Naming a child is one of the most important decisions new parents must make. There are numerous baby name books and websites available for help and ideas. When our first daughter was born, my husband and I could not agree on her name. In fact, she still wasn’t named when it was time to leave the hospital. He actually went back to work and asked the opinion of the people he worked with. After a long process, we brought Lauren Michelle home. Our 4th child, Roxanne Claire, received her name just because we liked it. The older children actually were invited to give their opinions and suggestions.
When choosing a name for an adopted child, there is much more to think about. Do you keep the name given at birth? Who gave the child their name – the birth mother or social worker? Do you want to keep part of the child’s culture and heritage as part of their name? The age of a child matters when thinking of names. An older child has forged his or her identity with their name and changing their name should not be taken lightly and definitely not without their input and consent.
Our second daughter was named Cho, Hee Yung. We were told that the social worker gave her the name so I felt that I could change it. We spoke with a Korean/American woman who helps parents choose names. We finally named her Christina Mee. Mee means beautiful in Korean and our prayer was for her to become a beautiful Christian. Most People know her as Mee Mee. Years later, when we traveled to S. Korea and had a chance to review her paperwork, we learned that her birthmother had named her. Had I known that originally I never would have changed her name. Last night I asked her if she wished we had kept her birth name she told me that she likes her name just the way it is.
Our son’s name given by the social worker was Kim, In Suk. We changed his name to Gregory Hwan after the foreign exchange student who lived with my husband and has remained a good friend. His given name means “benevolent tin” so we have helped him to collect tin toys over the years to acknowledge the spirit of his name.
Little Christina Mee and Gregory Hwan
Names are important parts of our identity. There’s much debate on the topic of naming children – especially those who come to our homes via adoption. I’ve found a few books that touch upon this issue:
Three Names of Me by Mary Cummings (author) and Lin Wang (illustrator)
This stunning book introduces a young girl adopted from China who shares her story. She learns about her three names – the first “whispered” by her birth mother, the second given at the orphanage in China, and finally the name given by her adoptive parents. The soft illustrations combine with the beautiful text to make a very powerful book. Be prepared – this book will be a starting point for discussions on adoption and cultural identity as well as inspiration for putting together a life book.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (author and illustrator) is not an adoption book but it is about the importance of one’s name. When a young girl named Unhei moves from S. Korea to the United States she bring along her name “chop” which her grandmother gave her when she left. On the school bus, curious children ask what her name is but they have difficulty pronouncing it. When Unhei goes into her classroom and is asked to introduce herself, she tells the other students that she hasn’t decided on a name yet. Her classmates helpfully come up with suggestions for names which they put into a jar. Throughout the book Korean traditions, food, and culture is shared in a friendly and positive manner. In the end, Unhei announces her chosen name – Unhei.
I’ve used The Name Jar in my kindergarten class for a number of years and have combined it with with art activities using the children’s names. This has spurred my students to ask their parents how they got their names and then led to some really fun discussions.
In China, many of the people we met have taken on Anglicized names because of the difficulty visitors have pronouncing their names. We met Forrest, Rachel, Sarah, Daniel and more. Each had a story to tell about how they chose their name. This is a topic for discussion – shouldn’t people try to learn other’s names even if they are difficult to pronounce?
How did you receive your name? Have you ever wanted to change it?