Adoption Arguments: What’s in a name?

Just in case you think that a couple in the midst of the adoption process must have it all together and always speak gently to one another, agree on everything, and constantly bat their eyelashes in the presence of the other, I figured I’d share about our some of our differences. I think that sometimes WE even think we shouldn’t have one single disagreement ever if we plan on adopting, but I know that the enemy uses those kinds of thoughts to give doubt a foothold. He hates adoption, and he is not only a liar, but he’s smart and crafty as all get out. So I figured I would talk about a couple of different issues (over time) that we’ve been debating throughout this process.

Obviously, the first one is related to our Boo’s name. Basically, we disagree on whether or not to keep his given name once he comes home. It is a native name, and though not totally un-pronouncable, somewhat foreign to the American tongue. I said, “Listen babe, the kid is going to be dealing with adoption and DS already, let’s cut him some slack on his name.” Daddy K says, “It’s HIS name, it’s part of who he is. Everyone else can deal with it.” So, I did some research, and really there are no clear answers.

There are definitely a few considerations that we have processed through in regards to either keeping or changing his name.

What are the benefits to keeping his name?

1.  Connection to past/heritage/history. For many adopted children, their name is the only surviving link to their past. It’s part of their story, and sometimes, when taken, only heightens awareness of how different they are. Or it could signal to them that their past was “bad” or “unworthy” in the eyes of their new parents. Their name can be a tie to their country of origin, and studies show that feeling connected to their culture is hugely beneficial to adopted children.

2.  Link to birth family. If a child has lost his/her parents through disease or death (or other possible reasons), the name his/her birth parents gave them could be very important to them. It reminds them of a family who loved them, that although now gone, is still hugely important.

3.  In many cases, it is their only constant. EVERYTHING else in their world has suddenly changed, and having the same name can be a comfort.

4.  It’s how they identify themselves.  I read a book once called Someone Knows My Name about the slave trade in early America (it’s great, you should all read it!!) and I will never forget this moment in bottom of the slave ship when someone recognizes Aminata (the main character) from her home tribe and calls her name. She rejoiced, because SOMEONE knew her real name.       They knew who she truly was, and she felt anchored.

Why would we want to change his name?

1.  There are many instances of God changing a person’s name in the Bible when He gives them a new identity (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter, Sarai to Sarah, etc.). He is giving them a new life, and a fresh start, and He gives them a new name to signify this rebirth.

2.  It is part of welcoming him to our family.  Choosing a name for your adopted child can help them to feel more like part of your family – their new parents had the honor of choosing a name that they felt would represent them for life and/or tie in with family history/culture.

3.  It’s possible he’s not super familiar with his given name at this point. Studies seem to say different things to this end. Some say that children three and below are fine with a name change. Others say two and below only. Still others say that for non-verbal children a name change is less of a big deal. I think it’s a judgment call in the end.

So, we have thought through and talked about all of these things. I think I would feel differently if his name had been given to him by his birthmother. Even though she didn’t keep him, if I knew she has chosen a name for his son that meant something to her, I would be more likely to want to hold on to that. However, in our beautiful boy’s case, we know he was abandoned at the hospital. His name was likely given to him by the first social worker who was assigned his case. And I guess I feel like, as his mama, I want to choose a name FOR him. Daddy K points out that this social worker might have come to his name prayerfully, and we don’t have any idea about the story behind his name, which is true. But we may never know where it came from, or if it meant anything to anybody.

Also, if he was much older I think I would feel differently about changing his name. But he will likely come home at two and a half, and probably not be super verbal at that time. Also, the name we have chosen sounds similar to his given name, which I think will help the transition. Right now we have half-settled on keeping his given name as his middle name. Then, we will give him a first name that matches the E of his brother and sister.

(I know, I know, I seriously wouldn’t have guessed we’d be a family that uses the same letter in all our kids’ names. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I think it’s too late. No offense to anyone else who does this! I obviously do it also, I just surprised myself here. 🙂 )

But of course, we aren’t 100% on this. Time will tell. From everything I’ve read, there is no right answer. So, like everything else, we will just make the best decision we can for our little man, and hope for the best. I trust that as long as we are open to listening to others and our Father, this will all come out okay as well. Happy Friday friends, and thanks for reading!

(Oh, and Daddy K will be single-parenting it for the next two weeks as I head off to do my Reserve annual tour in DC. This is my first time doing it away from home since either of our babies were born, so wish us both luck! And pray 🙂 )

One thought on “Adoption Arguments: What’s in a name?

  1. Hi Ali and Chris. I think both of you are right and have very valid points. Therefore, I think the compromise would be to have his birth name as his middle name. This would make both Chris and Boo happy because Boo would still have his birthname, It would make you happy because Boo would have a new name, chosen by his mother( “beginning with the letter E, of course) and would make him feel loved and wanted.

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