Naming Our Child

Naming Our Child

I’m unoriginal when it comes to naming pets. I once had a beta fish that was blue and I wasn’t sure what to call it so I named it ‘Azul’ which is blue in Spanish. There is no originality in that. My two cats are named Byuli and Dali, which are Korean names that mean Star and Moon , because the cats are from Korea. I don’t feel close to a name or really like one enough to save it for my future children. Maybe that makes me a little odd, and I am okay with that.

For the last few months several people have asked what the baby’s name is, and I just tell them I don’t know. For some people, I can give a more detailed reason, but for others its not worth going into the naming process, because they might not understand it or respect it. I’ve been told the baby should already have a name and I should pick it out soon, thank you for your not needed advice. The baby will have a name, just not now.

When we first found out we were pregnant I asked my husband, what we should name the baby, he said we can ask a Lama to give the baby a name. This is traditionally how most Tibetans receive names for their children based on when the child was born. So I thought to myself, we can follow tradition and let a Lama choose the name. I can’t mention this to many Chinese people here, because they may not understand that tradition. Even my friends and family back home or around the world wouldn’t understand the fact that I’m letting someone I don’t know choose my child’s name.

Some time since then my husband thought maybe we could choose the name ourselves so it could be extra unique, but then recently he said again the baby will have a name when it is a day or two old from the Lama at Kirti Monastery in Lhamo. Which I said okay, as it is better than him joking that our future child’s name will be ‘Nina Dondrup’.’ Which are our names, haha.

I’ve also been advised that I should give my children a common last name to me or to my husband so it doesn’t cause problems. I’m not sure what problems it can cause, besides confusion, but people can get over that. We’ve been over this before with me trying to take part of my husband’ s name ‘Dondrup’ as my last name and he said, ‘Don’t do that. You will be heart broken if I die and someone keeps calling you, Dondrup, Dondrup.’ And that right there is the truth, I would be heart broken to hear that over and over.

One of the reasons this is recommended is that Tibetan’s ‘don’t have family names,’ which isn’t true. Tibetans do have family names and many families know their names, they are just not used on documents or when calling someone by their name. Many Tibetans you meet will go by their given name which is then divided into a given name and family name on their identification cards or passports. Just because a family name is not on their identification does not mean that they do not have one. My husband has a family name, and I know what it is.


However, on his ID it is not used. So when looking at family trees based on IDs one would assume that the family is not related because the ‘last name’ does not match between the children and their parents. When the reality is that the name you see on the ID is the child’s full given name that has been split in order to conform to the standards of said country’s rules for identification.


Some have suggested I give my last name to my child. I don’t even want my last name, why on earth would I pass it on to my child? It is such a headache to change names via paperwork I haven’t done it, nor do I know what I would change it to at this point. My new dad’s name? My mom’s maternal last name? Something completely random? I don’t want to tie my future child to a name they have no connection to for the rest of their life. So my child’s ID will look like my husband’s. Their given name will be split in two to create a first and last name. They will know the family names of their parents and grandparents so that they can follow their roots back to wherever they choose to go, but it won’t be tied to an ID or a document that will follow them through life.

So if you meet my child in the future and ask what their name is I am going to tell you their full given name. Maybe they have a nickname from it, maybe we only use one part of the given name with our child, but please respect that and the naming tradition we are choosing to follow as it is important to us and in a way preserves a naming tradition. When we have future children we may end up using the same naming method, or we may choose names ourselves, but that is for us to find out in the future.

**While recovering after giving birth a good friend of our’s contacted the Lama in India and recieved our daughter’s name, Sonam Wangmo, which means ‘Queen of Good Fortune/Luck’. Considering she was born at 35 weeks and 4 days, I consider it fitting for how healthy she is and how smooth the birth was even though she was about a month early. **

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