The One Thing You Can Control About Your Kid

Anyone who writes about parenting knows that baby names are a click-thru gold mine. Parents—and soon-to-be-parents and maybe-parents and wannabe-parents and maybe even nonparents—are endlessly fascinated with the subject of what we can, might and do name our kids. The Huffington Post offered a sneak peak at possible top girl names and boy names of 2010. The ratings aren’t based on what kids are actually named (for that, we have to wait for the annual report from the Social Security Administration) but on names searched by the “relatively style conscious” visitors to The idea is that these are names people are considering. Or at least, names people who are hanging out on a baby-naming site like to think they’re considering. Names they’re considering considering.

The names we give our kids do mean something. Boys with girly names act up in class, especially if there’s a female Ashley or Shannon around. Kids with undefined “poor” sounding names (or, as the researcher politely put it, names that sound as if they came from a poor socioeconomic background) apparently tend to live up to their teachers’ low expectations. There’s plenty of excuse for the hours many parents (including me) spend clicking and contemplating. What would a girl named Seraphina be like? Would Shayden play baseball or hang around under the bleachers writing dark poetry? Is Atticus slick? Does Imogen sound smart? What names offer an aura of wealth or cool or rebellion or security? The real question, of course, is can I bestow that elusive quality I sought in myself upon my kid?

There’s a little more on Slate’s XXFactor. Which you should totally have bookmarked, if you don’t already.

I took two bites at the apple of the name issue, as you can see–and it brought be back to another thought on it: the fact that we did in fact give Rory a new name. We kept the name she was known by in China as her middle name (Rebecca) and her foster family switched her to Rory some months before we arrived. I love Rory, and it suits her, in spite of being perhaps the single most difficult name for a Chinese person to pronounce, ever (I defend us by pointing out that she already had a “r” sound). But it’s been clear that she was weirded out by the transition.

For months after she came home, she became upset if one of the other kids called her “Rebecca” or by her full first name: “Lorelei.” She did not want nicknames, she did not want to think about being Rebecca, she did not want this referenced in any way at all whatsoever. “No! I RORY!” she would shout. It came up anywhere her legal name had been written (we stopped doing that–who would know? It’s not like she has a driver’s license.) Ot came up at school, where we’d registered her as “Rebecca” before deciding to make the change.

And of course it came up at home, where her adorable siblings Lily and Wyatt, sensing weakness, went in for the kill.

I don’t know if I’d do that again. It seems to have worked out fine. I’m very glad that we kept Rebecca for her middle name–she should own that. And not sad to have abandoned “You Wan,” the name given by Chinese officials and which she has no memory of–I think that just gets filed away in her folders. and can’t imagine she’ll have any attachment to it, or to it’s possibly ugly meaning (“crooked”). And we loved giving her a name, and we love her name. But in retrospect, like so much of what’s been done to her, it smacks of a little trampling of her person-hood in the name of mine.

3 Responses to “The One Thing You Can Control About Your Kid”

  1. I’ve started calling my son Yungui again. It must be a thing we adoptive moms go through. Sure, it’s his middle name now, but I keep thinking he’ll forget it if I don’t use it once in a while. And that thought disturbs me.

    When looking at baby names for Child #2 (still hypothetical), I have a hard time finding anything I like – trendy or traditional – and I half hope she’ll have a really cool Chinese name that flies in English-speaking culture so I can just keep it and be done with it.

    I love choosing names, too, but this time I’m not so sure of myself. I’ve even stopped renaming the rescue cats.

  2. Lisen says:

    KJ< I know you already know this, but…How about if your kid comes home named after (and named by) the person who squandered you out of thousands of dollars and threatened the lovely foster mother's life all the while lying through her teeth to the adoption agency?!?! This horrible woman gave Ali her name and her own name as Ali's middle name. THAT we are changing! We just tell her that her middle name is what we want it to be and someday maybe we'll do the legal change. I think that was your idea, KJ!

  3. KJ (aka Lola Granola) says:

    Well, yeah. That blows. Better to have her named Bertha.