Does Her Name Really Matter?

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When Dimples went to her residential program, her name was new to their ears. It’s not hard to say, once you’ve heard it a few times, but it isn’t a name we Americans are used to hearing. One of the staff members gave her a nickname, which quickly caught on. Initially we wondered if it was an attachment technique, and we let it go. There were so many other things to be concerned with.

But names are important.

In our case, we chose not to change our children’s Ethiopian names, but gave them a middle name we loved to add to the names their original parents gave them. That in and of itself, was an intentional choice, so although we didn’t come up with their names, we chose them and embraced them.

On each visit to Montana, I noticed more kids and staff calling her by this nickname. In September we sat in a large circle of family and staff at the beginning of Family Friday. A microphone was passed from person to person and we each shared our name and what our goal was for the day. When it came to Dimples she said, “My name is _______, but you can call me (nickname), whichever is easier.”

That didn’t sit very well with me. It doesn’t matter if her name is easy or hard, it’s her name and it is beautiful. But there were much bigger fish to fry, so I didn’t say anything.

On our recent visit, I realized that this nickname issue was really bothering me, but I didn’t know quite why. When we returned home, I spoke with Dimples’ therapist about it. I talked about the importance of Dimples still using her real name in MT, since it will be the name she uses when she returns home. I also explained that we’re a family that likes long names. Our son Samuel has never been called Sam (except by coaches and a few professors). Mary Katherine goes by her entire name – not Mary –  and Ladybug has two names put together. We’ve always been fans of longer names, and Dimples is no exception.

I also wonder if using a different name allows Dimples to distance herself from us. She can be somebody else and not a Qualls.  Being in a family is so uncomfortable for her, that this is one way she can enlarge the gap.

Her therapist seemed to understand to a degree, but didn’t think it was that big of a deal. She also thought it would be difficult to get the staff to call Dimples by her real name again. I understand that, and I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to return to using Dimples’ real name, but I would like the staff  to at least try.  Interestingly, the two staff assigned to be her closest support people don’t seem to call her by her nickname nearly as much as the rest of the staff.

We left  the name question unresolved.

After I hung up, I rolled it over in my mind and finally sent this email to the therapist.

I was just thinking more about our conversation and want to mention that I think it is a positive thing that we want Dimples to be called by her name. We’re claiming her as our own, and wanting her to have the name we (and her birth family) lovingly gave her.
There was a time when I may not have cared if she went by a name we didn’t give her; the fact that we do care is a sign that she is still really part of our family and we see a future with her.

The staff at her program is made up of wonderful, loving people, who have devoted a great deal to helping our daughter heal. But in the end, she is our daughter, she belongs in our family. We named her because we love her, and to be perfectly honest, I’m just glad it matters to me.

At times loving Dimples through this time in treatment is awkward and painful, but I prefer the discomfort to the sheer relief of having her out of the home and terribly numb emotions. At least I feel like her mother. Can I admit that? Is it okay to be that honest and vulnerable?

Any thoughts on names, nicknames given by others, and whether or not I’m just overreacting?

{note: in addition to the comments below, there are more than 16 comments on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page. I invite you to stop by and read them – and while you’re at it, please “Like” my FB page. Thanks so much.}

Talk to me.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

43 Comments

  1. Julie Blair Pitts
    October 30, 2013

    Lisa… my Benjamin is Benjamin. my Michael is Michael. those are the names we gave them. we don't shorten them. Benjamin in very picky.. if ANYONE calls him Ben, he corrects them quickly. " My name is Benjamin", he says politely and firmly. we kept both their Guatemalan names as well as adding in a family middle name. So both boys have three names. I wouldn't change it for anything. neither would they. I think Michael will always BE Michael as well. I love their names… their whole names. names are very important to us as well. they are significant. I would feel as you do,Lisa. I would want her called by her given name.

