What’s In A Name?

I’ve been thinking about what I will name my future children since I was a little girl.  I remember when I was about seven or eight I really liked the name Bree, but my Aunt Annette told me it made her think of debris.  Those future children aren’t so far in the future now.  So what will they be named?

This is complicated when it comes to adoption, especially the adoption of older kids.  When we first decided to adopt these kids, our agency made us do a LOT of research before they would approve it since it was a major change and since we’re so young and totally inexperienced parents.  One of the things they made us do was talk to a family that has had a rough transition with older children.  We met with the mother of this family and she was very nice, but she said something that really stuck out to us.  We asked if she kept their African names or gave them American names, and she said “Well we gave them American names, because they are our kids now.”

I put myself in the shoes of those kiddos for a moment.  I think the girl that was having a rough time transitioning was 10 or 12 when she was adopted.  She was being moved halfway around the world with people she didn’t know, living in a home with unfamiliar customs whose language she didn’t speak.  She left behind all she had ever known and started school with kids who looked unfamiliar.  And they are addressing her by a name she had never heard in a foreign language.

It seemed a little traumatizing to me.  I’d probably act out too.

So yes, we are keeping their African names.  We came to this conclusion before we knew what their African names were.  We were a little nervous, because here are some examples of Ethiopian names: Kebedech, Wendimu, Tirunih, Bezawork, Alemseghed…not that there’s anything wrong with these names at all, but I can barely pronounce English words right half the time.  Names like Joseph, Helen, and Elsa also have Ethiopian roots.  I cannot publicly share what our kiddos names are, but I’m happy to report that they’re somewhere between Jospeh and Wendimu.  Definitely African, but pronounceable even to me.

We want to celebrate their history but also fully embrace their new life and make it as easy as possible for them to get along here, so we are also giving them American names.  I think we will make their first names American, and keep their African names as their middle names.  I really don’t care what they choose to go by, and if they want to go by their African names for awhile and then want to be addressed by their American names after they get adjusted that is just fine.  Or vice versa.  A name is important, but not a tool to use to mark the kids as “ours”.  These kids have a rich and interesting history, and we want to honor that.

But I AM glad I can pronounce their names.



Filed under Adoption Process, Decision Points, Just for Fun, Preparing for Kids

4 responses to “What’s In A Name?

  1. I think that is a great idea! When my husband and I took our PS-MAPP classes (for fostering) they taught us about changing an older child’s name. Some say do, some say don’t. But I think that your solution will be great! You are respecting their history by keeping their African names but also letting them know that their future is anew.
    Shanell (friend of Tressa and stalker of your blog) 🙂

  2. MRHiBiT

    One of my former students whose family immigrated to the US at a young age picked an “American” name for herself after her favorite Disney princess. On paper, her name is the English phonetic of her birth name; but she goes by the name she picked for herself among her peers. I find that pretty neat.

  3. Hope

    Love that idea! You guys are doing an amazing job as a parents already. You are thinking of the kids first! I can’t wait to meet them!!

  4. Sara

    Did you guys think about letting them help pick out their American names. That might give them some ownership of them too.

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