After the ridiculousness of last week, I started to password protect this post. But then decided, it’s my truth. As Ann Lamott has so eloquently said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
When our son was born, I filled out the birth certificate paperwork very carefully. His father had taken my maiden name in hyphenate form years before. On our honeymoon, in fact… in what was a romantic gesture (if a bit short-sighted) he opted to add my name to his.
Today, it might seem obvious. But at the time, it caused a stir. I had already angered his family by keeping my maiden name as a middle name. I tried to explain, “I plan to take IZ’s name in my personal life. But in my professional life, I want both. Unhyphenated, but both.”
My father-in-law supported my decision. My mother-in-law was incensed. It would be five years before she would address anything to us in our new combined name. Insisting instead to address everything, “Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Larsen.”
Probably not the best move on her part. Her obstinateness on the subject just sealed my resolve. OMG… I’m as oppositional as my child. Figures.
But I never had any expectation that IZ would follow suit. And I certainly didn’t expect my child to keep my maiden name. So, when it came time to fill out his birth certificate paper work I was careful. I gave him five names. No hyphens. One last name.
And I fully expected our son to drop the OATES portion of our name once he flew the coop. Baby chicks do that, think for themselves. I should know. However, Geo has been feeling the itch for the past several years. And we’ve always said to him, “Sweetie, if you want to be called ‘Stardust Revived’, we’ll call you that. It your name.”
I’ve always told him I would not, could not be upset with any choice he made. Though, I prefer he kept his given first name, the rest was up for grabs.
He has opted, for example, to Americanize his first name for strangers. He still spells his name as it appears on his birth certificate, but the French pronunciation is confusing for most people, so he has stopped insisting that his name be said correctly. He’s adopted a pseudonym for all his programming online—a name, that tellingly includes Larsen as a last name. And he, quietly, wonders what the future will look like when he is simply, Geo Larsen.
But as of late, I have sensed a hesitation from him. His desire to walk away from my past is palpable. He no longer considers my family of birth his family. He’s had enough (who can blame him?). However, he feels conflicted. “Giving up ‘Oates’ feels like I’m disrespecting you!”
Have I told you how much I love that kid? Like his father, he is compelled by his love for me. And with that comes a huge responsibility to not abuse their loyalty!
So, I’ve sat with it. Our son’s desire to embrace the family that loves him, the heritage he understands, the people who have loved him without criticism or judgment. Those same people have not always afforded me the same grace. But they have, without doubt, embraced my child. And through the years, attempted to embrace me as well.
No easy task, as I’ve been labeled difficult since birth!
The more I sat with the idea, the more I realized that for Geo to move forward it would require that I move forward as well. So, last year I floated the idea to IZ, “He wants to be a Larsen. Which, he IS. I think he needs us to be Larsens, too. Just Larsens.”
I was prepared for this moment. I’ve long anticipated the change, if only because hyphenated names are common and what do you do when you fall in love and marry another hyphenate? FOUR names strung together? I don’t think so. Even three gets complicated. YES, he could marry some girl willing to take his name. But, Geo is his father’s child. You know he’d be trying to find a way to include his beloved, like his father did before him! So, dropping the “Oates” part of his name is inevitable.
What I could not have predicted is my desire to do the same. I could not have imagined that at 41, I would not only be considering a name change for my child, but I would be considering it for ME as well. It’s amazing where our children lead us.