How did you name your kids? Did you buy a few books, search for titles with true meaning, attempt to use their moniker as a nominative determinism for their future endeavours? Did you give them names with meaning and power, like Miriam, Bertie, or Marty? Did you scour ancient Irish texts to come up with the most unpronounceable jumble of letters you could find, words that sound like dark incantations or the result of a tracheotomy? Or did you just name the child after your favourite pop culture icon, Instagrammer or Game Of Thrones characters? Whatever method you chose, your hopes of giving your precious little one a unique name will all come asunder the first time you bring them to a playground, and you realise that really, everyone else had the same idea. Call their oh-so individual name when they are surrounded by their peers and see what happens; ‘Finnbhennach?’ Half the playground turns around. ‘Cthulhu, we’re going’. Five kids try to climb into your car. ‘Khal Drogo, stop thumping that child’. Three kids all stop what they’re doing to stare at the ground sheepishly. You realise that names come in patterns – how many Aoifes or Darraghs do you know who are over fifty? How many Maureens or Cons do you know who are under fifty? Names are part of a cultural cycle, and a reminder that our attempts to fashion our children into timeless individuals are really fairly lame.
We avoided totemic names with our kids. We just didn’t see the point in naming them after their forebears, as we were only having two, so we couldn’t please everyone in the family. Then we had a third child, and we managed to scrape another random couple of names together, after the statutory six months of heated arguments about how you could never name your child after someone who stole your ruler in second class. So we had our three little people, and all was well. Then, of course, we had Daniel, who we named after his grandfather, just as I was named after mine. We weren’t trying to keep that tradition alive, we had simply run out of names. However, if I had wanted to keep my dad’s name alive, I couldn’t have picked a better candidate to carry it forward, as I usually shout it about 50 times a day; Daniel stop hitting your brother, Daniel stop sticking out your tongue, Daniel could you please stop screaming, Daniel you’re meant to do that in the toilet.
Since his birth three years ago we have spent a lot of time asking ourselves if we disturbed an ancient burial ground, or did something else that might have incurred the wrath of ancient gods and forced them to send us this cursed teddy bear of a child. You bring him to the shopping centre, he runs off and you’re left trying to remember if Code Adam mall lockdowns were an urban myth or an actual thing. You bring him to the woods and he disappears into the undergrowth, leaving you to debate just leaving him there, and wondering if Hansel and Gretel’s parents were ever prosecuted. He is just one of those kids who finds which buttons to push and them plays you like a squeezebox until you think you might have a coronary episode, or just start crying. It’s as though Veruca Salt and Augustus Klump grew up and had a kid – if he isn’t eating, he is screaming – and this is the point where we have to accept that really, Danny’s madness is really down to us. As the youngest of four, we just don’t have anything left in the tank for him, and much of the time we hope all the parenting we poured into the first one or two will trickle down to him. I have a friend who was the youngest of four, and he reassures me that even though he was a difficult child, he turned out grand. Then he usually segues into a story from his lost years spent smoking opium in Asia. Little reassurance there.
They say you shouldn’t wish you children’s lives away, but with Danny it is hard – we find ourselves counting down the days until he starts school and he gets some sort of social skills. But it isn’t his fault he makes so much noise – he just came into a crowded world, and he screams simply so he can be heard.
But it would appear that we have turned a corner, and his primal instincts are slowly dissipating and he is entering the age of reason. The true indicator of this is that he now plays with Lego, sitting there quietly putting it together, rather than taking his brother’s creations and smashing them in front of him to make him cry. After three years of shouting, screaming, roaring and crying his name, it would appear that we are almost out of the woods, and another little being is becoming less strange and magical, and more like the rest of us. It’s reassuring to see, and it is looking less likely that my dad’s name would live on in infamy after his youngest grandchild becomes the next Unabomber.