Friday, July 17, 2009

Name-Changes in Adoption

Not too long ago, it was a given that (in infant adoption especially), first names were exchanged for new ones when the adopted child joined their forever family. I know if we ever adopt a toddler or older child, we won't have the option of changing names, nor would we want to. But it was important to me to be able to choose the name of our infant son. So we did.

Perhaps naively, I had no idea it posed a significant problem to change his first name. Knee deep into our adoption education program and mere days away from placement, I was surprised to hear one of our social workers unilaterally condemn first name changes in adoption. "If you're thinking about changing his first name, don't."

The command was simple. Don't do it. Don't even think of it.
The problem was, we already did.

Little Man had been called by his new moniker for months now. He'd been "Little Man" for so long I couldn't imagine changing it back to his birth name. (No, we don't really call him Little Man, oh horrified audience. He has a lovely new name... I should know, I picked it!)

But the guilt set in. Was I doing him a disservice? Was I dishonouring his birth mother, whose tangible gifts to her son (other than the obvious beautiful gift of his life) were understandably limited? Would it make for hard feelings down the road, if a reunion is something they both desire?

What if he prefers his birth name? What if he hates the name we chose for him, and wants to go back to Petit Homme instead of Little Man?

I had a mild dose of pre-adoption panic.

But we kept on with the new name. It wasn't an issue for our home study social worker, who only insisted that we start using the name as soon as we had decided on it. (Done and done.) She didn't blink an eye, but she was a talented & very seasoned worker. I couldn't tell if she approved or not.

Her colleague, although equally lovable, wasn't as discreet.

Don't. Don't even think about it.
Well I did. And now I'm thinking, darnit!

I love his new name. I love its meaning, I love how it fits into our family, I love how it sounds when I say it, I love the significance of it, too. Most importantly, it is HIS name. It fits him so well, suits him so well, and is the perfect match for our Little Man as he grows from baby to boy to man.

It's not that we didn't consider keeping the name. A few factors dissuaded us. Most selfishly, his birth name was not one of my favourites purely for stylistic reasons. I'm a very plain Sarah Jane, and I wanted to keep our son's name simple, well-known but not too common, and for the love of God, easy to spell.

It didn't help that his birth name was not only trendy (think Hollywood babies), but it also employed a non-traditional spelling. I love the name Aoife, for instance, but I wouldn't name my daughter that unless we were planning to move to Ireland. Otherwise she would have to explain to everyone she met that it's pronounced "EE-fa" and its spelling was determined by throwing together most of the vowels, and then adding an 'f' for good measure.

To add to our guilt, we didn't keep his middle name either. But the middle name we chose
was very close to his original first name. (Just a few letters' difference between the two.) We hope one day Little Man will understand we didn't change his name out of disrespect. We chose his name with love and hope he'll be proud of it someday.

But go ahead, let me have it. Blast me if you like. Reassure me if you choose. Or let me know: adoptive families, did you keep or change your children's names? What's your unilateral opinion on name changes? Are you a "don't do it!" type of parent, or do you think some circumstances permit a name change?

Does a rose by any other name really smell as sweet?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Extra! Extra! Wet Noodle Strikes Again

News flash! My child defies the laws of physics. He's learned to bend all the bones in his body, defy gravity, and cast aside rules of sanity and decorum. My son has become a Wet Noodle.

Little man is standing by his toy box. "Diaper time!" I declare. I go to pick him up. Poof! He transforms. He doesn't quite resemble a strand of spaghetti, a half-moon of macaroni, or a spiral of rotini. But there he is. Barely squirming, but impossible to hold into. A Wet Noodle.

I struggle to pick up the 28 pound toddler. He's the same boy I can push one-handed in his stroller, or carry up a flight of stairs while dragging six grocery bags and a gallon of milk. I can even balance his thrashing frame under one arm while transporting him to his time-out spot. Why can't I manage the Wet Noodle?

