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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1 Comment

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

One response to “Names and Identity

  1. Kim

    That is a really great idea of integrating birth names with family names. I love how you wrote it weaved it all together. Each name holds meaning to them and I think that is wonderful. It is something special they’ll always have to hold on to and share with others!

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