So we had an incident at school – well a couple really. Despite the fact that we’ve told the school over and over again that whilst we’re awaiting the legal form confirming adoption (the so called ‘long form’) – can they PLEASE PLEASE ensure that they ONLY use our adoptive surname. Unfortunately there have been a number of incidents when they have continued to use our child’s birth surname. We’ve obviously confirmed to our kids, their adoptive last name. We’ve also been lucky enough to give them middle names. So we’ve really been using their ‘new’ surnames since they arrived. They were so young when they arrived that they literally did not know their ‘old’ surnames.
Names seem to be important, there are entire books out there dedicated to naming children. As adopters we don’t get the option of giving our children their forename and only occasionally do we get the option to give them a middle name. In our family we were fortunate, our kids did not have middle names so we were able to give them middle names along with a new last name! It did get me thinking though, how important is a name?
I found a really interesting article on Psychology Today which discusses this idea in a bit more detail: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/hello-my-name-is-unique
I think however, for adoptive children the issue runs far deeper than is the name popular. As adoptive parents if we’re lucky we’ll know the ‘reason’ they were called their first name – as this does seem to be a key part of acceptance of your name. Knowing why you’re called what you’re called (example: it was my mothers maiden name etc). Not knowing, I would imagine in time would make the name harder and harder to accept, and therefore knock at your esteem. Only time will tell if our kids keep their birth names (first) or eventually wish to change it to their middle names (given by us) or to something entirely different that they feel they ‘own’.
The event that kicked off this reflection was that at this week in school, my eldest confessed (after 40 hours of deteriorating behaviour) that in the ICT (computer) suite at school, on the screens they used a last name for them which was decidedly not theirs (according to them). Unfortunately it necessitated a conversation about their ‘old’ surname and their ‘new’ surname. I explained that now that we’ve adopted them (we’re still awaiting for our celebration hearing date – so haven’t been able to ‘see the judge’ to let them really feel the change) – we were able to share with them our last name. Seeing their birth surname really did knock them back. I think it made them question whether or not we were telling the truth (about the adoptive order being granted). It was so hard to see them so upset.
In preparation for the adoption/court date we’ve talked a lot about the wise old judge (similar language to their life story books) seeing that they are safe here, and how much we love each other and how much we want to be a family and that he will grant an adoptive order. This adoptive order means that we’re now a forever family and share the same surname. It’s just frustrating that the celebration hearing should be so long (in our case over 2.5 months) away from the adoptive order as the kids can’t visualise the change until they ‘see the judge’ and get their certificate directly from him.
So right now, our kids are desperately trying to trust us that they ‘really’ will stay here forever (despite not seeing a judge). It’s a worry to them when they are still called their ‘old names’. It did give me a change to dig out a book we used a while ago (from our child’s therapist) called: The Huge Bag of Worries by Virgina Ironside. It’s a great book which reminds children that sharing worries will lessen them.
Once we discussed the schools error in the ICT suite (and I had another quiet word with the school about the importance of using ONLY their adoptive names so as not to confuse again!) they were a lot happier and relaxed.
On a more positive note, now that they are ‘officially’ ours, we began looking for the perfect gift to celebrate the addition of their ‘middle’ name. I found an AMAZING book called The Little Boy/Girl Who Lost His/Her Name. It is ABSOLUTELY wonderful as the child in the book goes on adventure after losing the name from their bedroom door and they help all sorts of characters (dragons, robots, bears, lions etc) and each character gives them a letter and at the end of the book all the letters spell their name! We used the dedication page to talk about how special they are to us and how we wish to give them something special (their middle name) to show them just how much we love them. This book would even make an amazing gift!