    Reply
    1. Debbie
      October 30, 2013

      I almost always agree with you, but I'm not sure this time. I just have this feeling that Dimples may better be able to release her painful past with a new name rather than carrying a name around associated with so much pain (from her time in Africa). Maybe she isn't trying to distance you, but trying to distance her life before you. I'm not an expert by any means. We changed both of our adopted girls' names, but they were both under two years old at the time.

      Reply
  2. Jessica Marks
    October 30, 2013

    I think the "whatever is easier" is maybe the only reason I wouldn't say you are over-reacting; because it doesn't sound like the nickname is her first choice, but rather a concession. So I think you are right to ask the staff to make an effort to use her name.

    However, my thought on names and nicknames is to always let them be the child's/person's choice. To me, if Dimples comes home and wants to be the new nickname, I'd let her. Then again, I changed my name every few months when I was a kid- including to things completely unrelated to my actual name (I have a certificate from school written as "Claudia" because the teacher told us to clearly spell 'the name we wanted to appear on our certificate"- it wasn't specified it had to be our name, and I liked that one better.).

    I will say that I find names and nicknames very personal and I react different ways to different useage of my name. Most people call me Jessi, but I always introduce myself as Jessica. I take offense when people I do not know well call me Jessi, or especially Jess. At work someone once ordered my nameplate as Jessi, and I made them change it: to me, it was too informal; and in professional situations I'm Jessica. I worked at a camp for a few years and there was known as "Skittles" – 13 years later, many of my camp friends still call me "Skits"; I would be hugely offended if anyone who is not part of that stage of my life called me this, but if they called me Jessica, I would worry they were mad at me.

    Reply
  3. Cathy
    October 30, 2013

    We did not change our daughters' names when they came to us at 7 and 10 from Colombia. Our older daughter has her birthmother's name as her first name but has always been called by her middle name, actually a nickname of that name. I have wondered if we should legally at least switch the names, as it is annoying at school to have to explain that she is not called by the name the teachers have on their lists and this year when she went to middle school it took a few days to straighten it out. Further wrinkle is that her nickname has a different pronunciation when read in English than in Spanish, so that's more explaining to do! However, worth it, I think, that she be called what she wants to be called. For our younger daughter, she has always been called by her first name, which is actually an English name, so easier there. She at times would like a new middle name, but then not at others. Coincidentally the names they are not called by (older one's first name, younger one's middle name) start with the same initial as the middle names of their adoptive grandmothers, so I have had this idea that if we did change their names, we would give them those names as new names. But, partly out of inertia and partly out of uncertainty, we have done nothing. I think your concern is worthwhile though. The idea of changing her name to make it easy for others wouldn't sit well with me either.

    Reply
  4. Karen Bernard
    October 30, 2013

    I agree with you. When, we named our first two boys we were very careful to pick names that couldn't be shortened. We wanted our boys to be called by the names that we had chosen for them. Then, we had our third boy. We thought naming our second was the hardest thing ever so naming a third son seemed impossible. My husband through out the name Matthew Scott – I loved it. We talked for a very long time about the fact that we wanted him to be called Matthew not Matt. Now at 6 years old, he doesn't even respond to Matt – much to the disliking of his football coaches this fall. They would call, "Matt, Matt, Matthew" – at Matthew he would finally turn and look. I believe that children are to be called by their given name or the nickname their parents have given them. At least until they are in college and can choose for themselves.

    Reply
  5. Anita
    October 30, 2013

    I wonder if having a nick name gives her a chance to be distance enough from 'family' to heal. If it doesn't give her a safer space, one that isn't triggered by her birth name constantly. I think it is important that she keeps her given name, but maybe the nick name gives her a break from all the emotions that are tied into it. I also wonder if it doesn't give her a feeling of a new beginning, or a different relationship with those treating her.
    Yes, her given name is deeply important. But it may be a constant trigger too. I wonder what Dimples thoughts on it are? Does she love that she was given a nick name? A special name to go with this experience? Does she need a new name to match the healing that has happened? Or a name that doesn't trigger her through out the day? It can be so hard to give up what we love for the sake of our kids. But I've learned that what I've held dear, isn't always what they hold dear. I have to hold dear what they do at times, even if I think they are wrong. I hope that makes sense.

