Saturday, October 10, 2009

Autumn Asks: What's In A Name?

This week, over at Grown in My Heart, the subject is names.

Tell us about names this month…How did you name your children? Did they come to you with names? Did you change them? Did your parents change your name? Do you not feel connected to your name?

Basically, what is in a name?

I hesitate to write on this subject as it is another one of those "hot button" issues in the adoptive parent crowd. I have seen some rather heated and ugly posts on this issue in the last 6 years.

So let me start by saying I believe every family is different. I don't think that just because I do what I do, all others much follow suite. I am not threatened by others doing things their own way. I don't expect others to follow in my shoes.

When it came to adopting a child, I was interested in an existing child living in an orphanage with no family. This is one small reason why we didn't adopt within our own system. I was not interested in private adoption of a newborn infant....there are long waiting lines for that type of adoption by couples that are unable to get pregnant, for one reason or another. I wanted to raise a child that already existed...without a family of their own.

We always understood that our child would already have a name.

A name that pre-dated our relationship and belonged to the child...not to us.

As such we knew we would be keeping at least part, if not all, of this name.

Our choice was to give the child a slightly normal "American" first name in conjunction with the name the child came to us with. We waited until we had the baby's name to pick that name as we wanted the whole thing to sound pleasant together and flow well (Note: If our daughter had been an older child we would not have done even that without considering the childs wants). We did keep the whole Chinese name as it was rather short. Of course we ended it with our last name. For sake of easy, on forms we combine the two Chinese names - nobody knows the difference.

This has worked well for us. She has a name that is not too terribly uncommon (all of our names in my family are slightly different so we couldn't go plain Jane on her). We use the nickname the nannies used for her occasionally...and she knows that. At any point in her future, should she decide to drop the first name we gave her and use the name the orphanage gave her, we will support that...and even pay for it.

This is our comfort zone. We have not taken from her something that belongs to her.

Many people I know discarded all names their child came with and chose to give them family names and such as part of the claiming process. I understand why they feel that way.

Others chose to give their children a new Chinese name as the orphanage name is not the name the first family gave them. They don't feel that an orphanage name is important or any different than giving an all American name. Or maybe that orphanage name is not flattering. I know some people that have consulted with other Chinese to help them pick a name that is right for their child and has a good meaning in Chinese. Both sound like wonderful and valid choices.

As the adoptive parent, I think we have to choose what seems right in our family dynamics. As long as we are willing to support our children in their opinions, I think there is no right or wrong.

It's the importance that the child puts on the name that comes first for us. My place in my daughter's life is not to replace or erase her past. My place is to support her and her story to the best of my ability. None of that is about me.

So, for me, what's in a name?

Whatever my daughter wants...that's what.


  1. There is nothing wrong with going with the family dynamics. But, allowing your daughter her freedom is key and good that youa re open to that.

  2. And that, I think, sums it up nicely.

  3. I am so grateful God led me to you when He did. I know our adoption story is very different then yours, but hearing yours helps me.
    Thank you for being open, for sharing online links, and joys, and hardships, and little pieces of practicality.
    Thank you.

  4. Very well written. I like your thought process, too. And I'm sure your daughter will be glad to know all the consideration and love you put into naming her.