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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Names

As I mentioned on Facebook, we shared with the kids their new names on Sunday.   On the advice of the therapy team, we waited until the goal changed to adoption to start this piece of the attachment work.

Yes. Attachment work. My kids need to be claimed as my own. They need to know that I am going to call them mine and make them a part of me. Bestowing names on them does not try to erase their previous existence. I'm not trying to hide their origins. I'm trying to incorporate them into my family, forever.

Will you change their names? Is a question foster/adoptive parents get a lot. As their legal parent I get to name them the same as I would have if they were birthed by my and we were filling out the birth certificate for the first time.  A lot of people have tried to tell me that changing their name isn't fair to them, its their name. Sure. But a lot of their lives hasn't been fair to them. By that same logic they should have stayed in the unsafe situation they were in because it was their home. Sure it's their name but they didn't pick it. Their other parents did. The parents who no longer have a legal right to them.

We did put thought into the new names. We didn't change them just to change them. Aside from Smiley's name, I probably could have lived with them. But why should I have to "live" with my kids' names? We asked if there was importance or significance to the names they were given at birth and no one shared any with us. In fact, when I asked about Stella's name story at the first permanency hearing I attended, Sheila responded "her Dad and I were fine with it".

They kids have known for a while that their names would change.  They knew they would take our last name (except for Stella, she already shares it) and then we would figure out their first and middle names. We decided we would keep part of their original name to honor that connection as well. Everyone's first name changed. Simon's nickname suits him so we wanted to keep that as his nick name. (Think Rob changed from Robin to Robert).  I loved Smiley's middle name (almost as much as I hated her first name) and so her middle name became her first name and we gave her a new middle name, after my Mom.  At some point all of the kids made their wishes be know.  Simon asked to keep one of his two middle names as it is the same as my brother's and then told me he wanted to be "Robert" after we had already picked it.  Sarah asked to keep one of her two original middle names and it was also the one we happened to pick.  She got a totally new first name and she loves it.

Stella was the hardest as she already had our last name so that wasn't changing.  Her original middle name is my niece's name. As the oldest girl, I knew I wanted to name her after my grandmother.  And she had asked to keep her first name as her middle name.  But she really didn't want to change her name.  We asked her to give it a chance.  We explained the importance of her namesake.  She was still pretty hesitant but couldn't articulate why. She didn't have to.  We knew it was because its the connection to her birth family.  The very reason we wanted to change it.

We gave each of them a paper with their new names and a few sentences about why we picked it and the meaning of each name.  I read each one to the group and they were giddy about everyone's new name.  The rest of the day was spent laughing when everyone messed up the new names, including Mom and Dad.  They just cracked themselves up addressing each other. They started practicing writing their new names and I emailed the day care and the principals to let them know of the informal change. (The school had agreed that we could start using their new 1st names as their "nickname" at the beginning of the year so that the changes due to the adoption finalization wouldn't be so obvious in the middle of the school year.)

So far its going well.  I even think Stella is starting to come around.  Its still an effort to use the new names, even for me. But we will get there.  Everyone keeps correcting everyone else.

The kids keep asking me what my new name is.  When I said it wasn't changing, Sarah said, "No, its Mommy".  That was how they referred to Sheila. They all agreed they wanted my name to be "Mommy" now.  I just kind of sat with that.

We've had some family disagree with our decision.  I guess it comes with the territory.  I really can't believe that people will actually say to my face that its "weird" we are changing their names. Good thing its not up to them, since they are my kids.


  1. Love this! I am co-parenting my former FS with biodad and he is changing his son's name. We both agreed on the new name and also moved the first to the middle. This child will know his story, including his former names, because they are part of the story. His new name represents who he is, parented by the people who love him and put in the work for him.

  2. I appreciated your discussion of naming. We adopted our son from foster care when he was 11, like some of your kids, he was old enough to give input on his name. We kept both his birth first name and his birth last name, and added our last name. So he "birthfirst birthlast ourlast." This is what he wanted. While I understand changing younger kids' names if that's what they want, it seems a little unfair to change the name of a kid who does not want to change. Names are very personal. I don't like my dad's family much, but I still kept my paternal last name as a middle name, because it's always been mine, I wouldn't want to change it. It's not rational, but I've had the name long enough that it's part of my identity, and I think that's a good enough reason to keep it.

    1. All sides of this issue can be valid and I think it depends on the kid. I also think that sometimes we as adults put our spin on it. For instance "our names are ours. Yes after 25, 35 year we are secure in that. At 10 though, I'm not sure it carries the same meaning. There aren't jobs or degrees or accomplishments driving the connection to the name. I think about childhood wishes and nicknames- aside from family you usually move on from those because it no longer suits you to be Suzy or Bobby. I also think in Stella's case she also still talks about being a Pop Star as a career and living in a castle. So while input and feelings should be taken into consideration her imagination also needed to be considered as well.

      It's similar to women changing their names when they marry. It was really important to hubby that I change mine. But I had told him if I had gone on to medical school I would have kept my maiden name because it was my accomplishment as that name. If at 18 she choses to change it back then I will support that decision as something she feels the need to do. Similar to a family member who hated her name and changed it in adulthood.