    Reply
    1. michelle
      October 30, 2013

      These were my thoughts too…you articulated them so well so I'll say ditto. 🙂

      (Side note, my parents never called me by my given name growing up but instead a nickname that I didn't like at all. But I never chose to really fight it either. At 18, I left the state to go to school and finally got to go by my given name. My thought is, it's important that the person wearing the name likes it. I'm not saying you should change her name by any means, but perhaps allowing what matters most to her at this time—whatever that is—is the best way to love her?)

      Reply
    2. Emily
      October 30, 2013

      Wow Anita, I really like your thoughts about how her name may be a trigger. Great insights.

      Reply
  6. blesseday
    October 30, 2013

    Names are so important, in my book at least. Naming is a sign of relationship, and of ownership rights–claiming something as one's own. It is part of being known fully, and I completely agree with you 100% about the implications of her not going by her name there at treatment. But maybe the nickname is a necessary starting place for her, and could even be helpful–could she accept love for _nickname___ when she could not accept love for ___given name____? God gave new names to people when He drew them out of the crowd for His life purposes.

    You do NOT have to go read this, because it is one of the most overly drawn out pieces I ever wrote, but just in case it might help you process your thoughts about the naming, I wrote about names and my lifelong search for meaning in my own name : http://oblesseday.blogspot.com/2012/10/blessed-pt

    Reply
  7. Jane H.
    October 30, 2013

    We did not like nicknames either (especially my husband). Our first son is Daniel and we always called him that. When he became a teenager-young adult, he changed it to Dan. That was fine with us because it was his choice. Our middle son's name is Paul and we thought we were safe with that one. He is the one who called himself Pauley and then Pugs…..go figure. Our daughter is Sarah and that has always stayed the same.

    Reply
  8. Alyssa
    October 30, 2013

    Have you asked Dimple what she she thinks about it?
    It's hard when you don't know what might be a huge deal in a child's healing and what might not.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous
      October 30, 2013

      I absolutely agree. This is the kind of thing that only matters if it matters to her. If its hard to find out what she thinks about something then you might be able to eavesdrop and see if she says anything to her siblings next time you visit (like "please call me such and such"). It may give her a chance to move on as a more grown-up, put-together young woman to have a new name, or it may bother her, or she may not care. But in any case I admire you for paying such close attention.

      Reply
  9. Lisa Qualls
    October 30, 2013

    I should also mention, I haven't heard any of the other children in the cottage being called by nicknames. Her name is the only non-American name. I don't think they're being insensitive, I honestly think the staff just didn't think about the importance of her name and the nickname was more convenient.

    Also of interest, honoring Dimples' Ethiopian heritage is important to the program. It is actually written into her treatment plan. Together with a staff member, she did a presentation to her cottage on Ethiopia and even served an ET meal.

    Reply
  10. Renae
    October 30, 2013

    I honestly think you were right to be bothered by it. And I think your reasoning was spot on. It's easy to be away from home(for anyone!) and "pretend" to be someone else…to re-invent yourself, so to speak…to be someone different to avoid the realities, etc. I think, like you, that it MAY be a way for her to "be someone else". I think you handled it perfectly!:)

    Reply
  11. blesseday
    October 30, 2013

    Those are both really valid reasons in themselves why you should be questioning why Dimples has a nickname and whether or not it is a good idea for her healing.

    Reply
  12. Cat
    October 30, 2013

    I don't think you are overreacting at all. I think her name is close to the core of her identity and that is a big part of who she is and why she's struggling. I think I would feel the same as you (and have the same concerns about distance, etc). I hope they take your comments seriously. And, FWIW, I feel the same way even though we ARE nickname people 😉 But there are different reasons to have a nickname and given everything at issue here… these aren't good reasons.

