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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reader Question: Did You change their names?

Yes we did. We actually started using their new names shortly after their good bye visit with Sheila last August. So the only name that really changed this week was their last name (kind of, one of them actually had our last name). We had started using them so we wouldn't have to try to do a name change mid-school year. Plus the kids had only been in the school the last 1/2 of the year so they didn't know everyone yet. The school was great about going with the new first names.

At some point Simon spontaneously asked his teacher if he could change his name tag on his desk to our last name. He was tired of waiting on the legal stuff. He started to write Simon Almost Last Name on his papers. So we asked all the kids and they asked for the same update. Their report cards and benchmarks still had their legal names. 

The name change was a bit cumbersome at first. We sounded like owls because someone would ask for a person by their birth name and we would all answer "Who?". Within a few months the slip ups were less and less. And now it almost never happens unless we have to use the old name for a reason. 

Each of them kept part of their birth name. And in various ways each of the kids had input into their new name. Stella was the one most resistant. She kept "Stella" as her middle name (her request) and we gave her the name of my Grandmother. Sarah had two middle names and picked one of them to keep as her middle name. We gave her a new first name and then argued abut how to spell it. My argument was if she spelled it the shorter non-traditional way people would mis-pronounce it her whole life. I lost. Sure enough on adoption day the judge made that very mistake. (Moral: Mom is always right.) Her middle name also is the same as my BFF so there is a family connection.  

Simon's nickname stayed the same because that's just who he is. I couldn't picture calling him something different but didn't like his first name. So we named him a more formal name with the same nickname (think Nickname Rob changed from Robby to Robert). He also had two middle names and picked the one that is the same as my brother's name. He now insists on being called his formal name which breaks my heart. (But also his nickname and Sarah's name rhyme so that causes some confusion that I didn't consider.) Finally, Smiley had her birth middle name become her first name and she was given my Mom's name as a middle name. I really disliked her first name. It was cute while she is little and all dimples but when she turns 23 going for her first job no one was going to take her seriously. 

I had to rattle their legal names off at the pool the other day (despite being full siblings- Simon and Sarah had different last names) and Simon asked me how I remembered all of that! I told him because I was his Mom. :)

We met some opposition in family members about changing their "real" names that their "real" mother gave them. We explained the new names were an important part of the claiming and bonding process. Especially since there were multiple kiddos. And as parents we have a right to name our children. We also reminded them that we are in fact, real parents.

Name changes are something that every family needs to decide for themselves. I've been asked if we adopted Solana if we would change her name. I actually like her first name and our nickname for her. I have a longer version of her name I call her when I'm being silly or stern so maybe we would go with that. I wouldn't keep her middle names though so maybe we would give her a new first name like the other kids but keep her nickname similar to Simon. But that's a lot of hypothetical. 

To her credit Sheila has made an effort to use their new names since we changed them. We had a lot of discussion on what they would call Sheila at the visit. We have introduced the idea of "Birth Mom" as a term that others will recognize. The kids never referred to their other foster parents as "Mom" so First Mom didn't go over well with them. I suggested we call her Mommy Sheila since they used to call her Mommy. (They don't really refer to me as Mommy, I'm just Mom.) I'm probably the worst at remembering to refer to her as something other than "your Mom".  They used Mommy, or Mom or didn't call her by name. I could tell when the kids were talking to me instead of her so it wasn't a big deal. I'm sure with time this will get more comfortable.

Did you change your kids' names at adoption? Do they call you something  different? Share your experience.


  1. We only changed one of our children's first names. It was weird, spelled wrong and did not fit her at all. We changed middle names of two, and our last one will have his current last name changed to his middle name.

  2. My oldest was adopted at 16. While I had given him some input, I didn't really get much of a say in his name. The name he has used all his life was not technically the name on his birth certificate. His name was misspelled on his birth certificate and his mom never noticed or noticed and did nothing about it. So, we changed the spelling to be the name he has been using. He kept his middle name and dropped one of his last names and added mine. This leads to a boatload of confusion, since my last name is 13 letters! He gets upset when someone uses just my last name, but is fine if his mother's last name is used alone. It is what it is. He toyed with changing his first name to the one he uses on Facebook, because it is his favorite name, but he worried his family would be angry and so ultimately didn't change it.

