A rose, or a daughter, by any name…

What's in a name?  Would you allow your child to change theirs?Last week, I was talking to a friend about our children’s names.  Like me, she adopted older children.  I asked if she’d changed their names.

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.

A rose, or a daughter, by any other name...Imagine you are from a foreign land, and your name is Karen.

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?

A rose, or a daughter, by any name...As tempting as it is to think that it would have been easier to change my daughter’s name nine years ago, I don’t know that it would have been easier for her.

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?


25 thoughts on “A rose, or a daughter, by any name…

  1. I think you did it exactly right, leaving the change to be made when *she* might be ready to. I’ve never considered changing the names of my daughters. I did, though, tell my oldest — Brianna — to always correct people when they pronounce it Bree-ANN-uh for she is Bree-ON-uh. She does sometimes… then the numbskulls just call her Bree, which we both hate. My Andrea is almost always Andie, and she (a tomboy from Day 1) thinks that’s pretty nifty.
    Great post, for this is something I never considered in adoptive situations. Good luck to all with the change.

  2. I think you did the right thing. I also understand why your daughter wants to make the change and I think you’re doing the right thing again by letting her change her name.

  3. When I was a kid, my stepfather was going to adopt me and change my last name to his. I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep my name. Even when I got married, I kept my own last name. So, I think this scenario could have gone either way. When I was younger I did not like my first name. Everyone would tell me that they had a Grandmother named Lillian. Now I like my name. I guess I have grown into it!

    • I love your name! You are right, it can go either way. How can we know how someone else will feel? I am glad that your stepfather respected your decision.

  4. I have never changed my legal name, but I do go by a nickname most of the time. What I find the most interesting thing about names is how some people will not, will not, will not use the name that you ask them to use. It’s so rude, yet I find that the offensive person doesn’t see it that way. He or she feel that their choice of your name is the right one because they said so. Drives me crazy. How arrogant is that?

    • That drives me crazy, too. We were genuinely surprised at how many teachers would not use her middle name. Both my mom and my father in law have always used their middle names, and it was never an issue. I do think part of it is the computerization of school records.

      • You are probably right. Now that I think about it my cousin’s daughter goes by a cutesy version of her middle name, but her school calls her by her formal first name. Seems wrong to me, but I get why it’s happening.

  5. Agree with other readers your decision allowed your daughter to develop her own set of feelings about her name, love that she is going through with the name change.

    My mother named me Wendy Bell Stebbins, at 9 months of age she had a change if heart and changed my name to Elinor Margaret Stebbins, Elinor after her and her mother, but she called me Elin (pronounced E-Lynn). I have contemplated legally changed my name to Elin countless times…no one calls me Elinor (thank goodness!) the odd thing is my husbands mother’s name was Elinor too.

    My mother passed away last week and with her another Elinor is but a memory, today, for the first time ever I find myself glad I never changed it even though I will never use it…

    • I know a few people whose families changed their mind, but didn’t change the legal name. I’m glad your mom was smarter than that. I think Elinor is a lovely name – more so when it holds memories like yours.

  6. Our daughter was born Jennifer Lynne, and called Jenni, When we adopted her at age two, we continued to call her Jenni, but changed her name to Jenna (less common at the time) and gave her the middle name Chareese, after our good friend. She’s happy that we gave her a more creative name, in her opinion. As in all things parenting, we do what we think is best for our kids and make adjustments along the way.

  7. Wow, I can’t imagine having to make that decision but I know the pain of constantly being called the wrong name. My name is Kiera, pronounced like you would say “ear” but with a K at the front and a at the end, like Keira Knightley (except I came first). For most of my younger years, my name was an anomaly and people called me Cara, Key-a-ra, and whatever twisted version that came about. Now the name is not quite as uncommon (thanks to ms.Knightley) so I do understand with your daughter. Not exactly the same but I sympathize.

  8. This was actually a big part of the baby naming process for us. Would our kids love their names or hate them? Only time will tell. But people love to create nicknames or make funny (or ugly) rhyming names. What a crapshoot naming a kid is, lol.

  9. What a hard decision. I personally think you did the right thing. You let her come to the decision on her own and I think that’s what she ultimately appreciate it. (FINALLY, heading over from the Honest Mom Link Up. Thanks for stopping by and sorry for the delay in heading back!).

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