    Reply
  13. Chantelle
    October 30, 2013

    I think I would feel as you do in your shoes, given how strongly I already feel about the name issue. We, too, have kept our 5 adopted children's given names and added our own middle names and so the nickname issue has come up for a few of ours as well, since their names are not common to American ears. I have really appreciated the effort people have made to learn and pronounce them correctly and have rarely offered a substitute. (We are also not a nickname family for the most part.) In this case, I would follow that maternal instinct! 🙂

    Reply
  14. Teresa
    October 30, 2013

    Just another perspective: It was obvious to us that in Ethiopia, names and their meanings were deeply significant–everywhere we went, the people would tell us their name, and then what their names meant. And just as stunning–everyone had nicknames! We would learn of a person's name, and then the person near to them (relationally) would call them some playful version of the name (Mulunesh = Mulu… Sitota = Sito, etc) All of our children who came to us from Ethiopia, all the other kids in the orphanage, the nannies… everyone we met had nicknames given them by the people relationally close to them. To us it seemed like a symbol of affection and nearness–not distance. Since she had extended time in Ethiopia culture (vs a child who comes home as a baby), this may be endearing to her, and it may be a sign of attachment, not distance??? I'd be curious to know how she thinks about it.

    Reply
  15. noscriptomylife
    October 30, 2013

    I don't think you're overreacting. I, too, have a hard to pronounce name. People over think how to pronounce it and spell it. I used to hate my name until it told the story of my life. Maybe you could explain that to the staff at the treatment center…?

    Reply
  16. Tressa Dykstra VanVoorst
    October 30, 2013

    I agree with you and your response. My Ethiopian children have names that are new to American ears and tongues but with very little practice their names have been easily picked up by family, friends, and teachers. (We kept their given names.) I cringed when my 5 year old told his new teacher she could just call him "M" if his name was too hard! Thankfully, we've encountered much support along the journey and I love to hear others call them by their names. That said, we are a family of nicknames! Most of my kids have at least 2. However – their nicknames are names given in love and said only among family and close friends. I wonder due to Dimples age and her history if it would be safest to use her given name (that you use) in treatment. If she is to have a nickname -maybe it could come from your family rather than the therapists? I'm not entirely sure either – but i think you are right to ask questions.

    Reply
  17. Tisha
    October 30, 2013

    I love reading your heart. Thank you for being vulnerable with us, your readers.

    Reply
    1. Emily
      October 30, 2013

      like.

      Reply
  18. Mary (Owlhaven)
    October 30, 2013

    I could imagine feelings some of the same things in your situation. She's still your child, after all, and it must be terribly hard to have her so far. One of my daughters has a name that is challenging to American ears. People have learned it fine, but friends tend to shorten it, and from friends I think she takes it as affectionate. From siblings it sometimes bugs her. We gave her an American middle name that she likes– in fact, that she helped choose. I've mentioned a couple times that if she'd like, she can call herself by that name. But so far she seems content with her Ethiopian name. (Which, by the way is NOT her birth name, but another, second name she took at the start of her school years, which I understand is a custom?) Anyway, I think I'd just talk to Dimples and let her choose, and accept it if she does like the nickname better…

    Reply
  19. Emily
    October 30, 2013

    I think all of your feelings are super valid. I also wonder about the point some people made in the comments, about if it might feel easier for her to lose negative memories with her real name and make a "fresh start" with the nickname. What do you think?

    The point in this point that stood out to me most, though, is the conclusion you came to about YOUR OWN attachment to her, and how very much you want her to be your daughter. You gave all your other kids their names and you want to have that with her too. How beautiful, even in its pain.

    I love you!!

