Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'Embarrassing our children is what we parents do. What else are we for, if not to name them Bluebell and Gandalf?'
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The Independent Online

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing I like more than embarrassing my kids. Christmas isn't Christmas without the usual trawl through the baby fancy-dress websites. Yes, they exist, although perhaps one should steer clear of the Saddam Hussein outfit for six-month-olds.

When he was eight months, my son was a "reindeer" (sure, aggressively sticking antlers on to his forehead did end in tears, but the photo's a corker. Also, note to self: fake snow in the eyes does, in fact, sting).

For his first birthday party, I thought that simply buying a Thomas the Tank Engine cake from Tesco was a bit half-hearted. Surely, I said to my husband (as he placed his head in his hands and started grinding his teeth), the home video would be so much better if our son was blowing out the candles in a train driver's uniform, with hat. I did not foresee him swallowing the miniature whistle and us spending most of the day in St Mary's A&E department. Still, at least it was memorable. And we got free biscuits.

I've always thought there's really no point in having a daughter unless she's in a tutu. Again, manically sending my mum out for tiara, magic wand and newborn feathered princess dress when she was three days old was, perhaps, a little dramatic. The doctors shook their heads from side to side when she arrived with boxes from Toys'R' Us. And when I screamed "No, God, no!" when the nurse assured me I couldn't cover my baby in fairy sparkle dust (Woolworths, 59p), there were some mutterings about calling the social services.

On consideration, mounting a camera on a 6ft tripod at my son's school nativity play and shouting directions from the front row now seems a little over the top. I could tell he was embarrassed, even at the age of two. The thing is, it's what we parents do. Other than warming milk, making shepherd's pie and doing the odd bit of homework, what else are we there for?

When it comes to kids, the only other thing we have true control over is their names. Findmypast.com has done a survey, which found out that 36 children born this year are called Arsenal, 1,916 golf-lovers have called their (male and female) offspring Tiger, and there are three David Beckhams (a double-barrelled first name; now that's smart). Thirty-nine Gazzas are taking their first steps, and Brooklyn has shot right up the leader board.

If you thought that it was only sports fans who get kooky at the birth of their children, then why not delve into the world of film? Lord of the Rings aficionados think nothing of naming their kids Gandalf and Frodo. There are fewer Gollums but a fair few Pippins, thanks to Peter Jackson's movies.

Some parents don't bother with just unusual names, but they want their babies to be super-special from the off. Spiderman is popular, and three Supermans were born in 2006. It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a, uh, baby.

Other mums and dads just love their shoes so much that they think naming their children after them is a good idea. There are two baby Reeboks and three called Adidas this year. Still, I bet they'll get a discount at Foot Locker. Now, had I thought of that I might have called my kids Foxtons and Notting Hill House. Notty does have a certain ring to it.

The terrible, mean truth about all of this is that the dullest people on earth have the most interesting names. Moon Unit Zappa is apparently a right old bore, and as for Zowie Bowie; well, he was so meek he changed his name to Duncan.

Superman Smith will devastate his parents when, at the age of 19, he tells them he wants to settle down in Leighton Buzzard with someone called Anne who likes knitting. After years of: "Yep, my boy Adidas is going to be a wicked footballer," Addy will tell Daddy that he loves nothing more than taking part in his sister's ballet class.

Our children will always let us down if we decide who they're going to be in the delivery room. In truth, my son didn't really look like a reindeer, more like a weeping bag of brown furry potatoes with two sticks on his head. He didn't really want to take on the role of Joseph in the school play, and me yelling: "Don't tug at your beard!" probably didn't help matters. As for the one-year-old-swallowing-a-whistle saga, I'm not sure my husband's side of the family will ever forgive me.

I assume my children will be artistic geniuses who speak six languages and marry sexy, clever, cool people. I'll make a bet with you now that this won't be the case. And as for the "creatively" named celebrity children - Suri Cruise, Apple Paltrow, Bluebell Madonna Halliwell and Cruz Beckham - well, they're all going to let their parents down horribly. And become accountants.

c.winkleman@independent.co.uk

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