The name game

Amazing how much a name invokes all kinds of emotions.  A. & I have discussed names, whether or not to name our future child, what kind of name, and yes, our child will have our last names . . . A. grew up as Allen though his given name was Alexander. No one ever explained to him why that was so. As a seven-year-old, A. was finally reunited with his parents, and no one explained to him that they were actually his birth parents, not the grandparents who’d fostered and raised him. In the States permanently, he eventually figured out that at home they would call him Allen, and at school he would be known as his full given name, Alexander.

As we await our toddler match, many have asked us if we plan on giving our child a name. Some argue that giving our child a new name would bring her/him additional trauma and establish an unnecessary colonial dominance, especially since we’re adopting an older child. Others say that perhaps it might bring about feelings of hope and a new start for the child who may have ugly memories with which to wrestle as well as give the adoptive parents an opportunity to “claim” their new daughter/son as a member of their family. And even others might advise that it’s acceptable to keep the child’s birth name along with a new given name – whether that’s a new name plus birth name or birth name first and given name as the middle name – and see what s/he decides to be called. We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude.

A recent NYT Magazine article discusses some hard realities about adoption, especially among older kids.  As I watch the documentary Wo Ai Ni (I love you, Mommy) by Stephanie Wang-Breal, I am overcome by the feelings of strangeness that “Faith” experiences as she grows to learn to be with her new American family and struggles in missing her Guangzhou family too. I wonder how challenging the adjustment will be for our toddler who will have to leave her/his orphanage and possibly own foster families. No doubt, wrought with obstacles though we will not be a transracial family (unless our child happens to be multiracial). Adoption for an older child into a new family is difficult enough given unknown history, distant and not-so-distant memories, unfamiliar new family, and our anticipation of being first-time parents.  The comforting reality is that A. is very familiar with having to adjust to a new family and new surroundings, and no doubt he will apply his personal adoptee experience to parenting as we wait . . . to grow our own family.

Mahal kita, Anak
this love engulfs me
you may ask,
because we wanted to love a child
and you needed a family
let our love soothe and cuddle you
We love you already, Child