    Reply
  20. Sharon
    October 30, 2013

    I think I would feel the same way. Even though you don't see the use of a nickname as insensitive (on the part of the staff), names are so important! I think it's especially interesting that Dimples introduced herself with her given name, and then her nickname and telling others to use whichever is easiest. It seems she still sees herself as her given name, but is o.k. (?) with the nickname also – or maybe is just choosing to let it be o.k. for now?
    I have cringed so many times when someone I don't know well calls one of my kids by a nickname that only close friends/family use. It really irritates me because it seems to imply that there is a close relationship there, but it doesn't exist. One of my sons is particularly sensitive to this.
    I guess we all feel differently about our names. We kepr the names given to our Ethiopian children. Our daughter says that she would like a new name (which we're not going to do for a variety of reasons), but our son would NOT have gone for a new name and does not like being called anything other than his given name.

    Reply
  21. Tammy
    October 30, 2013

    I decided to give my son a new name, but kept two of his multiple Ugandan names as his two middle names. In Uganda, when a child is born extended family members and close friends offer names to the parents for the child, and the parents decide on two (or sometimes more) names for their children.

    In working with a ministry in Uganda over the last 20 years, I have seen many orphans change their names on a dime -and usually the additional or altogether replacement name is attributed to someone that they feel fondly of or grateful, too.

    When I adopted my son, I felt that it was important that he receive a name from me, because of how their culture names children. While in Uganda at about day 8, he asked me if he was getting a new name in America. It was indeed something he wanted.

    Well, come to find out he hated the name of Bush that I had always known him by (during the 4 year of my adoption journey). In all reality, the name of Bush was given to him when he was about 2, and it was given with respect to our American President at the time. But.., my son, didn't know that. He thought that it referred to an actual bush and perhaps he had been found or left there. The name brought him much pain for many years. I always loved the name. I thought it was cute and endearing. But, when I have him the choice of choosing one of his middle names, he didn't choose it, so it's no longer part of his name.

    So, I guess my point is – while Dimples' name is a link to her heritage, does she like it – or is it something that brings pain? Just a question….

    But! Just as I was ready to sign off – I remembered something that happened last summer, that I think I can relate to your feelings – kind of. We took a a trip to the midwest so N could visit/meet some extended family. While on that trip, we met a man with N's same name. In conversation, the dad of this man started calling my son, the nickname that he had for his own son when he was young. I was mortified. This man had no right to assign a nickname to my child…. So, I do understand your feelings, too.

    Reply
  22. Claire
    October 30, 2013

    In our kids native culture there are formal first names and then nationally recognized nicknames for every name. Two of the kids went by their nicknames from the beginning. The other, asked us from the moment he heard the English middle name we gave him to call us by that name. Early on, I made the “mistake” of putting his native first name on his birthday cake, he was terribly disappointed. The other two never considered going by their English middle names.
    Everything changed after high school. The one who went by his English middle name went back to his formal first name when he started university because the profs all called roll by that name and he didn’t feel like correcting them every time. Then, another went to his formal first name because it is easier for Americans to pronounce.
    We still call the kids by their names from when they first came (two native nicknames and English middle name). They always know when a family member is calling their name. Those names have become like an “inner circle” name. Only family and longtime friends call them by these. This isn’t the way I would have chosen but I’m learning to appreciate it.

    Reply
  23. Lisa Qualls
    October 30, 2013

    This comment was sent as a FB message when the writer couldn't get the comments to work.

