Kara’s naming ceremony

Oh no, not another camera ... Oh no, not another camera ...

It has become something of a biennial event that we take over a local hotel to host a naming ceremony for our latest family accessory – or, as traditionalists like to call them, ‘children’ – round about the time they reach nine or ten months in age. Yesterday it was Kara’s turn to complete the Liew family hat-trick.

Oh no, not another camera ...
Oh no, not another camera …

A naming ceremony is like a secular christening with fewer rules and restrictions. There’s no dunking the baby in water to make them cry. No need to declare undying allegiance to a particular religious faith. And no limitations as to how many godparents – or, to use the correct non-religious term, ‘supporting adults’ – you can have or what religion they need to follow. There are a couple of down-sides: it has no legal standing and as a private ceremony there is an additional cost to bear. But on balance we’ve considered those small sacrifices to make.

Basically, it’s an excuse to throw a party. And in this case it almost felt like the final part of a celebratory triptych. We used the same hotel as we did for both Isaac’s and Toby’s naming ceremonies. The vast majority of the friends and family we invited had attended one or both of the previous occasions. We used the same promises as before (although we selected different readings). And we even had the same registrar to conduct proceedings in all three cases.

The only thing that changed significantly from Isaac’s to Toby’s to Kara’s events was that between one and the next everyone’s kids had aged by two years each time. So for Isaac’s naming ceremony (October 2008) there were far fewer children and many of them were, like him, barely crawling and requiring significant parental attention. (There’s nothing that kills a good catch-up and gossip like the sudden need for a breast-feed or a nappy change.) But now, four-odd years later, most of the kids are aged five and upwards and capable of looking after themselves unsupervised. (To any hotel guests who were terrorised by a rampaging group of primary school kids trailing helium balloons after them: sorry.) Both before and after the ceremony they all played together happily, even voluntarily creating a kids’ table to eat at together, leaving the adults to have actual conversations while providing a back-drop of raucous happiness which provided a far superior background soundtrack to the playlist I had created on my iPod.

It was, Heather and I both agreed, the most relaxed and least stressful of the three naming ceremonies we have organised. (When I say ‘we’, I of course mean Heather. Pretty much all I have to do is arrange music, turn up and deliver a short speech and toast.) There was, deliberately, a minimum of formality – the ‘official’ part of the day takes barely 15 minutes, which is a big plus in a room full of fidgety children – and a big emphasis on celebration and the social side of the event. Kara loved being the centre of attention, the boys had a good time and so did we. That’s pretty much perfect in my book.

Say cheese!
Say cheese!

For the (un)official record, Kara is Kara Isabel Liew Sien Yee. Kara means ‘beloved’ – which she most certainly is, especially by her besotted father – and her Chinese names Sien and Yee mean ‘beautiful’ and ‘happy and harmonious’ respectively.

And, for the sake of completeness, here are our promises (written by myself and Heather) and the readings (found on the internet) used on the day.

Parents’ promises

Do you promise to love Kara always and cherish each day with her?

Do you promise to nurture Kara’s growth and development, from infant to girl and from girl to woman?

Do you promise to fuel Kara’s curiosity and teach her to appreciate the world in all its diversity?

Do you promise to encourage Kara to become a caring and valued member of society?

Do you promise to support Kara in pursuing her dreams and fulfilling her potential?

Do you promise to guide Kara in choosing her path in life and to be proud of the woman she becomes?

Supporting adults’ promises

Do you promise to help and support Tim and Heather in their role as Kara’s parents?

Do you promise to be there for Kara, as an advisor and a friend?

Do you promise to encourage Kara in her hopes and aspirations?

Do you promise to share in Kara’s successes and help her deal with life’s challenges?

Do you promise to assist Kara in living a happy and fulfilled life?

Reading 1: A parent’s wish

We wish you a childhood full of fun and games

And we wish you memories that have little pain.

We wish you to learn by making mistakes.

We wish you to love and never to hate.

We wish you the strength to make up your own mind

But we wish that your heart will be gentle and kind.

We wish you to reach out when a friend needs a hand

And we wish you to help him face life’s demand.

We wish your life brings you some ups and some downs.

But we wish you will smile much more than you’ll frown.

We wish you will taste life’s sweet smell of success.

Only to find no replacement for true love and happiness.

We wish life will teach you to stand on your own.

But we wish you to know that you’re never alone.

We wish you success in all that you do.

And we hope that all your dreams will come true.

But the one thing above and beyond all of this

Is the love that is felt by your parents’ wish.

Reading 2: Follow your dreams

When others say “It’s hopeless and it really can’t be done.”

When they tell you “It’s all over. It’s a race that can’t be won.”

And they promise “You could spend your life just lying in the sun.”

Follow your dreams, girl. Follow your dreams!

When the people you admire, but who wouldn’t understand,

Tell you “Other roads are safer. Your dreams are much too grand.”

Or the doubters and the tempters try to take you by the hand.

Follow your dreams, girl. Follow your dreams!

You should listen to the counsel of the people that you trust.

But don’t be turned aside just because they might get fussed

You live the life that in your heart you know you really must.

Follow your dreams, girl. Follow your dreams!

There is nothing you can’t conquer if you believe you can.

No mountains you can’t straddle, no oceans you can’t span.

Just conjure up a vision and set yourself a plan.

Follow your dreams, girl. Follow your dreams!

Reading 3: Little eyes upon you

There are little eyes upon you

And they’re watching night and day.

There are little ears that quickly take

In every word you say.

There are little hands all eager

To do anything you do;

And a little girl who’s dreaming

Of the day she’ll be like you.

You’re the little lady’s idol,

You’re the wisest of the wise.

In her little mind about you

No suspicions ever rise.

She believes in you devoutly,

Holds all you say and do;

She will say and do, in your way

When she’s grown up just like you.

There’s a wide-eyed little lady

Who believes you’re always right;

Her eyes are always opened,

And she watches day and night.

You are setting an example

Every day in all you do;

For the little girl who’s waiting

To grow up to be like you.