Like me, she’d only changed middle names.
I didn’t easily come to that decision myself. I really wanted to name my own child, from scratch. New life – new language – new name? Just plain possessiveness? The sheer fun of choosing names? Yes, yes, and yes.
I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I read pros and cons, all written by adoptive parents, certain they’d chosen correctly, or at least not incorrectly. I wanted to read something from the perspective of an older adoptee, but did not find anything.
Then, I remembered Patty Duke. I’d read an article about her once, decades ago, where she spoke about how traumatic it had been to have her name changed for the stage, as if her identity had been stolen from her.
How much more traumatic could it be for a child whose life has already been so out of control and full of loss and change?
I kept the given name, and chose a middle name for my daughter.
Nine years later, my daughter would like to change it. She chose to go by her middle name several years ago, and if everyone would call her by this name, she would not be pushing for a legal name change. However, they don’t.
In your homeland, this is a soft name, pronounced Kah-rin, with a slightly rolled R. You move to America, and everyone calls you Care-en. It’s spelled the same, but it’s not your name. You tell people how to say your name, but many still call you Care-en.
Now imagine that your name is Karen (Kah-rin) Elizabeth, and you ask your teachers to call you Elizabeth. They call you Care-en. You explain that your name is pronounced Kah-rin, but prefer to use Elizabeth. They call you Care-en all year.
The first year in public school, she began mentioning that she wished I’d done her names the other way around. I told her I wished I had, too, but explained my reasoning for not.
The second year, she began saying that she’d like to change her name. I told her that it’s easy and free to do when you get married, if you still want to do it then.
Recently, she asked could we please do it now? We’re starting the process this summer.
Unfortunately, it won’t be legal when school starts in August, so she will begin high school as Care-in.
Is hindsight 20/20?
If I had it to do over again, would I change her name from the start?
I think she would have accepted it at the time, but would she have resented it later? Would she now, as a fifteen year old, or later, as a 30 year old, wish to reclaim a heritage and identity which was stripped away? How can I know?
I do know that now, it is her decision, one that I think she is capable of making for herself.
Have you ever thought about changing your name?
Would you allow your child to change theirs?