby is going, get announcements with him middle name LARGE and the rest of his name smaller. If older - give them a framed photo with his name on it - either spell out his (middle) name in alphabet blocks and take the picture that way, or take a picture of him and put text right on it. You can add text to photos either using software like Picasa (free download) or at a Kodak photo kiosk - we get pictures printed & framed every year that say right on them: Merry Christmas Grandma! Love Kidname1 Kidname2, or Kidname1's 2nd Birthday, etc

Anonymous said...

As most have suggested, its with doctors offices and such that you run into problems. Credit cards, bank statements, etc. are less of a problem than you'd imagine (as others have said above).

My husband goes by a NICKNAME of his MIDDLE NAME. (He's Paul Anthony -- I've only ever known him as Tony.)

What is weird is we get mail addressed to Mr. Anthony Lastname (like wedding invitations attempting to be formal) and I'm like Who the Hell is this?!?!? Formal stuff is usually addressed to Paul... but lots of people who only know him as Tony wouldn't know that.

Anyway, I suggest you advocate for him til he can say for himself "I go by ___" and accept that people will screw it up.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, is there some history to why the in-laws won't call him by the middle name? Understanding that could help. If it's that they don't understand that you want him called by his middle name, there are some great suggestions here on how to address that. But if it's some passive aggressive issue (they think he should be called by his first name, etc.), that's much harder to combat, and honestly I don't think that's directly tied to middle vs. first name---I've heard of families having that issue when grandparents just plain old don't like a child's name or nickname, and create their own against the parents' wishes. If this is the case, you probably do just want to decide how important it is to you---if grandparents aren't a daily presence in his life, I'd just roll with it, call him by his middle name at home and in school, and eventually the grandparents will either stop nicknaming him something else, or he'll be old enough to write it off as grandparent silliness.

Anonymous said...

Please stop assuming that we want to make the first name that we hate become a middle name that we hate. Some of us want to completely destroy the first name that we do not use and we want to do this through a legal court order. While you are at it, please stop deleting my comments about this subject.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I'm deleting your comments (1) when they're disrespectful, or (2) when they don't make sense. I haven't said anything assuming that anyone would want a hated first name to become a hated middle name, so I don't see any reason I have to leave your comments asking to stop it. I was answering a reader's question about going by a middle name, so I'm not sure how your comments apply.

Anonymous said...

Kelly is the one who wrote that the first name would be changed to a middle name in a court ordered legal name change and I was objecting to her statement. I want to totally destroy my first name and I get sick of hearing this type of lie being said or written about people who go by their middle names and want to legally get rid of their first names.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- Different people have different reasons for wanting to change their names, and different feelings about their names, and different plans for how to change them. I'm reading Kelly's comment, and I don't see anything that could be called a "lie"---she's apparently giving information to someone in a different situation than yours, who DOES want to put the first name in the middle name slot.

Anonymous said...

Kelly was responding to the person who wrote post #5 but the person who wrote post #5 didn't say that she/he wanted to make the first name become a middle name. Kelly just assumed that the previous poster wanted to make the first name become a middle name without asking if the person wanted to do this. I'm just saying that her assumption could be wrong without her even realizing it. By the way, eople make this wrong assumption about me every single time that I mention that I want to legally subtract the first name and totally get rid of it. Then I tell them that they are wrong and they falsely accuse me of lying about how I want to change my own name. All this does is start an argument with people who don't listen. I'm tired of having this argument with people when I'm offline and I don't like encountering this false assumption when I'm online. Kelly should have asked the other person the following question: Which way do you want to change your name? Assuming something without asking is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Here is a better way to name a child. A man is named Michael Alan King and his wife gives birth to a baby boy. Name the son Phillip Michael King and call him Phillip everywhere the child goes to avoid confusion with the father when they are in their home and outside of the home. List the child's name as Phillip M. King or Phillip Michael King on all of the legal documents because this helps avoid confusion when people call out his name. Your child will thank you for naming him this way because it makes it a lot easier on everybody. You really need to think more about what your child will want instead of what you want because your child is the one who has to live with his/her name even after you have died. Please don't screw up your child's name. If you insist on screwing up someone's name, then you should screw up your own name instead.