Initially we had such a different plan for bringing children into our family. I was going to try to become pregnant sometime in our very near future, we would maybe have anywhere between 2-3 kids. We would have birthplans, name them, enjoy the slow-paced pregnancy and ready our world for babies, grow with them into kiddos then work hard at raising up big moody teenagers. And then two beautiful little people came to our home, with names, and birthdates and a whole history that did not belong to us. As we just recently selected our adoption date, many choices were brought into focus that needed answers. The first was what we were going to do about the whole name thing. Change it? Leave it? Blend it? For what it’s worth, here’s where we came down around the whole name game.
Let me back up a minute first to say that we really feel our work and delight as foster/adoptive Mamas is to create a life for our boys that welcomes where they come from, holds who our family is, and then honors that an entire other part of life happens after they leave our home. My wish is to hold that entire story right at the first moment of choice here, which is their name. Who were your people? Who are your people now that you come together with for holidays, special honorings and love? What are the wishes we hold for where you go after us? That to me is the real narrative of how we find our boys first, middle and last name in our family.
Tiny has a name unique to his birth order and it’s also very identifying. I’ve googled, and looked at name registry’s and think his name is likely one of a few men with that name in this country. Some friends thought we should change it as he will always be findable with that name, and some days we felt carrying the name that was really a namesake for him & his birth mom was a heavy load for a Tiny baby. In the end, we felt that the name he came into this world with is the name he will keep; it tells of where he came from. Much like I feel about everything that goes around in this world of foster-adopt, it’s so complex, and so individual. I could add so much more here about how we wrestled with what it means to have Tiny push through the world with a name that will either open or close doors on face vaule. This story of a man named Jose, who changed his name to “Joe” on his resume and found he was instantly marketable and responded to in job applications, tripped me up for a few weeks. Living as a white lady with white privilege means never having to worry that your name is keeping you out of the loop, and also feeling stunned and ill-equipped to help my boys manage the same process.
Mr. T has a name that is general enough, and ironically the same name as many of my friends' children, as well as The Artist's brother. It’s not identifying, not clearly associated with a race or ethnicity. And yet he has gone by a nickname he came with that isn’t specific to his first name. All that to say he is keeping his name too. It is how his older brother and sister know him. It is the name on his little quilt blanket he moved in with that came from a quilt guild volunteer circle who offers blankets to kids in foster care. He sleeps with that blanket every night. It’s not soft, or fuzzy or even warm, but it’s his and has his name on it.
In court one day over the winter, I asked the boys Mom how she chose their middle name and she replied it was from the Bible. As we talked, she mentioned she wasn’t sure which story, or why she chose which name for which boy. Many months later we were talking with a member of the extended network involved with Mom and when I asked how she first met Mom, and she said they met in church when Mom was a teenage. She offered other details I’ll keep private, as this is one of the many stories I have heard that I very much want the boys to hear first, to hear and understand before any other people in my life. The artist and I were talking one day about middle names and keeping/changing/adding was the topic on the table and I really started thinking more about how to do this in a way that is honorable on our part. We are keeping the middle names that Mom picked for them as it feels important to us to offer the boys concretely the truth that their Mom was someone who tried to find a world for herself that was connected, and kind. Maybe so she could bring some of that to her kids or maybe so she could find folks who would help her with her kids. I know this process of hers isn’t my business, and yet I want our family to be one where we hold the hopeful wishes and the really hard reality of what their family before us was. We are picking middle names to add as the adoptive Mamas, names that hold meaning and are special to us. Names we have only really found our way into as we have gotten to know and fall so deeply in love with these boys. We will have two middle names, the Mamas you have now, the Mom you were born into this world by. They will be the kids with killer long names and hate filling out forms, and I entirely understand that.
We are creating a family last name and the details are not entirely worked out yet. The Artist is against hyphenating on principal. I dunno. Something about her aesthetic. She also really hates certain fonts so we can just roll with this. I want my last name first as it is linguistically an easier transition, she wants her last name first as it would put kids closer to the front of the line in alphabetical name line-ups and she totally dug that when she was a kid. So the family last name is a work in process. We are a family in process.
A multi-step, multi-part family. All parts awesome.