Monday, 8 July 2013

What's in a name?

One particular feature of adopted children; they don't usually come with the names you would have chosen for them.

In the case of my boys, one had a first name I quite like, and might have picked as a second name. The other had a first name I don't actively dislike but I would not have chosen. Both had second names and one of those I utterly detested.

We were advised from the begining that it was a bad idea to change their 'user' names. I get the point: they have enough changes going on around them already, to get used to a new name would be hopelessly confusing for them. Also a name is part of your identity, even toddlers (as mine were) need to keep a sense of their own 'self'. So we kept their user names. Anyway their names fitted - they were them. Changing those names would have felt like abuse, like trying to make them be someone they weren't. I have spoken to a mother that changed her childs name, for something very similar. Now that does make sense. Changing the spelling might have been sensible too - to make the boys less traceable by birth family for example. But we liked the spellings, so we stuck.

BUT names mean a lot to me. One very important part of having children for me was chosing appropriate names with meanings that fitted. So it was painful for me to accept their preexisting names. I had spent years dreaming about what I'd call my kids, now I was not just robbed of giving birth to them but of naming them too.

We compromised. We decided to give them a second name each from us, and we lost that perfectly awful name we couldn't stand. The new names had to work well with their first names and our surname too, so we had a lot of thinking to do. To me at least they had to be meaningful as well. They are, I feel they both express how we felt about the boys, and I hope that when they understand what their second names mean they will feel how loved and welcomed they were. 

Pup already choses to use his second name sometimes, although we don't encourage it, we don't discourage it either. It gives me a secret little boost to hear him call himself by the name we chose. But we've told him that he cannot change his name formally at least until he starts senior school. Then... we will have to think.

It is interesting that both have said at different times that they don't want their names abbreviated. I think that they both have a very strong sense of self. It seems funny to me that we rarely use nicknames for them. I come from a family where nicknames were always used. In contrast Himself's parents never abbreviated his name or his brothers'. He and I use abbreviations for each other. We do use endearments for the boys, 'sweetheart' is the commonest, although Pup rebels at that sometimes. We also have private names for them that we use behind their backs. But don't tell them that!

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