    The little ones I will be adopting once the county get's their head out of the hind quarters, are another story. The little guy is keeping his first name but I am changing his middle name. Right now his middle name is Blessed. I'm changing it to my dad and brother's middle name (Allen) which will also give him matching initials. The little girl had an apostrophe in her first name, which bugs me. And no one pronounces it correctly. I'm not even sure how it is supposed to be pronounced, since even her mom says it different from time to time. I like her middle name so I've been thinking about swapping them. I've tried talking to her about changing her name but she always ends up getting upset. She has 3 last names (or at least that is what her mom says) and it became a joke for us to use them all like her mother did when they were visiting, only now she adds my last name to the mix. I want her to be content with her name and not lose her identity, but I'm really hoping she will agree to a new first name. We hardly use her first name, we call her JJ (because when she first came to respite with me she wouldn't tell me her name and her foster mother told me so quickly I promptly forgot it). I'll have to keep you posted on the final outcome!

    Congratulations on the finalized adoption!

  3. To the commenter above - if your child is Latina she probably does have 3 last names! That is pretty common so using your last name as the legal one, and still keeping all the others as part of her heritage, shouldn't be too big of a deal. We will be changing our son's middle name because it is also spelled wrong on his birth certificate, and it doesn't have any special significance to his birth family. However, he has answered to his first name his whole life, so I feel like it would be destabilizing to change it. I can see letting a child make that decision (I have heard of kids who were named after this abusers wishing to change their names), but at this point he would pick "Spider-Man" so I think we'll just stick with what his birth parents named him. Even though they named him after a brand that the dad liked :/

    His birth mom gets VERY upset when he calls me "Mommy" so he has learned to use my first name around her and continues to call her "Mommy." As soon as our visits are over, he goes right back to calling me "Mommy" and actually doesn't even talk about her much. It makes me sad that he has already learned how to walk on eggshells around his first mom, but she is mentally ill and it is what it is!

    1. You might be surprised at how the kids take to the idea of a new name. Sarah and Smiley were super excited to find out what name we picked.

  4. my daughter was born with a really unusual and long name. we called her "sissy" because it sounded like part of her birth name. so when she was adopted i changed her name completely because she was never called her birth name. but we still call her sissy but we also talk about how she had a baby name.
    i didn't expect to adopt my son so we called him by his birth first name (no one could agree on what his middle name was) prior to the adoption. when i adopted him i gave him a new first name and moved his birth first name to his middle. i thought that would help with the transition for everyone since we had all been calling him by his birth first name for a year.
    ultimately it is whatever fits best for the child and family. there are so many different circumstances around adoption that an outside could never understand all the reasons for a name change. i say do what is best for you (the children & families).

  5. Our son was adopted from foster care. We kept our son's first name, moved his last name to his middle name and added our last name. His name is not one I would have chosen, but suits him so well. I love the fact that he has his historic/biological name along with our last name. His first parents preference would have been for him to keep his full name without our last name, but that didn't feel quite right to me.

  6. Having heard from so many adult adoptees (both adopted from care and internationally adopted as older kids) who had very strong negative feelings about having their names changed, we kept our son's first and last name as first and middle name, and added our last name. We dropped his birth middle name so he wouldn't have a crazy-long name.

    Many adoptees I know initially were either ambivalent or happy to have their names changed, but as adults have more complex feelings about the change. We never want our son to feel as if he had a "past life" and a "new life," or that we're his "new family" and he doesn't have the old one anymore. Even though there was lots wrong with his situation, he is still himself, and the continuity of keeping his name allows him to see that he is writing one continuous story, even though his family is changing in the process.

    1. Beautifully put. Thank you for sharing!

  7. ^^ I agree with everything the anonymous poster on June 27 had to say. If we were ever in the place where we got to adopt the babies we have now, we would most definitely be keeping their first names. Neither child has a middle name so we would be adding those. (In fact, we already have. Right or wrong but I like to have a nice long name to rattle off when I mean business. LOL) The children would take our last name.

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  8. My son had an apostrophe in his first and middle names. We changed both. He honestly picked his name at 3. He would say my name is A when it was really D. So we went with that. The name he picked is actually bio dad's middle name so there is a connection. Not a name I would pick but more normal than what he had. I originally was only going to change the apostrophe for a vowel but my kid knew what his name was. His sister had a crazy name too but came as an infant. He had a nickname for her that she still uses. We took the nickname and cleaned it up. Think Jenny to Jennifer.
    I think every situation is different. If names are appropriate and sentimental to child then it makes sense to keep them. In my case, both kids differences on their own.