    "Can't get my comment to submit on the blog site…..
    We adopted a sibling group of three – two of them with highly unusual given names, and one with a more mainstream "normal" given name. Our family almost entirely has the same first initial, only exceptions being myself and my youngest bio child – we two have the same initials. We changed the names of the two unusually named children, the oldest chose his name – with a matching first initial to our family and his middle is now his original given name, the middle child's name was changed to a matching initial name and a family name, and the youngest kept her "normal" given name which was already the matching initial and we gave her a family middle name. Some people thought we were wrong to change names – some people felt as we did that it was like an indoctrination into OUR family. Fast forward years later and the middle child had to be placed outside our home to best serve her needs and those of the rest of our family. Her "new" family has similarly indoctrinated her into their family – changing her first name to match their initials and making the name we gave her the middle name……. but one day(before finalization) that changed and our name has been replaced with a biblical name of the child's choosing. Momentarily it stung – to have all trace of us removed from her when the middle name was replaced – but I accepted it as HER choice and supported her new family in offering her that choice. All this to get to this point: maybe during the next face to face family meeting Dimples should be offered some say. You can tell her why it is important to you and what it means to you – but give her a voice and a choice."

    Reply
  24. Anita
    October 30, 2013

    Dear Lisa,

    I am a teacher and adoptive mom to an Ethiopian too. As a teacher, I've been introduced to numerous names from various cultures. It is part of my job to get to know and pronounce my students' names correctly. It honors them and the staff CAN do it…I've done it many times. I respect you for not letting this issue go on behalf of your Dimples. It will matter to her, whether she says it now or not.

    Anita

    Reply
    1. JoAnn
      November 1, 2013

      I'm afraid I would have to disagree with most of the above comments. I am old, 60, ha! with grown children and 8 grandkids. If there is one thing that i have learned is that don't sweat the small stuff. Now I don't believe you feel this is the small stuff, but one way I look at things is in ten years will it really have mattered. In the post I did not see if you asked Dimples what she thinks. I also noted your statement that "when she comes home this is the name she WILL go by" why?, what if she doesn't want to, would that cause a conflict for you or a battle of wills?, is she able to at this age have self determination on things that don't have negative effects on others, etc. I saw in a comment asking her and then letting her know all your reasons and concerns, why, why not just ask her opinion and go with it? well anyway this is just my opinion although outnumbered. Am surprised at the number of people who did not allow their kids to have a name/nickname etc. until they were an adult, I just think it here so many other big deals in life,I'd let this one slide.

      Reply
  25. Paula Miles Spears
    October 31, 2013

    My children don't have nicknames. My son's name is Kenneth, and we never call him Ken or Kenny. Ever. My older daughters names don't lend themselves to nicknames. We did choose to use "American" first names for our three adopted children, for reasons I won't go into here. But they don't have nicknames either. I like full names; I think if the parents don't call a child by a nickname, teachers or other adults in a child's life shouldn't either.

    Reply
  26. Eileen
    October 30, 2013

    I can see why you'd want her to use her full name. My oldest is named Madeline and I never wanted her to be a Maddy. However, in high school people started calling her Maddy and I cringe that at school, that's primarily what she's now known by. It's not my choice, but ultimately hers. I think you are completely in the right to encourage the therapists to use her real name, but you should also get Dimple's take on it. Even though I told my daughter that I personally really preferred Madeline, it's HER name and it has to be her decision.

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  27. Carrie
    October 30, 2013

    Seek Russ's counsel! He knows better than any of us readers all of the nuances of the situation. Is now the time to be insistent, or is the coming months better? Should Dimples be brought into the decision? etc.

    While many others may have good points, it will be the two of you together that will make the most appropriate decision on when & how to handle this.

    Reply
  28. Michelle B.
    October 30, 2013

    I may not be the best person to answer this question, but I think a child should be called by the name given by there parents. I have a Steven. If I had wanted him to be called Steve I would have named him that. I also have an issue with people (like grandparents who know better) misspelling the name because they prefer the other spelling. Now our youngest daughter is named Arabella, but we as well as family & friends call her Bella. Now I wanted to name her Bella to begin with but hubby didn't think it went with our last name, so we agreed on Arabella, but her sister (who was 2 at the time) thought Arabella was too long and just started calling her Bella and well it stuck. So I do think names are important the way they are. It still bothers me to hear a grandparent call my oldest child (18) Steve…and I still say that's not his name it's Steven.

