Saturday, March 31, 2012

The joys of children...

I spent a couple of hours this morning hanging with my wonderful children.  K1 went up to the park to help set up an easter egg hunt for our dojo while K5 vegged out in front of the computer and K2 made banana bread - by HIMSELF.  K7 and I wandered up to the park so the little guy could collect some eggs.

I worried about his ability to enjoy this since last year was such a dismal failure.  No really, I am serious.  He was INCAPABLE of participating and just clung to his father and cried and cried for the entire event.  It was unfortunate that we did not realize the extent of his traumatic past at that time.  We later learned that his previous family had ALWAYS found a reason to punish him at "exciting" events like this and he would be punished by not being allowed to participate.  It stands to reason he would have a lot of anxiety around such an event.  Two weeks later we saw a repeat of the his 5th birthday party.  Well, his age 5 party...but apparently his FIRST party from what we can tell.  Anyway, with the hubby and K3 on a special "one-on-one" trip to California, I was worried about managing K7's strong emotions by myself.  I waited until the last minute to walk to the park to minimize his excitement level. I was stupid to worry.

As soon as he got the "ok...go!" he was off and running.  My heart swelled with pride as I reminisced on the growth I have seen in this guy in the last year.  A little unconditional love, some undivided attention from loving parents, being doted on by numerous siblings for a year, and some extra help from some amazing school interventionists has truly led to an energetic, athletic and confident little boy.

I don't often share personal pictures and videos, in part to protect my children, but also to respect their privacy.  However, today as my heart swells with love and pride, I can not resist sharing these images with you.  In fact, here is one last one...a video.  I dare you not to laugh out loud.

Perhaps we should rethink our advice to "use your head" when you run into difficult tasks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The controversial name change...

This topic often comes up in the adoption it ok to legally change your adopted child's given name?  There are many reasons for keeping a given name, and an equal number of reason for changing a given name.  It is interesting to me because I personally don't have an opinion, even though I have 5 adopted children...and 4 of them legally changed their names during the adoption process.

K3 was an infant when she came to us.  Her 1st mother had chosen a beautiful first name and I saw no reason to change it.  I literally fell in love with the name the first time I heard it.  Of course, it was spelled "incorrectly" in my mind because the birth mother spelled it with a "C" instead of the more common "K." Regardless, this was my first adoption and I, in my newly acquired adoption education, was of the strong opinion that names shouldn't be changed because it was part of a child's identity.  K3 was not given a middle name by her 1st mother so we added a beautiful family name and then changed the last name to reflect our last name.  See?  No problem.

When K4 joined our family 3 years later, she was a little more established with her name and wasn't even sure she wanted to change her last name to reflect ours.  We had no opinions on this and since she was 14, told her she could handle her name however she wanted.  She chose to keep her full name, but hyphenate her last name with our last name.  The made for a rather long name.  Over time, as K4 worked through her abandonment she came to understand that she didn't want to be that person anymore.  She didn't want to be a reflection of her birth family but rather wanted a name that reflected her permanence in OUR family.  Eventually she stated to us that parents have the honor of naming their children at birth but that her dad and I had been denied that honor.  She asked us what we would have named her if we had given birth to her.  At first I thought it was just general conversation, but over time I realized that this was of major significance to K4.  Ultimately, K4 chose to walk away from "who she used to be" and legally changing her name was symbolic to her of becoming who she WANTED to be.  She stood in a court room and flat out told the judge that she wanted no more ties to her  previous family and that she was concerned that by retaining her given name, they could easily search for her.  She wanted a way to walk away from that family and create safety for herself.  So, in the end, my child CHOSE to change her name.

K5 refused her birth name before we ever even met her!  Although all the documentation we had been given on her reflected her birth name, a name I loved by the way, the moment we met her she introduced herself by her middle name and requested that we do the same.  Now her foster mother and her adoption worker pretty much ignored her request while she was in state care, but my husband and I felt that it was important to her and so we simply accepted that to be her name.  When finalization day came, she requested her name be legally changed.  So for the 2nd time, I had adopted a child that CHOSE to change her name.

My strong willed K6 had also refused her birth name before we met her.  In fact, she was so desperate to walk away from her birth name that when we met her she had stubbornly refused to let the state care providers refer to her with her given name.  She made it very clear that she would be changing her given name when we finalized the adoption.  She spent many hours choosing a middle name, well 2 middle names actually, to go with her chosen first name and added our last name.  At this point, I had come to realize that the controversy surrounding a name change of an adoptive child was mostly being fueled by adoptive parents...NOT the child that was stuck with the name! the time K7 came knocking on our door (literally as you recall from my previous posts) I just assumed that he would be given his choice about changing his name...because as I said before, I really don't have an opinion.  People should be called by whatever name they want to be called.  Anyway, he seemed pretty happy with his name...a very...unusual name actually that I really didn't particularly like.  It was the kind of name that gets a kid beat up on the playground.  But I kept my opinion to myself because he seemed to like it.  Anyway, 5 months later as we filled out the paperwork to finalize his adoption, I just asked him if he wanted to change his name.  He surprised me by saying, "yes."  Now he was 4 at the time, but was adamant that he wanted to be called a certain name.  His previous adoptive family, well the father anyway, had frequently played with K7 and would teasingly call him this name.  Now how could I refuse since it was such a positive memory for my son, and he didn't have many positive memories of being with his "old family."  Besides, he had inadvertently chosen a family husband's!  We talked with him about his middle name, which was his birth name from Korea and he wrinkled his nose.  He said he hated that name and wanted to be "Ken Bobby."  We threw up our hands and let him change his name.  I love his new name, it reflected my dad AND my husband.  It was only a few months later that I realized that Toy Story 3 had influenced my child's thoughts on being renamed.  As "Kenneth Robert" was watching Toy Story 3, he started jumping up and down and saying "that is my name!!!!!"  And I realized for the first time that with his speech delays, I had misunderstood what he said he wanted his name to be.  I stared open mouthed at the TV as "Ken Bobby" pointed to Ken and Barbie and said he was named after them.  =)  Oops.
That being said, I do not regret changing my children's names.  Joining our family was THEIR new beginning.  Rather than shoving other people's opinions down my children's throats, I chose instead to listen to their stories and hear their desires.  Ultimately, they chose to change their name because they wanted a fresh start in life...but most importantly for my older adopted children, they wanted to take control of their life and although I don't have a strong opinion on adoption and name changes, I DO have a strong opinion on empowering our society's traumatized children.