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by Abigail Van Buren

Conflict Over Baby's Name Is Sign of Big Trouble Ahead

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Sad Mom-to-Be," whose husband insists on naming their firstborn son after both his grandfathers, missed the point completely. The problem is not that Mom and her husband can't agree on a name; the problem is that her selfish, inconsiderate husband has decided he doesn't feel like being flexible on an issue that his wife considers very important. What a cruel way to treat a pregnant wife!

I have shared this bitter experience, Abby. My now ex-husband also insisted on naming our baby for his relatives, and I foolishly gave in. What I failed to understand at the time was that my husband's controlling, domineering behavior masked his underlying hostility toward me.

In the years after our baby was born, his mistreatment of me turned physical, and I had to get a court order to force him out of our home. (By the way, the relative for whom my son is named all but abandoned the child after our divorce.) My son is now stuck with a name that means nothing to him. What a shame. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR BEEN THERE: You are not the only reader who disagreed with my answer to "Sad Mom-to-Be." I have received a mountain of mail from men and women who were appalled by the husband's attitude. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am frankly astounded at the attitude of the husband -- and I say this as a husband and father, not as a fellow mom-to-be. Of course, we're getting the information secondhand, but somehow I seriously doubt that the man is flexible on many things at all. He seems pretty much like a control freak. Unless the situation is far different than pictured, I'm afraid that "Sad Mom-to-Be" is in for a long and difficult road. -- VICTOR H. JUNG, M.D., YUBA CITY, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: Please inform "Sad Mom-to-Be," who thinks she has no say in naming her firstborn child, about a fact of life of which she may not be aware. In most, if not all, places in the United States, the mother fills out the birth certificate, and signs it.

So cheer up, honey. You have the tactical advantage in getting your authoritarian husband back to the bargaining table to reach a compromise you can both live with. -- EVELYN WALZER, HUDSON, OHIO

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Sad Mom-to-Be," who was upset that her husband insists on naming their new baby after his two grandfathers. You forgot one very important remedy to their situation -- two middle names. They can give the child the grandfathers' names as middle names, and select a mutually agreeable first name. The best example I can think of for this is: George Herbert Walker Bush. -- JANET BEHNING, MESQUITE, TEXAS

DEAR JANET: Now, why didn't I think of that!

DEAR ABBY: The young mother-to-be fails to realize that her refusal to name her son after her husband's grandfathers is equally inflexible. While honoring his grandfather may be more important to him than considering the wishes of his wife, getting her way in naming the child may be more important to her than considering the wishes of her husband. It is all a matter of perspective.

The most important consideration should be the effect of the name as the child is growing up. (Let's hope the names are not so unusual or outdated as to cause the child embarrassment when he goes to school.) Beyond that, the one to whom the issue is least important should concede the point. The compromises you suggested are valid. -- JOSEPH BUTLER, CLARKSTON, GA.

DEAR JOSEPH: I regret to say that you and I were overwhelmingly outvoted on this one. However, you have made some valid points. Thanks for the input.

As much as I would have liked to print more of the fascinating responses I received on this subject, space limitations do not permit it.

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