Confession: I didn’t actually choose most of my kids’ names. It was a precedent set right away, in my first pregnancy. I went to bat for the name Mary Sarah. My husband was intent on Mary Hannah.
And honestly, he kept on winning. (If you ever thought it was me that was partial to double names, by the way, it’s not. That would be my husband.) I don’t mind; my kids’ names fit them each so well, I am confident that his choices were divinely inspired. Even the one I kindofsortof didn’t really like at all for a while— Mathaus.
Nowadays, the idea of Mathaus being an Ian or a Patrick (my choices) seems laughable. His name is quirky, unique, and just poetic enough to sum up pretty much everything that he is.
But sadly, when he was less than 24 hours old, I butchered the spelling and set him off on a course of correcting the general public for the rest of his life.
It happened like this. Frankly, I was 99.9% positive that I was having another girl. So when my Beloved floated names, I only had ears for the ones that were, you know… girly. Christopher suggested Calla, and I warmed to it pretty quickly after he shot down my nominees. After a while, I was in love with it. So at the end of a beautiful, relaxed birth, I greeted my new not-Calla in a bit of panic.
Wait? What was the name I agreed to? Can I reconsider?
When I saw how thrilled my husband was, and how he so clearly loved the sound of the name in his mouth, I knew I’d better find a way to associate it with my new son pretty quickly.
The next morning, when the chipper administrator came around with the birth certificate forms, I had a mini panic. I‘d already had a small-scale standoff with a night nurse over the pronounciation, and was feeling like I was treading on thin ice with the simple act of naming a kid.
It was with this mindset that I began filling in those little boxes. M-A-T-T-H-Ä-U-S.
The first thing I saw was MATT. And while Matt is a fine name, nothing wrong with it at all, it wasn’t what I wanted my son called. I was using pencil (I told you I was terribly unsure of what I was doing) so I erased the whole thing, and tried again. M-A-T-H-Ä-U-S.
Good gravy, I sighed. No one, I mean no one, in the U.S. is going to know what to do with that German umlaut. Better to ditch it all together. Take three: M-A-T-H-A-U-S.
By that point, it was time for official discharge procedures to begin. My mother-in-law and husband were due at any moment. So I signed off on my new creation, making a mental note to fill my husband in on my edits.
And here we sit, 17 and a half years later, with a kid who has never been called Matt… but expects to be called Math-ows if the barista has read his name off the cup at Starbucks.
Over time, I have actually ended up not just tolerating, but loving my son’s name. Like I said, it fits him. But more than that, it’s the kind of name that people remember, and that only conjure images of him, if you know what I mean. He has made Mathaus mean Jesus follower, strength, kindness, responsibility, creativity, honesty, and integrity. Even for folks who struggle with saying it!
He says he doesn’t mind, and I do hope that’s true. If nothing else, he can always know that while his dad fell in love with his name and picked it for him, it was his mom who orchestrated the spelling into the odd not-quite-any-nationality he now enjoys. And that no matter what, no one will ever ask him why he has dots in his name.
If you’d like to hear Mathaus pronounce his name, check out the trailer for his YouTube channel, where he offers a primer.