Monthly Archives: May 2011

Names and Identity

We all have at least one, because we have to be called by something other than, “Hey you!” A name which, in part, identifies who we are.

Our name is representative of our personal history, and our story.

Like most, I was given a name when I was born. My name represented who I was—daughter of Liz and Bob, sister of John, Jeff and Jim.

When I married, I dropped my surname and took my husband’s, representing my relationship to him. Although I was proud to be known as my husband’s wife (a new layer of identity), I felt somewhat wishy-washy, ambivalent, about my name change.

After decades of being Judy____, I was now identified as Judy Miller. That was an adjustment. I worked full-time and was concerned that my clients wouldn’t know me by my new moniker, so I hyphenated the two surnames. My understanding husband supported me; however my three brothers felt otherwise. They assured that our family name would be carried on through their sons, if they had them (they did). They didn’t understand that carrying on the family name held little importance to me; my name recognition was about business relations and the bottom line.

The importance and significance of names began to change when Mark and I were to become parents. We spent months of hours-deep thought and discussion into the naming of our oldest.

Mark and I went through this same process with each new addition into our family. Each time we thought about how our child’s name would be perceived by peers and adults; we tried to picture our infants as children, teens, young adults, parents, and grandparents.

We considered how their name might affect them in school, as an adolescent and as an adult. How their name might stand out, might not “match” them. How would they be perceived professionally? What would kids shorten it to? What nicknames might be created out of their name? How would kids taunt our child?

Celtic favorites were dismissed. We adopted our daughters from China and our son from Guatemala. We felt it was of utmost importance that we keep their birth/given names because they linked them directly to their birth identities. We also decided to give our kids family names—one from my side and one from my Mark’s, claiming our kids as our children and weaving them into our family. We felt doing this would be an initial step, the foundation of merging their birth and adopted identities, critical for a healthy future.

Each of my kids understands the significance of their names and how they came to be called what they are called. We continue to struggle with sports, school and government forms, writing really small to get an entire name on the line or in the box. But it is important to include all of their name it because it represents that child.

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Filed under Adoption Issues, Claiming, Family, Identity, The International Mom

What I Know

**This post first ran on Grown in My Heart on April 20, 2011.

Adoption was an intentional part of our plan. As was being a multiracial family. Becoming the family we are just took us a little longer; adoption = a lot of time + more patience…

We are often asked if we would adopt again. The answer is, “In a heartbeat!”  And while we often say, “Never say never,” we feel our family is complete.

Adoption is joy and pain. Each time it was unfathomable joy to bring our children into our family. For us the awe was similar to our oldest’s son’s birth, actually more so, because of the intention.

We are indeed honored to be the parents of our children. Each of our younger three have experienced profound loss—of their birth mothers/parents, birth families, birth cultures, and therefore for their birth identities. We cannot replace these losses or substitute for them. We acknowledge them and move forward, addressing and working though adoption issues together.

My kids are not lucky. They were adopted. Circumstances were such that they could not remain with their birth families. Those stories are theirs and as it is I already feel as though I have shared too much.

My husband and I consider ourselves the fortunate ones. Our kids are simply amazing (that’s motherspeak for “I adore my kids!”). I might add that they also think we’re a “pretty cool family” (their words).

My kids live better lives than if they had remained in their birth countries. Ummm…, possibly…and no. They have different lives.

How is “better” defined? Our perceptions are strongly influenced by how we live in the U.S., by our general dominance and arrogance. Affluence is often perceived as equaling better. I don’t subscribe to that. Money can make life easier, comfortable, but it can also wreak negative consequences. Having more doesn’t equate to better or happy.

Have you spent time in the surreal poverty-stricken areas of Guatemalain the still of the early morning as the steam rises from the lush verdant jungle floor? Have you felt how the atmosphere vibrates and the light refracts differently, almost reverently in foothills of the southern footholds of China? Have you had or witnessed exchanges between people with which you share nothing but humanity?

No? It brings you to your knees. Beauty and richness abound everywhere, regardless of money. Appreciation does not.

We ARE a permanent family. We don’t celebrate adoption, “Gotcha Day,” “Forever Family Day,” “Welcome Home Day,” or whatever… To do so ignores that adoption happens because of travesty—be it education, poverty, country policies, etc. We commit to being and working on being a family—every day.

My kids laugh, fight, play, bicker, have each other’s backs, and act like the siblings they have become. They have bonafide relationships, referring to each other as sister and brother and us, mom and dad. They seek to spend time with each other and talk about and compare their pasts, but they also talk about their futures.

My kids retain their given names as well those we gave them, in a sense weaving their birth and adopted identities together. They are well-aware and proud of the significance of each name.

Adoption is not for the meek. Inherent issues in adoption exist, the special needs. How they surface and are addressed varies considerably within the person who has been adopted and within the family. Burying adoption issues only does harm to the child who has been adopted.

Adoption is a life-long journey, for each and every one of us. Inherent issues in adoption directly affect my kids who have been adopted and indirectly affect us as parents and as a family. We support our kids and validate what they feel. How they feel changes as they move through their developmental milestones. We advocate for sensitivity and support from others.


Filed under Adoption Issues, Adoptive Mom's Perspective, Family, Multiracial Families, The International Mom


My, oh my. What wonders my son comes up with, and pulls his youngest sister into.

I received a Tweet from Holden this morning: “’bout to be surprised! …night tweepers.”

His tweet, addressed to me (@MamaMiller, if you want to follow me) made no sense and I forgot about it until I went into the garage to take the kids to school.

Mark was already gone, so he missed my response.

I didn’t swear. I didn’t cry. I just kinda squeaked and squealed, rather loudly. Apparently I was somewhat dramatic; Josi thought I was dying (hmmm…). 

The blue is difficult to see. However, that yellow stands out, like you can see it down the road.

So, I crept down to school in my van (a car everyone seems to know) in the right lane (to avoid exposing myself) on one of our capital city’s busiest streets. I saw people smirking. I watched people shake their heads and appear to commiserate. Of course, the head of our school’s wife pulled up next to me while we waited for the light to change at one of the intersections. She was laughing and rolled down her window. She didn’t have to be told who did the artwork.

I was feeling conflicted—somewhere between dread and amusement. And my day got away from me, as usual, so my van is still covered on all three sides. Most likely baked on by our summer temperatures and sunshine. Tomorrow it will get it washed off, after I slink down to school and back.

Until then, let me say this:

  • If you see me coming, please DON’T HONK if you love Justin Bieber.
  • I do admire Prince; love his genius/creativity and the majority of his music.
  • I appreciate that my son feels compelled to tell everyone I’m the best.
  • Aubry drew the poop coming out of the pig and wrote “poop” underneath—just in case inquiring minds couldn’t figure out what was coming out of the pig…


Filed under Family, Growing Tweens & Teens, The International Mom