Friday, January 23, 2009

Naming

Been reading all the posts on naming adoptive kids? No? Well you should. Start here: Paragraphein , Thorn, Torina, and Altasean. There are probably more, but that will get you going. Go ahead, read them. This post will be here when you get back.

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I don't actually have a lot to add, except maybe emphasis. I think about this in the context of foster care adoption and children old enough to understand the question. No one that I know of is forcing a new name on an older child. Doing so would make me think they shouldn't be parents. Even in the where a new name is necessary for reasons of safety children should be renaming themselves. And as I said, that is only emphasis. Some foster/adoptive parents I know say things like, "I would change my child's name if they wanted." I would say "I would allow my child to change their name if they wanted."

A shift in emphasis, but perhaps an important one.

I wasn't going to write a post about this at all. I think lots of good things have been said and didn't have much to add.

And then a few nights ago Gary announced that one of his teachers insisted on calling him by his name instead of his initials and he HATED that. Without thinking about it I said, "Why do you dislike your name so much?"

"Because that is the name of [my abuser]. I was named after him."

[Insert very, very bad words here.]

I offered to tell the teacher if he wanted. I told him that David had the same issue and that he let me tell a few people for him. "If your teacher knows that is the name of your abuser, he won't forget again. I won't tell him anything else, not even that you are related, just that it is the same name."

He agreed.

Suddenly I want a moratorium on naming children after living relatives. Heck, no more naming kids after anybody, at least no one alive. I don't really believe that a different name would have protected Gary, but I do think that having the same name may have made it worse. Not just in the sense that he carries the reminder. I think it may have made it worse then.

The reason that naming children is a big deal is that it creates a claim. Women typically take the name of the men they marry. Sometimes men and women hyphenate. One couple I know made up a new name from the syllabals of there old ones. The name says "we belong to each other." That can be a bad sort of belonging, a type of property, or it can be a sign of commitment and love.

Still, whatever it means, it means something.

And I wonder if in the mind of the little boy that Gary was if it created a sense that this man was allowed to do what he did. How did Gary understand what being named after him meant?

I'm nauseous. My head huts. I want to scream.

It is probably a good thing that Gary is slowly willing to talk about that part of his life. He had been made to tell the stories of his life to many people in the years before we met him. We made it clear to him that we had read the summaries in his file and he did not have to tell us any more than he wanted to. He has said very little, though he occassionally hands over a piece of information.

I hate that his name is contaminated by this. I hate that he is reminded of his abuse whenever anyone says his name.

I really, really hate it.

7 comments:

  1. Sh*t. If I was Gary, I'd keep the initials everybody had known me by and change the names they stand for. That way he doesn't have to explain anything to people who knew him by his initials before.

    He should however avoid doing what my youngest brother did in high school and decide that instead of being Daniel John, he should get everybody to call him Rudolfo. He should especially avoid getting his high school diploma issued under the new non-legal name. That does not end well. I know whereof I speak.

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  2. Ack! I can only imagine the pain that carrying that name evokes. I know howmuch my eldest grew to hate his middle name because he was bullied by someone of that name. But he wasn't named after the other kid. Ack again.

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  3. I've wondered if this was the reason why, in many Jewish circles, that one is prohibited from naming a child after anyone who is living.

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  4. I have always hated the idea of naming a child after anyone...

    I feel so bad for Gary. I couldn't imagine having to hear the name of my abuser every day...I almost vomit every time I hear his name as is...

    I will be sending good vibes his way!!

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  5. reading this post literally made my stomach clench, and probably because i can relate slightly. i have deeply-ground psychological shit that i came away with from growing up in an abusive household; i'm just beginning [the past 2 months] to get treatment for my clinical depression after years of suffering for it, and i know coming on top of the shit from my past may take a number of years. it's stuff i'd rather not think about, honestly; i still hate it that i try to push the thoughts away but yet (to this day) i still every week have about 2 bad dreams about my "parents" (scare quotes because i don't like giving them the honour of calling them my parents).

    i've spent my entire life trying to dissociate my identity from my "father". i can't even write that word without the scare quotes. i hate that i still fear that i'm no more than the abuse i got, i hate that i sometimes fear i'm cursed somehow to be like him by some "original sin" or some kind of "taint" that i can't get rid of, i hate that his name or face comes to mind sometimes and prevents me from feeling like i can partake in anything good that day, lest i "taint" whatever good thing i'm in.

    i hate that i have the same last name as him, and i fully intend to change my last name sometime in the future.

    it's hard enough for me to deal with me having the same last name as my "father". i can't imagine if i had the same first name as him. even mentioning the thought in typing that previous sentence literally makes my stomach feel nauseous.

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  6. I just want to reassure you that Gary's abuser is not his father. His father is not a fantastic father, but he is not the monster of Gary's childhood either.

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  7. @yondalla,

    ah, yes, i assumed this was the case (that Gary's abuse wasn't his father). still, i wonder if my desperate and disturbed experience of trying to separate me and my life from memories of my abuser [my "father"], and how i hate the feeling that i am somehow connected to him, might have any parallels to how Gary hates that he is named after his abuser.

    i myself hate being reminded of my life in that house...; and i feel sad when i think that Gary is reminded of his abuse whenever anyone says his name, too.

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