Sunday, 4 September 2011

What's in a name?

When conception was taking a while and I was thinking through alternative ways to have a family, one of the things we thought about was whether we might adopt children. And it's ridiculous because of the many issues and emotions that I am sure adoption throws up this is a small one, but the thing I kept coming back to was that I wanted to be able to give my children their names, and that if you adopt children over a certain age you cannot rename them.

I don't know what the guidelines and rules are for the age at which you don't rename, but I know that my daughter, at just eight months, already knows her own name and hears it many many times a day. I don't know what sense of self an eight month old has, but I know whatever sense of self she does have is irrevocably tied up to this name already. What's more, I always saw the name we gave her as a gift, our first gift to her other than life itself. When she lay on my tummy all slimy and new we told her her name, and later that day when we were alone I told her again and that I hoped she would like it and that it would be something she would cherish rather than a burden.

If for any reason we were unable to look after her, if she were to ever find herself in a new family, an idea that is itself unbearable, the idea of her name being changed is even more horrendous. I don't mean her not using her full name (we call her by a diminutive), or her choosing a nickname in future, but the complete denial of her name and the imposition of another one.

My daughter would be the same person whatever name we had given her, yet from the moment she had her name I feel it has shaped her and become part of her and grown up with her, etched on every molecule like a piece of DNA.

And though I love thinking about names, choosing names, imagining what I would call sextuplets of the same sex, analysing the names of friends' children, planning the names of my future children, I have come to the conclusion that names are pretty sacred to their owner from the moment they have them, and that once given they really aren't anyone else's to take away.

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