I think he conferred with the other kids at daycare about this approach. I'm convinced of it, actually. How else would he have perfected this means of eluding capture?

There I stand, literally on top of him, struggling with both arms and usually a leg or two to simply pick him up and get him going. Wet Noodle will not be moved.

It's not as if I could just request and receive compliance. "Come hear" translates into "Run away and laugh like a hyena." in toddler-speak. "Get off the dvd player" means "jump up and down on Daddy's electronics, and then pull the wires out of his Wii for good measure." The dreaded "Go to sleep!" means "pull the sheets off your mattress, rip your pajama pants off and throw your diaper at mommy's head."

Until he learns English, or I speak Toddler-ese, we're at an impasse. I thought I could rely on my mommy-strength to circumvent the language barrier. I thought wrong.

Last week at a ball game, Little Man insisted on kicking at the lady in front of us. She was genuinely gracious about receiving a nasty boot to the head, but the behaviour HAD to stop. Little Man and I had to go home early. The stadium was packed, and I had to get past about twelve people in order to reach the stairs. The last man in the row refused to move to let us by. He was too busy balancing a plate full of cheesy nachos and a frothy beverage across his impressive beer belly. This temptation was too tantalizing for my frustrated toddler.

The Wet Noodle struck again. We were moving along nicely until he spotted the nachos. Then he lost muscle tone in his entire body. I lost balance. It was like being in an airplane during a sudden drop in altitude. Wet Noodle created Toddler Turbulence in the grandstands.

He was suspended, head down, hovering two inches above the tortilla chips. For a moment, nobody moved. He just hung there like a marionette, deciding whether to remain in noodle mode or go into quick toddler attack.

Then a miracle happened. Nacho man morphed into macho man. He leaped from his seat like his pants were on fire. Before Little Man could decide whether to attack or keep playing dead, Nacho man was halfway up the staircase. Beer splashed everywhere, but he managed to save his nachos from certain demise at the hands of Wet Noodle.

Extra! Extra! Wet Noodle strikes again. Hold onto your tortilla chips, folks. Little Man is just getting warmed up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Maybe You Could Get a Mumu."

Okay, so I'm diverting from my usual stories about my beloved son, my crazy family, and the general irks and affirmations of adoption life.

Today I'm going to talk about dresses. And chocolate. And a desk job. And how a mix of all three is a very bad combination.

A few months ago, before my passport expired, my sister and I went south to find wedding dresses. She's the bride, I'm the maid (matron?).

She found a lovely halter necked white gown, with red accents. I bought an off-the-rack formal strapless gown in the same shade of red. We brought them home, stuffed them in our closets, and got busy with life.

I got a new job (yay!) that took me from a daily work routine of running around the airport like a discombobulated chicken to a desk job offering supports by phone and email. And my colleagues share my devotion to chocolate. Yes, a VERY bad combination.

They actually handed me a disclaimer on my first day warning me that I would -- with no uncertainty -- be gaining ten pounds within a month.

I didn't believe them.
I should have listened.

Last week I pulled my bridesmaid's dress out of the closet to make sure it still fit.
It didn't.
I couldn't get the zipper up.
Oh, the horror.

So I hit the gym running. Between ten and twenty km daily. (Yes, that's almost a half marathon.) I stopped buying slurpees (what's a few thousand calories between friends?), and I resisted every piece of chocolate offered by my friends here in Burnaby.

A few days go by, and we try on the dress again. This time I get my husband Kevin to try and zip it up. It works, but I can't breathe. I KNOW if it feels terrible, it probably looks terrible, too.
As if I didn't need to hear it, Kevin tried to reassure me, "Well, it doesn't look THAT bad. Maybe you could get a shawl.... or a mumu to wear over it."

Kevin's funeral will be held next Tuesday at 4pm. (Kidding. Maybe.)

