Friday, September 14, 2012

"Foster Friday" Q & A - The Name Game

With so many new adoptions in the works for many of you, the subject of changing your child's name has come up quite a bit recently on different blogs and support groups.  When I received a call a couple of days ago to submit my homestudy for an adoptive placement of a 2-month-old baby girl, I started wondering...  Would I want to change her name?  Yes.  She's so young I doubt she knows her name right now anyway.  But that made me think...  

How do you make the decision to change your child's name when they are older?  18 months, 3 years, 8 years, 17 years?  At 18 months old, would I have changed Monkey's or Booger's names if I'd been able to adopt them?  They knew their names at that age, and an 18-month-old certainly isn't going to understand why everyone is suddenly calling him something completely different.  An older child would.  They might even be excited about process and concept of helping to choose their new name.  So many thoughts running through my head on the subject!!!

I started thinking about all of my foster kiddos, their names, and how I would feel about changing them if I had been able to adopt them.  I thought about baby name books and how most people go about choosing names for their children.  I thought about how a completely different name might affect my little ones verses how a new name might be welcomed for others.  (I tend to overthink things, I think ;-)
Banana and Her "Mad" Face :-)
Mimi's Personal Naming Rule #1:  Avoid Terms of Endearment and Names Associated with Peace Signs and Bell Bottoms

My first foster daughter's name was one that I definitely would have changed.  I'm not quite certain what her mother was on when she named her, but I am fairly certain whatever it was wasn't exactly legal.  Munchkin had one of those super long, hippie, endearment names similar to "Honey Autumn Moonbeam Doe."  Having a term of endearment as your child's first name can really freak a mama out when random strangers call them by name.  When that child is a foster/adopted child, you definitely don't want to hear their name coming from the mouth of an unknown person.  In Munchkin's case, I probably would have kept one of her middle names and changed her first name.

Mimi's Personal Naming Rule #2:  When Bestowing a Clearly Cultural Name Upon Your Child, It Is Wise to Use a Name from THEIR Culture

When Monkey came to me, I found it rather amusing that this 100% Hispanic child had a decidedly Irish first and middle name paired with a very, very Hispanic surname.  His last name is so culturally-rooted that even my company's translator had difficulty pronouncing it!  Would I change it now?  No.  I love his name.  I might have even used it had I been able to have little Irish babies of my own.  But had I wanted to change Monkey's name to one with a cultural ring to it, I don't think I would have chosen one that leads you to expect a red-headed pasty white boy with an Irish accent.

Mimi's Personal Naming Rule #3:  PUH-LEEZE Don't Get All Creative with the Spelling!

When Booger Bear came through my door, his paperwork was a mess!  I quickly realized that was because his birthmother decided to take some creative liberties with the spelling and no one had a clue how she wanted it spelled.  I wouldn't have changed his name...  But I would have corrected the spelling so the poor kid wouldn't have to spend his entire lifetime explaining that "No, it's not a typo."  Unfortunately, Kelly didn't change it when Booger went to him, so my special boy is probably going to grow up with people thinking that he is "special" in other ways because he doesn't know how to spell his own name.  The sad thing is that it's been so long now that I really have forgotten how his name is supposed to be spelled!

Mimi's Personal Naming Rule #4:  When Enlisting the Assistance of Your Preschooler in the Re-Naming Process, Don't Take Their Suggestions TOO Seriously

When Christy found out she was having the Mini Munchkins, she wanted to include the Big Twins in as much as she could.  They spent hours going through names and bouncing ideas off of each other.  Buddy chose a name for his little sister, and kept pushing it on Christy for months leading up to the birth.

     *** Butterfly Crystal ***

Christy finally asked him why he liked that name so much, and he responded with "girls' names should be beautiful, and that's a beautiful name!"  Christy compromised by telling Buddy that he was right, and that she would save that very special name just for him so he could use it for his daughter when he became a daddy.  (Well played, Christy!  Well played!)

Ka-Diva was much more practical in her approach.  Any time I asked her what she thought, she would reply with single syllable names like "Kate" or "Bart."  When I asked her about her name choices, she told me that her name was too long and that she just thought she'd pick easy names "so they won't run out of paper."  "Run out of paper," I asked.  "Yeah.  I always run out of paper when I write my name!"  :-)

Mimi's Personal Naming Rule #5:  Put the Breaks on the Crazy

I'm all for allowing my children some freedom of expression and promoting creativity.  However, when it comes to them being solely responsible for choosing the name that they would like to have on all of their legal documents for the rest of their lives, I say "Put the breaks on the crazy."  I can totally see Miss Banana walking into the room and announcing, "You may call me 'Princess Consuela Bananahamac!'"  Um, yeah...  I'm gonna go with "no" on that one.

