A lot of kids would like to change their name. But what would they change it to?
The day I first met my son, we sat together with his social worker and foster parents out on the back deck of his foster parents' home. My son asked me if I was going to change his name after I adopted him. That simple question broke my heart. Here he was, 10 years old, and even something as basic as his name wasn't stable. His middle and last names had been changed once before when he lived with another family, and he had to be reminded what his original names were. I reassured him that his name was staying the same for now. Later, when his adoption was close to being finalized, we could make a decision about his name together.
It was no surprise to me when, about eight months later, I was filling out the paperwork for adoption finalization and my son adamantly wanted to change his name. I remember disliking my name when I was young. I wanted to be a "Lisa" or a "Jill" -- something that would blend in with the other girls and didn't sound as old-fashioned as my name did. When my niece was young, she wanted nothing more than to change her beautiful and unusual name to "Heidi."
I put my foot down when my son asked to change his first name. His biological mom had given him that name, and it's the one and only thing that stayed consistent throughout his topsy-turvy childhood. But I was thrilled that he wanted to change his last name to mine, and I was open to discussing new middle names.
His middle name had been given to him by a previous adoptive family -- an adoptive family that had proved to be less than permanent for him. My son was never given a say-so regarding the name they saddled him with. In his words, he's "named after some dead guy." In truth, he was named after one of their family members, but the fact remains that the name was meaningless to my son.
My son and I decided to think about middle names, and we both needed to agree on the final choice. I suggested one of my favorite names -- "Landon." My son thought that was just OK. Later, I suggested making his last name from birth his new middle name. I thought that was a very sensitive and thoughtful suggestion. My son, however, pretended to stick his finger down his throat and gag. I guess he didn't like the idea.
My son did, however, have some ideas of his own. The first was "Grizzly." I have to admit, I thought it was kind of cool. However, his next suggestions -- "Darth Vader" and "Vin Diesel" -- took mere seconds for me to veto. My son also decided that if I wanted "Landon," he'd rather switch to "London." It was unusual, and seeing as neither of us have even been there, a bit meaningless. But it wasn't a bad name.
Then one day it hit me. I walked into the living room and said one word: "Jack."
My son's mouth slowly spread into a huge grin. "Like my foster dad's name?" he asked. I nodded, and he jumped up and hugged me. My son loves his former foster dad and really looks up to him. Why we didn't think to name my son after his foster dad right away is beyond me.
Within months, it was official. While my son's name doesn't really have a great ring with his new middle and last names, it doesn't matter. It's a name with meaning. A name with history. A name that we picked together. A name that gave my son the power to choose who he is going to be.