WHY!? Why on earth do we women do this to ourselves?? Men pick up their tuxedos the day of the wedding. If their gut spilleth over, they grab the next size up from the row of identical black pants. They move a button over on their jacket and presto! Ten pounds disappears.

No, we women choose dresses that defy the laws of gravity (staying up on their own accord, but only if your body conforms EXACTLY to its dimensions). We can't gain a few pounds, or our zippers will bust and our husbands will make suicidal suggestions about ordering mumus. If we lose weight (like I did before my best friend's wedding) a seamstress will have to add emergency spaghetti straps to keep the gown from falling off on the dance floor or slipping into dangerously revealing territory in front of your friend's creepy Uncle Norbert during the formal church wedding.

My sister says "just wear something else! It doesn't matter!" Oh, right. She can be the glowing bride at the summer wedding and I'll show up in one of the three dresses that fit me: a beach cover up, my own wedding gown, or the velvet dress I wore to Great-Aunt Bea's funeral.

The good news is, I'm fairly confident I can get into the dress by W-Day. (I adore running, and it's a fantastic way to burn calories.) But I hate diets. I loathe the word, and I swear this is my first and last time on one. I love food too much to restrict myself, and I don't care if I pick back up the ten pounds that somehow leaped onto my hips when I walked in the door of my new job.

For the next wedding, I'll just order a tux.
Or a mumu.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baby Showers and WUF Advice From the Chicken Lady

We attended a baby shower this weekend for my brother and sister-in-law. Little man was invited, so he came and got to meet my brother's wife for the first time. I was hoping he'd notice her bulging belly so I could tell him about his cousin-to-be in there. Of course, he's young & oblivious to the size and shape of peoples' bodies. He did look around briefly for "the baby" when we talked about her, but he quickly decided that "baby hiding". A nearby dirt pile was far more interesting than his yet-to-be-born cousin.

I got to meet a lot of my sister-in-law's extended family, who oohed over Little Man's curls and friendly demeanor. "His hair is FANTASTIC. Who did he get the curls from??" they smiled. "Oh, we're not sure," I say. Most days I like to talk about adoption; I advocate it whenever I can and probably overdo it, but I also want our son to grow up knowing that it's just one part of him. I don't ever deny how he came to our family, but if I'm having smalltalk with a stranger, I don't always feel the need to tell them the origin of our family. I know a lot of adoptive families don't have that luxury.

Part of the reason I sometimes hesitate is that when I do speak of it to strangers, I run the risk of receiving "Wuf" -- well-meaning, uneducated feedback. If Little Man is standing by, and someone says something derogatory about adoption, birth parents in general, so-called "drug babies" or anything else that might be harmful to my little one's self image, I'd rather let the fact that he is adopted remain guarded.

Case in point: shopping at the mall, I got commentary from a passerby about the benefits of breastfeeding. (He was barely seven months at the time and was enjoying his afternoon bottle.) I mentioned how difficult it is for adoptive parents to breastfeed, and that he was doing just fine, thanks for the input. The passerby stopped, clucked like a chicken, and then exclaimed "Well he looks just like you! You don't have to tell everyone he's adopted. You don't even have to tell HIM!"

I just blinked at the Chicken Lady. (Now, she was no spring chicken -- I'd guess probably in her late sixties or seventies.) I figured she was still adhering to the adoption ideals of her youth. "Adoption is very different these days," I said shakily. (My mommy defence system was still in its infancy!) "I'm proud that he's adopted." She just shook her head before walking away muttering something even MORE offensive about "giving away" "beautiful baby", and "such a shame". Cluck Cluck Cluck. I wasn't listening anymore. I was focusing on my baby in my arms, and hoping that the Chicken Lady would gather up all her like-minded hens and head for the hills.

So excuse me if I take a break from promoting adoption and just enjoy a moment with my family. There will be plenty of opportunities to dialogue with potential adoptive parents, and to educate the masses about the kids we have waiting in our province.

Today I'm enjoying my son, and no, I'm sorry I can't tell you where his curls came from!