Sooo...  My questions to all of you are...

"How did you decide whether or not to change your adopted child's name?"

"How old was your child when you changed their name?"

"If your child was young, were they confused?  How did they adjust?"

"If your child was older, did they participate in choosing their new name?"


Karen said...

We had friends who fostered a baby girl from 5 months old- 18 months old. Her name was a nice, "normal" name (spelling was different but not crazy). Her adoptive parents chose to change her name to a very unusual (As in, I've never heard of it) and just odd name. It saddened me. There really was nothing wrong with the name her birth mother had chosen, and at 18 months she clearly knew her name. Seeing her a couple years after her adoption, when she was about 4, I think I realized that (although I still don't think they should have changed it), names are not who we are. She was the same little girl I knew.

Our first foster baby ("Piglet" on the internet)...ohhh her name! I wish I could tell you it! The looks we were given when we told people her name! AND she has 3 just as crazy middle names. She was her mom's first baby girl, so her mom had to name her after every female she knew. She has grown into her name (which is kind of weird), but I think that if we had've adopted her my parents probably would have changed her name.
Looking forward to other peoples thoughts, great topic Tammy!

Mama P said...

We decided to change the boys' names when we saw that Teddy is a Jr. I have a very hard time swallowing the fact that my child would carry the name of someone who caused such deep wounds on his life.

The fact that they are 4 and 5 made things tricky...what if he WANTED to keep it? Well, I guess I would have to let him. Luckily, he said yes, and actually wanted to change his name to "Gold Ranger P." Also luckily, he agreed to let me just change his middle name to something special as a forever reminder that I want him to be all mine. Little Star could not possibly care less, as long as he gets some food to eat. His middle name will mean "God has healed." It's an odd name that no one will like, but if there ever were a more appropriate name for a child, the one we chose for him is.

Peanut is affectionately known as Peanut by all, even off of the blog. Alas, he is also a "2nd," and there is NO way I am keeping his name if he is TPRed and becomes ours.

Andrea said...

Baby M came to us under serious conditions, media conditions. So we very quickly started using his middle name for safety and it stuck. We'll be dropping his legal first name and adding a middle name for my husband-my father.

As for Ladybug, her name is fairly normal, but also spelled like someone was high. We've been calling her her birth name, but I've never thought it fit her, so we're trying out my very favorite girl name, it's very similar to her name, same ending sound, so we'll see. We've been using her birth name for six months, so everyone thinks we're a bit crazy.

Kathy of the HavinsNest said...

(All names changed to protect the privacy of my friends and family)

I have two sets of friends who have adopted family groups. The first set had 3 children when they adopted 8 siblings(yes, you read that right, they have 11 children). The kids were between the ages of 1 and 10. Some of the names were "fixed" upon adoption. For instance, Johnny Boy became Jonathan and my personal favorite, also given by a highly medicated parent, was the middle name of one son which was a racial slur of their own race. That middle name vanished and was replaced with another.

Second group adopted 4 children ages birth to 5. Their new parents wanted none of the "old" names so they began calling them by the old and new (ex: Levi became Levi Jonathan). Over a period of a year or so the "old" names were dropped and just the "new" name stayed. By then the kids were used to hearing the names and responded to them.

My cousin adopted his wives sons. The boys were in their teens. My cousin is John Jacob Astor. His dad was John Ross Astor. HIS dad was John Michael Astor. See a pattern? Each male went by his middle name. Upon adoption not only were my new cousins' last names changed but, with his permission and excitement, the first name of the oldest son was changed so he is now John Paul Astor.

Anne said...

My daughter came to me from the Foster Care system at 4 months old. I did give her a new namme, and made her original name her middle name. Given her young age at the time, I don't think it affected her much :)

Mary said...

We haven't had to play the Name Game {yet} but I really enjoyed reading your "Personal Naming Rules".

Carrie said...

I have a name book checked out from the library right now :) It looks like our twins may become free for adoption (although, we all know that could mean nothing {eye roll}. Their names are only one letter sound apart and also part of their birth mother's name. The majority of the reason we would change the names would be because there is a lot of confusion with doctors, etc with their names being so close together. They are 19 months now so I anticipate some confusion and more especially with friends and people at church since they already have a hard time telling them apart. I can just hear, "Did that use to be so-and-so?" now ;)

Jenny said...

When we adopted our daughter Payton, we kept her original first name because 1)we liked it and 2)she was already 18 months old at the time, knew her name and it just seemed to fit her. We did, however, change her middle name. Her birth middle name was an awful made-up term of endearment type name that I still cringe to hear. It's still in some doctors' files and some of our friends who thought it was funny still reference it (making me regret ever telling it to people in the first place- a good lesson out there). It was so much more difficult to pick a middle name than we'd ever thought. We tossed around various names for quite a while until our adoption attorney called us one day and said we absolutely had to choose one so he could finally file submit our adoption paperwork!