    Reply
  29. Cici
    October 30, 2013

    Contrary to most here, I do feel that it is an over reaction to worry about a nickname. It is actually quite unusual for a nick name to stick, especially once the person is in a different situation. It is also quite reasonable for people to use different names in different situations. I too feel that names are important and therefore kept my children's birth names. One of my children changed her name from Rebecca to Becca, I am probably the only person left who calls her Rebecca. It is her choice what she asks others to call her. If Dimples introduced herself saying either is ok, then that is her choice. I don't believe it has anything to do with bonding or distance. Can we really place the experience of bonding on a name? Insisting that Dimples go by a name that is not her choosing will have a greater negative impact. Kids love to try on different names just as they try on different clothes and mannerisms.

    Reply
  30. Jen
    October 31, 2013

    Lisa,

    HERE is what matters:

    "But in the end, she is our daughter, she belongs in our family. We named her because we love her, and to be perfectly honest, I’m just glad it matters to me.

    At times loving Dimples through this time in treatment is awkward and painful, but I prefer the discomfort to the sheer relief of having her out of the home and terribly numb emotions. At least I feel like her mother. Can I admit that? Is it okay to be that honest and vulnerable?"

    If all of the stuff surrounding Dimple's new nick name served no other purpose but to bring this thought fully out even so much that you could write it so clearly, then I think it was worth it!

    Love and prayers from our family to yours!

    Reply
    1. Angie
      November 1, 2013

      Amen! Well said, Jen.

      Reply
  31. Lori
    October 31, 2013

    I would ask her when she returns home whether she wants to go by the nickname or her given name. Remember, that even though you have valid reasons for wanting to call her by her given name, she also has reasons for wanting to be called by her name/nickname. She needs to know that you consider her feelings as well. Remember that for these kids they have lost control of so many things in their life and so many things happened to them that they had no say in…such as abandonment, life in an orphanage, adoption, etc…….by letting her choose what she is called is giving her the empowerment she needs to feel good about herself and hopefully follow up with better decisions. Looking at her pictures she sure is growing up and she should be able to use the nickname is she wants.

    Reply
  32. Donna
    October 31, 2013

    My older adopted children from Ethiopia were given an English name as their middle names. We kept their Ethiopian names first. They then were allowed to make the decision as to what they were called. It was after being here for some time that several chose to go by their second names. The teachers and everyone were used to their first names, but with some reminding everyone was able to make the transition with no problem. I did find it interesting that small children don't have a problem at all with pronouncing 'unusual' names. It's the adults! I even had adult (teachers!) say to my child "Oh, I can't pronounce that. I'll just call you _____" I was shocked! We had to have lessons in empowerment for my first grader to stand up to adults to say "That's not my name!"

    Reply
  33. Leslie
    October 31, 2013

    Yes, her name matters and it should be her choice. We are three years in and have close relatives, teachers and friends who are unwilling to pronounce our childrens names correctly – names given by their family in Ethiopia. One of my boys has pretty much given up and made up a nickname that his teachers call him. It's sad. He LOVES his real name not his nickname Both of their given names have a wonderful meaning. And neither are hard to pronounce if the listener cared to make a little effort. Funny thing is that I noticed that when we meet speakers of other languages they have no problem pronouncing my sons names. An Ethiopian name is as foreign to them as it is to an American born person, yet they seem to get it.

    Her saying "my name is….. but you can call me"…..sounds like my son who made up a nickname. Just resigned. Not liking it much but not willing to battle with everyone to get them to try. Ask her. Then support what she wants.

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  34. Nickname
    November 4, 2013

    Nicknames are very common in Ethiopia- a Eyerusalem is called Jeri, a Teowdros is called Tedi by those with whom they are close. A nickname can be a respectful, affectionate and culturally appropriate thing.

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  35. JeffCindy Blair
    November 6, 2013

    Totally agree with your thoughts and heart on this matter!

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