Naming a child is a serious responsibility, fraught with long-term, potentially hazardous consequences. Too many parents make naming decisions without fully considering the implications of their seemingly harmless choices. I am one of those parents, and this is my story.

When we named our first boy Calvin, one of my best friends was very vocal about his disapproval of our choice. He even went so far as to mock the name—it’s Latin for “bald” he pointed out. I reacted defensively and had several arguments with him about the merits of our choice. His protests turned to warnings, but I was undeterred.

Five years passed before my day of reckoning finally arrived.

Sunday, September 18, 2006, started out as any ordinary day. Woke early, prayed, read the scriptures and sat pondering in silent meditation for a few hours, with the occasional angry interruption from my wife frantically trying to get our three kids ready for church (can’t she see I’m busy presiding here?), and then off to church. Because everything had gone normally, when we came home from church, I was completely unprepared for what happened next: Calvin asked what his name meant. I stopped cold and stared at him as if he had just asked a woman to give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. I tried to equivocate. “It’s just a name, it doesn’t mean anything,” I attempted weakly. He persisted. He said his Sunday school teacher told them that everyone’s name has a meaning and wanted everyone to find out what his name meant. My mind raced, searching frantically for a way out—change the subject, anything. Nothing came. I realized there was no way out. Sooner or later he would have to know. The time had come to own the consequences of my decision. I took a deep breath and had out with it: “Son, your name means ‘bald.’”

Of course, he thought it was pretty funny—he’s only five. But I know the day is not far distant when he will confront me and say, “Dad, you knew it meant bald. Why did you do it? Why did you do it!? You’re an evil, evil man! I hate you!”

Naming our children is an important task, not to be taken lightly. There are many factors we need to consider, including meaning. My experience was not pleasant, and I’ve yet to reap what I’ve sown. I share it in hope of sparing others a similar fate.