Foster Mom - R said...

Should we get to adopt our current placement (although unlikely) we would gain their input. They are 12, 10, 9, and 5. While the 3 girls have made up names their nicknames fit them and we could live with them as thier name (think Elizabeth to Liz). None of them have middle names and so we would give them middle names to honor our family. I would also spell the little guys name correctly. It's pronounced differently in Spanish than it is spelled and it's confusing. also spells he little guy's name

Mandy said...

2 of my foster boys are old enough to recognize a change in name, but they will still get one if we adopt. There was media in this case and also an extended family with so much violence etc I don't want the boys to be found although they are free to go looking when they are older if they so choose. We have been calling Baby by the first letter of his name because it fits him so my husband's only stipulation was that whatever name we chose it would have to work with that letter so he would not be confused.

Kylee said...

Super great thoughts! I have to admit, I did a double take when I first learned Monkey's name :)

We did all different things with my sibs. The 3 youngest still have the first names that were given to them by their bio's. Princess and Sunshine actually went through (unofficial) name changes when they moved to potential adoptive homes, but when they came back to us, we decided to stick with their original names...mainly because they had moved so much and would have been thoroughly confused. {Princess was getting to the point where she thought she could change her name whenever she pleased.} Also, they had gone through so, so many losses in their lives and their original name was something they had to hold onto. We thought that was special. (plus, they fit with our name pattern SO perfectly!)

We did give them new middle names, which I love. I just think they fit so perfectly with them. <3

Kylee said...

Oh, quick favorite were the kids that came to us NAMELESS. As in, right from the hospital. We named 3 babies during our foster care years. It was always chaos having so many people "choosing" a name for a baby that probably wasn't even going to stay his/her name! hah.

Mama Bird said...

Hi Tammy,I have been following your blog for a while but have never commented.
This topic is something we are dealing with right now. We are in the process of adopting our 21 month old foster daughter (she has been with us since she was 10 months).
We have decided to change her first name but keep her middle name.
Her first name is normally used as a boys name, although it is "technically" unisex, it is also one of those fad names that came and went about 7 years ago.
Honestly I just have never liked it and can't see myself calling her by that name for the rest of her life.
Her middle name is lovely and we know it will be meaningful for her when she gets older to have kept it.

We intend to start combining old name/new name when addressing her and then gradually drop the old name.

We have a friend who adopted an 8 year old girl who was named after her bio mother.
The girl decided that she did want to change her name at adoption.
She is now a teenager and her bio mother has passed away.
She now wishes she had kept her first name as her middle name.

Lots of things to consider.

May I add another rule?

Please don't give your child a name that clearly belongs to the other gender.

We know someone who named their little girl Noah and she hates it!

Acceptance with Joy said...

We adopted twins... They were six when they came to us and we couldn't really change their names until adoption which was a year later. The problem was we already had a Brianna.. A Brianna Grace, and the little twin we were adopting was Brianna Joy. Our oldest bio daughter is Vanessa Joy.... so right off we started leaving the BRI off the first name and called her Anna-Joy. On adoption we added Hope so she could be like her sisters Joy, Grace, Faith and Hope :-) In the end, I think I should have changed it more as Anna-Joy seems to be cumbersome for teachers... sigh. Live and learn. She did not mind the change one wit. We kept her twin brother's names and just added my husband's middle name.

Having changed a name once and having tried so hard to stick close to the original and realizing later the child had no real connection to the name, I would not hesitate to change a name completely if given the chance to adopt again.

Stacy said...

What about an almost 3 year old girl? Would you change her name? What if her given name is a normal, nice name, but not one you would have chosen and what if you always wanted a daughter named something else? That seems all about me and I'm thinking that, IF given the chance to adopt her, that she should keep her given name and we'll ad a middle name that is shared by all the girls in our family. Thoughts?

Allison said...

I think you have mentioned recently that early on, you started calling Bug by the name you will change his to. How did you make that decision with him, compared to others that you continued calling them by their given name?

Quirky Leprechaun said...

Our boys are 2 & 4 so if we get to adopt I think they're old enough to know the difference but young enough to confuse them. The 4 yr old is a jr so I'd love to change his name but at least we've always used his 1st name where his bio parents used his middle. I did have a question for you ladies though. We've thought about changing their middle names. It's a tradition in our families to use my husband and dad's middle name... however they are stereotypical white names but the boys have stereotypical Hispanic first names.The names flow together but I'm not sure about having two conflicting stereotypes for first and middle names. Thoughts?

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