Question to Rabbi Menachem M Bluming: We haven’t officially named our firstborn daughter yet. We have a problem. I always wanted to name her after my grandmother. But my wife doesn’t like that name. She wants some other name which is nice, but I think it lacks any real meaning for the family. Doesn’t it say somewhere that the father has the right to choose the firstborn’s name?
Here’s a thought:
I’m not sure you want to know the answer to that.
There is indeed a custom in some communities of alternating the right to name a child between the parents. According to one Ashkenazi custom, the mother names the firstborn child, the father the second and so on. But some Sefardi communities have the father choosing the name for the first son, and then the mother the second son, while all daughters are named by the mother.
In your case, following either system, your wife gets to name this child.
But there is a different approach. These systems were only enacted to avoid intractable arguments between parents. That’s not the ideal way to name a child. It is far better that both agree on a name together rather than one having to reluctantly concede to the other’s wish.
The need for consensus is indicated in the writings of Kabbalah, which state, “When a father and mother give a name to their child, they are given a prophecy to choose the right name to fit the soul of the child.” This implies that the prophecy comes when there is agreement between the parents, and both are happy with the name.
This is just the first of many disagreements you will have with your wife in parenting your child. Inevitably there will be times when you will want to do things one way, and your wife will have a different approach. You could alternate the decision making, so one day you get your way and the kids are allowed to drink Coke, and the next day your wife is in charge and they only get water. One day bed time is optional and the next it is strictly enforced.
But think what this will do to your child. She needs parents who are united and working as a team, with one voice and one standard. When there are cracks in the parents’ unity, kids slip between those cracks.
Consider your child’s needs before your own, and give her a name that is meaningful, comfortable, and acceptable to you both. May this be the first of many harmonious compromises you make for your children.
Menachem Mendel Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org