- We gave my son an unusual first name and a common second name.
- He went by Alex for a while, and then decided to go by Sheridan later in life.
- I sometimes forget we ever called him Alex to begin with.
As a child, I hated my first name. My mom had picked it because of a popular ballerina at the time named Elise McBride. Not only was the name “Elise” unusual but when it was used, it was usually spelled “Elyse.” I would have vastly preferred that spelling because Elise with an “i” was very easily mistaken for Elsie. Alas, Borden Dairy’s advertising campaign (which is still used today) featured a cartoon animal, “Elsie the Cow.” I spent many unhappy elementary school years being “moo-ed” at as I walked down the halls.
After that experience, I swore I would never saddle my own kids with unusual names. But I did love my Irish family’s last name of “Sheridan.”
We gave our son 2 names
Sheridan had also been used down through the generations in our family as a (usually female) first name. My husband and I decided that our first baby would be named Sheridan — I guessed we’d be having a girl.
However, we had a boy. We decided to name him Sheridan anyway; I had two male ancestors with the first name Sheridan — both in Europe. But then we began to worry that our son would be teased by his peers for his “different” name, so we chose “Alexander” as his middle name.
We figured we’d start off by calling him Alex, and as he grew older, he’d have the option of using his first name if he wanted. He was called Alex by everyone for many years.
He chose to go by his first name
By high school, Alex was composing classical music seriously. At a conference for Presidential Scholars during his senior year, he spontaneously decided that Sheridan Seyfried was a more “composerly” name.
During that whole week, he introduced himself that way to hundreds of people. When he returned home, he announced that he would rather not be called Alex anymore. I assumed we’d forget frequently, as it was such a very old habit. But our son had an ingenious way to teach our family: he just stopped responding when we called him by his old name. Alex didn’t hear us when it was time to empty the trash; as soon as Sheridan was asked, the chore was done immediately. Within days, we were perfectly trained.
We forget we ever called him Alex
Sheridan became a professional classical composer whose works are performed all over the world. He has fully embraced his first name for more than 20 years now, and we tend to forget he was ever called Alex. But some people in our lives still refer to him by his middle name — often his classmates and teachers from early school years. It doesn’t bother him — or us — a bit, and it actually brings back some fond memories of his childhood.
Nowadays, unusual seems to be usual, as parents are giving their children a huge variety of first names, many used by all genders. I think it’s a wonderful development, reflecting a time when imagination and individual expression are highly valued. I love encountering a new-to-me name, and learning the story of that name. Granted, it may be harder to spell these more offbeat names, than it was to spell the names of the four Kevins and five Debbies who were in my first grade class, back in the day. Some may still prefer more common names for their offspring, and that’s fine too. But people can learn, and are learning, that there are countless choices when it’s time to name their children.
For our family, I’ll always be glad we carried on the Sheridan tradition. Now, if only my mom had spelled my name Elyse instead.
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