Hi Duana,

So here's the deal. Baby boy due first of January. I have been pretty steadfast on naming him Foster. It's my maiden name and a way to honor my brother who passed away suddenly/tragically when he was 26 (neither me or my parents feel comfortable using my brother's first name). I like the name even without the sentimental attachment to it but my husband is not a huge fan. He definitely seems to have come around lately and I think that is the name we will go with but the fact that he doesn't love the name makes me doubt myself and I am having last minute reservations. And yet I have no alternative, nor do I really think I will actually consider one wholeheartedly. But that small sliver of doubt is making me crazy. I know it will be a name that gets mixed reviews and I am okay with that (I think?) but wish I could come up with a middle name/nickname or something that gets my husband a little more excited. Right now we are considering James or Jacobson for middle names - which are family names from his side (fyi I don't like Jacobson as a first name and James is my husband's name and I don't love the idea of a jr.). My daughter's name is Cameron Jeanne and we really didn't have trouble agreeing on that, actually the nickname Cammie is what really united us. I just wish it was the same with this name.

In terms of getting a feel for names we generally like: Grant is the only other name I was (am?) possibly considering but a friend just named her son that and to me Foster has the same vibe but with personal meaning behind it so it still sits far back in 2nd place. My husband likes Everett and Evan - fine names but not for me. We both like Brooke and Natalie if it was a girl.

So I am not really sure what I am asking of you. Maybe validation it will be okay to name him Foster? Or maybe by some miracle you come up with an alternative in the homestretch. Maybe an idea for a middle that brings us together? Or maybe you can figure out the root of my doubt - though I probably should be paying a therapist big bucks for that!

Thanks so much for any help you can provide us!


I have read this several times, looking for a reason why I might feel uncomfortable about Foster too. Because it’s a surname, maybe, or because there’s sentimental attachment to your brother, in a way that either there isn’t to your daughter, or something else I’m missing. I don’t feel those things at all, and I think Foster is a really lovely name. I understand that isn’t necessarily the problem though.

One thing I’ve learned doing this gig is that you can’t change people’s minds about names. You can suggest alternatives, but they have to come around on their own. Still, it can help to understand where the person’s coming from. I wonder if your husband is reacting to the fact that Foster really seems like a ‘surname’ rather than a name. After all, when he met you, it was your last name, not a name for his son. This is ironic because, of course, Cameron can also be seen as a surname – but there are examples of Cameron used as a first name that normalize it in a way there aren’t for Foster.

You might also feel like there’s something about ‘hanging onto’ your maiden name that implies a less than complete commitment to your family, and I want to disabuse you of that immediately. Our names, even if we choose to change them in marriage, are who we are. They’re where we come from. Choosing a name in memory of someone, even if the last memory we have is of their passing, doesn’t colour the name with anything but love. I particularly want to emphasize this because you think the name will be lukewarmly received, and I don’t share the sentiment at all – unless there’s something you’re not telling me, like that the Fosters are basically like the Scrooges in your town; I think it’s going to be beloved.

I like it a lot. It fits effortlessly with Cameron in a way that’s not easy to do, and it’s much more fresh than Evan or Everett. Still, if you want some sort of middle ground, you could always choose a stealthy first name that never gets used – maybe not James, but for example, what was your brother’s middle name? You could use that. Or call him Foster Evan Lastname. It provides an ‘out’ in case for whatever reason Foster doesn’t take (but I promise you that if you commit to it, it’s going to land properly).

One note, though: you haven’t provided your last name [N.B. – most letter writers don’t, but occasionally someone provides it for my information, if it’s got a funny rhyme to it or otherwise needs consideration], but I’d caution against using Jacobson as a middle name, since both can be seen as surnames and, with a third surname in the mix, could get a big same-y/confusing. Somewhere in there, include a more traditional ‘first’ name, even if it’s in the middle position, as with Jeanne. I understand about James implying a junior if it’s a first name, but maybe not if it’s in the second position? Do people just assume, if you’re somewhere that ‘Junior’ happens? Tell me more about this.

But know that I think Foster is the perfect choice, that it will grow both on your husband and on your son, and that you aren’t missing anything. Choose it and love it.

A quick note, though you didn’t ask my opinion on girls’ names – Natalie is fairly feminine and traditional beside ‘Cameron’ and Brooke is too but walks the line a little more. Mayyyybe consider some other more gender-neutral names if it’s a girl? Your boy choices make me want to suggest Riley or Logan. People are even choosing Everett for girls these days…

But it’s going to be a little boy called Foster Middle Name, brother to Cameron.  Right? Let me know!