Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's In A Name?

Adoptive children enter our families, even as babies, with loss. Adjustments may go swimmingly, attachments and bonding may thrive, but the original loss for adoptive children can not be denied.
Consider international adoption. A child loses not only their birth family, but the sights, sounds and smells of their culture. Their language, in many cases, changes. In some cases, their birthdate is unknown--or changed to reflect a more "adoptable" child. Last, but definitely not least, their name--for any number of reasons--may be changed.
As for our children's names, Hannah is her Ethiopian name. Baby T and Baby Girl's first names were given by us, but we kept their Ethiopian names as their middle names. That way, they have their *first* names as a part of their name, but growing up in the US, have a name that is more Americanized. When they get older, we'll call them whichever one they prefer---even if that changes. I have a couple of non-adopted relatives who did that with their names for various reasons. Some Ethiopian names translate easily to English (obviously Helen or Hannah or Samuel, etc...but some do not. There are others Eyob=Job or Eremaus=Jeremy or Yosef=Joseph, etc...that people keep the Ethiopian spelling but make the accent more Americanized--or change the spelling entirely.) We also felt strongly about not changing Hannah's name because she was older and we wanted to allow her to feel as though the few things she was bringing from Ethiopia would remain unchanged. But I know of people (even in domestic adoptions) who changed the name of an older child with no adverse reactions. Usually, the child had a say in the new name, which I would imagine helped.

Any other adoptive parents out there who would like to weigh in on this issue? Any adopted children who might share their perspective?


Dawn said...

We plan to keep our son's Vietnamese first and middle names, combined, as his middle, with an American first name.

Julie Cooper said...

Our first two were adopted as infants from Chicago. We kept the names that their birthmothers gave them as their middle names.

As for the (then) two-year-old and 7-year-old we adopted from Ethiopia, we kept their first names unchanged. We let the older boy decide for himself what he wanted. And he liked his Ethiopian name, so end of story - fine. After being in the U.S. a year, he decided that he wanted an American-sounding name that people could pronounce. So we suggested he informally go by B.J. (Baye, his Ethiopian name, and Jerome, the middle name we gave him after St. Jerome Emiliani) It stuck. As for the littler one, as you know, Jane, we got *lucky* that his Ethiopian name is Mikias (pronounced "Mickey-us") So we call him Mickey. And what's more American than Mickey Mouse? It all worked out perfectly.

There's just no cookie cutter way to do it. :)