What’s in a name, part 3

(This is the final installment of a three-part series on why we gave each of our boys their name. Barron’s birthday is Feb. 6, so today’s post is timed to coincide with that wonderful, life-changing event. Happy 22nd, Barron!)

What’s in a name? For us, it’s family.

Our three boys are roughly four years apart in age. We wanted each to have a strong, distinctive name. Carla and I always thought names had more meaning when they came from beloved and respected ancestors. Passing on their names extends the memory of those who have gone before and gives our children a differentiator in a world where so many boys their age bear trendy names.

Naming was the opposite of parenting. It became harder as we had more children. With each child we learned how to be better parents, but with each male child, we had a more difficult time selecting a name we liked with a meaningful family connection.

Collage of photos of in a frame of Barron Wallace as an infant with his mother, Carla Wallace.
Carla and her first baby, Barron Elliott, 22 almost 22 years ago.

Our first born is Barron Elliott Wallace. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say we decided what our oldest son would be called about six minutes after we got engaged. As soon as we started talking seriously about our future, we settled on family names like “Ruth” and “Helen” for a girl and “Barron,” Carla’s maiden name, for a boy.

Continuing Carla’s family name is a lot for Barron to carry, but since she was an only child, we both felt the urge to give her family name to our firstborn. “Elliott,” his middle name, originated with my grandmother. Her maiden name is both my and my father’s middle name. It rolls off the tongue in combination with “Barron,” and it pays tribute to my father’s mother’s family.

Barron likes the distinctiveness of his name. He appreciates his connection to his roots. As his college studies focus on furnishings and interiors with an emphasis on historic preservation, he lives into his name. He is pursuing a career restoring objects and structures from the past.

Barron Wallace grinning from ear to ear in his Redcoat marching band uniform at the 2023 college football National Championship game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Don’t he look like a Barron?

Whenever anyone brings up the youngest child of former president Donald Trump, our Barron is quick to point out, “I had the name first.” He’s soon to be 22 years old, and I cannot imagine Barron having any other name.

What’s in a name, part 2

Our youngest child is named “Carlton Fulghum Wallace.”

Naming our third born was the toughest. Unlike with our second-born, Harris, we were able to find out he would be a boy at 20 weeks into the pregnancy. We considered the family names still available to us that we liked, and we kept returning to “John,” Carla’s father’s brother, and “Carl,” an obvious connection to “Carla” and her father, “Lanny Carl.”

Newborn baby Carlton in a dressing gown
Fourteen years ago this little bundle of joy came into our lives completing our family. Carlton is still a “bundle of joy” but it’s a considerably larger bundle.

For a while it looked like we would go with “John Carlton Wallace,” but we had a friend in the neighborhood named “John” with the last name “Carlton.” The coincidence was too weird for us to seriously commit to that name. We didn’t want friends who knew us both to keep asking him and us about any connections. (For the record, John Carlton is a standup guy who we really like!)

Carla’s mother always had a close relationship with her Granny Fulghum. Mama credits her with keeping her alive when she was born prematurely, and their bond was strong throughout Granny Fulghum’s life. Although “Fulghum” is an unusual name, we wanted to honor Carla’s mother’s connection to her grandmother without subjecting our child to a lifetime of ridicule. Using “Fulghum” as the middle name seemed like the best solution.

That left us with the first name to puzzle over for the remainder of the pregnancy and even after his birth. The morning he arrived, our indecision left him officially nameless for several hours. It was a strange afternoon of our parents asking us what we were going to call him while we couldn’t decide among “John,” “Carl,” and “Carlton.” It was Carla’s daddy who gave us the space to settle on a name.

“Whatever you call him, it won’t take long before that will be his name, and you can’t imagine calling him anything else.”

Lanny was right, and Carlton has been as unique as his family-derived name. At first he didn’t like that people made the association with “Carlton the Doorman” from the TV show “Rhoda” or Will Smith’s cousin on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” He eventually embraced Carlton’s signature dance move from that show, appropriately called “The Carlton” as a way to cope with the frequent comparison. If you watched his latest performance as the genie in “Aladdin” at Smoke Rise Academy of Arts, you may have even seen “The Carlton” sneak into his choreography.

Now that he’s turning 14, Carlton is figuring out how to use his considerable creative gifts. Whatever he chooses to do, he embodies the name so fully that all the other Carltons take a backseat to him. He’s charting his own course.

And who knows, maybe a dance will be called “The Carlton” as a tribute to him.

What’s in a name, part 1

Our middle son will turn 17 on May 2, and this is the perfect time to look at how our penchant for family names resulted in him being named “Harris Goodman Wallace.”

A young father holds his newborn son who is wrapped in a hospital blanket.
See what I mean about the hair?

Our second born was the only one of the three we didn’t know the gender of until he arrived. We’re planners. With Barron we learned the gender of our baby as soon as we reliably could tell from the ultrasound image. So in early December during Carla’s second pregnancy we went for an ultrasound, assuming it would be just as straightforward.

We thought we would know immediately the baby’s sex, and we could go to the deacon-church staff Christmas party that night at our pastor’s house and share the good news with everyone. Harris had other ideas. Despite the technician’s best efforts, his position and the placement of the umbilical cord prevented her from getting a conclusive image.

Not only were we glum at the party, we had to go with a neutral green to decorate his room. As with our firstborn, we had “Ruth” and “Helen” on standby if it was a girl. We were partial to a double name, and Carla liked both of my grandmother’s first names “Addie” and “Minnie.” “Ruth” was prevalent on both sides of our family, so it had to be in the name somewhere.

“Harris” was the middle name of Carla’s paternal grandfather, Lee Harris Barron. We were clear it was to be “Harris” and not “Harrison,” just like my name isn’t a short form of “Lawrence.” His middle name would come from Carla’s mother’s side of the family. “Goodman” is my mother-in-law’s maiden name, and we both liked its strength and predictive quality.

Of all our boys, Harris fittingly came out with the most hair allowing for a few gentle puns with “Hair-is.” Like his brothers, Harris also likes his name, although he is annoyed when people call him “Harrison” and the silly nickname our neighbor, Charlie, once gave him: “Hair-less.”

At 17 he is planning a career in public service and politics. He likes the sound of “Governor Harris Wallace,” “Senator Harris Wallace,” or even “President Harris Wallace.”

And for campaigning purposes, it doesn’t hurt that his middle name is “Goodman.” You may have heard that they’re hard to find.

What was your naming conventions for your children? Leave a comment on how you came up with your kids’ names and join the conversation!