Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Good Kind of Entitlement

I need to feel entitled to my children. I probably wrote about this a long time ago, but I had a difficult time feeling entitled to Little Bun because of the dramatic nature of the pregnancy and the near-loss during delivery. I worried that, because he had survived, because he was -- as he says -- "the boy who lived" -- I'd never put him in time out. I had a difficult time feeling entitled to Miss I because I know that she was loved very much by her first family, who cared for her for fifteen months. But the good kind of entitlement is necessary for effective parenting.
Because of the "bad" kind of entitlement ("our birthmother" etc) entitlement in adoption gets a bad rap. It's tied to all kinds of things -- including my concern here, "naming and claiming."
There have been many fantastic posts about name changing, why people did and why they didn't and whether or not they would do it again. Adoptees saddened that their names have been changed, first families wounded by a name change.
But I have to admit: I would never feel entitled to parent a child who had been named a "junior."
We were presented with a situation in which the child's mother said it was imperative that the child's name not be changed. The child's name connected him to his father. She was not ready to choose not to parent that child, and this is one of the things that communicated this to us.
And then we were referred our daughter. We had chosen names to add in some place, and left the placement contingent on her name. The meaning of her name broke my heart, and to share it would be to share too much of her story. And that was the problem. The meaning of her name communicated the reason for her relinquishment. Would everyone know what the meaning was? Of course not. Would I? Certainly. Would it impede the development of my "good entitlement"? No doubt, for a time.
And yet -- if I would have known that I soon would have connected a name of sorrows to a beautiful girl who was bubbling over with life, I probably would have kept it as her first name -- second names (and especially second MIDDLE names) are too easily dropped. But I love her name -- and so does she, and she is proud of the story and her name's meaning, and the way her name resonates with our family's other names.
Like all adoptive parents who've changed a child's name, we have every intention of supporting her decision to revert to her first given name at any point. For no clear reason, Little Bun has decided to go by his middle name at school, and we raise an eyebrow but no more.
But would we make the same choice again?
This is not hypothetical. I'm looking at the picture of a little girl, LittleOne, who has a name (it isn't LittleOne) and a life that has nothing to do with me -- yet . . .
I used to think, like most prospective adoptive parents, that naming was not an example of the bad kind of entitlement so much as a necessity for the good kind. Now I think it isn't necessarily "bad" but it isn't necessary for the "good." There are so many routes to the good kind of entitlement . . . and there's so much to learn along the way.


heather said...

I'll be interested in hearing what you decide.

I'm still not convinced that naming can be neatly categorized under either bad or good entitlement. But I don't begrudge anyone else their opinions.

heather said...

That second paragraph wasn't directed at you or this post, just me speaking generally. :)

abebech said...

I don't think it can either. I think it's too personal.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand.

We changed Nate's name -- obvious since Nathaniel isn't quite a Vietnamese name. Now, his first mother didn't name him so I don't know if that makes a difference or not. But I was also naive and didn't know about all of the controversy surrounding changing a child's name.

We did keep his Vietnamese name as his middle name.

All I can say is that we did what we thought was right for us and him at the time.

susan said...

We kept Curious Girl's first name as her middle name, and chose a new first name, in part b/c we wanted to give her the choice of telling her own story. Her first first name, in America, would have always resulted in questions, and we thought, at the time, that perhaps we should let her give the option to tell or not tell about some of her background. I sometimes regret that we didn't do it the other way around, keep it her first name and choose a new middle name.

Last week she asked me to call her by her middle name, or by another name entirely, or both. But that didn't last the day. We do use her first + middle names a lot, and I sometimes call her a nickname from her middle name, too.

It's very personal, and an issue I find hard to be settled with, too.

abebech said...

Susan, that was one of dh's arguments for adding a first name. He still feels very strongly that way, that using her Ethiopian name as a first would invite more questions than she might want to answer, and would exoticize her. But this is because of our history with other adoptive parents who were overly keen to identify their children as international adoptees to complete strangers (As in -- no kidding -- "this is our Indian baby . . ." and "He's not aa, he's Ethiopian.")