Saturday, March 2, 2013

On Naming...

One night just after we'd gotten engaged (ooohhh so many decades ago 7 years ago) Andrew and I hashed out all the names we liked and didn't like and what we would choose for our planned-for two children.  I have such a vivid memory of that night- eating sushi and being so happy and talking about what we would name our children.

We picked out Daniel for our (imagined) son, and Lily for our (imagined) daughter.

Flash forward through all the years we spent trying and trying and adopting...

When we decided, finally, to adopt internationally we knew that picking out names for our children had grown enormously complicated. They would have names already- possibly names their First families had chosen for them, possibly names given to them by the orphanage staff.  They could have biblical names, "English" names,  traditional Ethiopian names, names that were easy for us to pronounce or names that we would have trouble with.  Like many things about adopting, we just wouldn't know until we found out who are children were.  So we added "names" to the list of things to do AFTER referral (which, unfortunately, is a much shorter list than the list of things to do while you WAIT).

There are lots of strong opinions in the adoption community about naming.  Many families feel very strongly that the child's first name be kept, no matter what. Others feel just as strongly that the child needs a new name to go with their new identity and family. We felt strongly that we wanted to honor our child's First family, but that we also wanted to help our kids to have happy lives and avoid the embarrassment and anxiety of having a name that their teachers, friends and colleagues wouldn't be able to pronounce.

While we waited I researched Ethiopian names that were also found in America: Hannah, Maya, David, Joseph.  It wasn't too fruitful, but I needed something to do. (see The Wait. Parts One, Two, Three)

Then we got our referral.  A five year old boy and his 8 month old sister. Two names we could not pronounce. That night we celebrated at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant.  I asked the waitress (Hannah) for help.  It took even her a moment.... Damtew (Damn-toe) and Tagessech  (Tag- eh- sech) Their names. The names their First family picked for them. Damtew means "to be victorious" and Tagessech means "She waited" (or, Patience).  Beautiful names, but oh, they don't roll off the tongue for most Americans. And oh, "damn-toe." Oh dear.

Then we found out that during the adoption process our children's names would be changed... the Ethiopian court would give them Andrew's name as their middle and last names.  (In Ethiopia your father's first name becomes your last name.) So, we would have to change their names when we got home anyway. No way was my daughter going to have Andrew as her middle name!

So, we came back to the names we picked out oh so many years ago. Daniel. Daniel Damtew. Lily. Lily Tagessech. Perfect.

Now the story of how Damtew changed into Daniel (because we didn't immediately switch his name)... now that is a whole other post.

the day we became a family... the kids are wearing traditional clothes.

* By the way, any time we tell an Ethiopian who's met Lily what her Ethiopian name is, they burst out laughing. Patience, she is not. Yet, anyway.

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