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Question

My son and his wife will deliver our first grandson in December. My son is the only son of an only son of an only son, (name plus III, the third).

Since our son was born we have always said to him that if/when he had a son we hoped the baby would be the fourth, and he agreed. When we first found out of the pregnancy, he and his wife told us that if a baby was a boy his name would honor the previous generations and he would be called the fourth. Now his wife has decided she doesn’t like the name and she has chosen another name. Our son says he is upset but is not willing to make it an issue.

My husband was stunned and is extremely upset, feeling that he, his father and grandfather should be respected and honored by naming the baby after them. My son and I are caught in the middle. Do you have any advice to help us resolve this? My fear is the fissure this will cause between my husband and daughter-in-law. I just want a healthy grandson, but I do think daughter-in-law is being selfish.

Answer

The short answer is that you don’t get to choose your grandson’s name. That is the privilege of his parents. Even though your son and daughter-in-law are split about what to name him, they ultimately get to work out those details. This isn’t a committee decision where the three of you can overrule your daughter-in-law.

I don’t want to be insensitive to the importance of your husband’s family name. It’s a special connection these men share. Names have meaning and can link generations in a unique way. At the same time, remember that the scripture says that Elijah will turn the “heart of the fathers to the children”, not that he will turn the “name of the fathers to the children.” Your family name is special to your son, husband, and his father, however, it’s not the only way your grandson can connect to previous generations.

Even though your grandson won’t have the same name as his father, you don’t have to scrap the longing to connect your grandson to these men and the larger family. Yes, this is a surprise to all of you and it will be an adjustment to accept her preference. Please don’t alienate her with your hurt feelings. She’s not doing anything wrong by wanting a different name for their son. It’s important to stay close to her and your son so you can build a strong relationship with this grandson.

You have so many ways to carry on the legacy of these important family ties. It’s no secret that this adjustment will be hard for you, so no need to pretend that this hasn’t been difficult. However, let your son and daughter-in-law know how much you want to connect your grandson to his larger family. These conversations have the potential to produce great ideas. For example, you might write up simple stories complete with pictures that they can share with their son when he’s older. Keep talking and exploring how you can keep this little guy close to these important relationships.

As you talk to your daughter-in-law, you may learn what’s important to her in naming her son. She obviously has strong feelings about what she should name her son. Encourage your son to work closely with her so they both feel good about their son’s name instead of triangulating him into your grief about the broken name chain. Your willingness to understand her perspective will make it more likely she’ll want to bless her son with more influence from your family.

He may not have his father’s exact name, but he’ll have his father, your husband, and other family members who will remind him who he is and why he matters to this family. Please don’t get hung up on this tradition and let it create a fracture in your family. You’ve got a beautiful future in front of you as you pass along all this family has to offer to this new grandson.  

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT