Thursday, May 19, 2005


I think at one time or another, most of us have wished for a different name.

Zac first started toying with that idea when he was seven. We'd moved near Portland, Oregon, so Dave could finish his last year of seminary. We had new neighbors, a new city, a new church. It only seemed right to Zac that he got a new name.

"Mom, from now on, I want you to call me Sam, okay?"

I liked that name. In fact, it had actually made it into our top three contenders during the last weeks when we were awaiting Zac's adoption. But Samuel David Woodward sounded too old. It sounded like we'd be bringing a grizzled, 108-year old man home from the hospital. So we scratched it from the list.

I tried to reason with him. "Zac is such a great name. It means 'The Lord has remembered.' " After years of infertility treatments and angst and prayer, God had brought me my longed-for boy. I thought the name suited the situation perfectly.

"Sam's better," Zac argued.

I dropped the subject, hoping he'd forget. But about a month later, after we'd taken our new church's offer of a Parent's Night Out and dropped Zac off to spend two hours with a roomful of other parent-abandoned kids, we returned from our restful dinner out and grinned at him over the half-door of the youth room.

"Time to go, Zac. Grab your coat."

While he ran to get his coat on the other side of the room, I saw a boy near the door scrunch up his face. "Hey--she called him Zac. But he said his name was Sam."

Those two glorious hours of Samdom made a big impression on Zac. He was hooked.

"Please, Mom!" he'd exclaim in exasperation, every time I slipped and used his real name. "I'm Sam now!"

I think he'd still be Sam, except he heard the name Hank one afternoon. "I like that better--let's call me Hank."

After that it was Chris, then Sam again, and then Matt.

He renamed himself a dozen times over the next two years. And then Tera came to live with us. It took a year for our adoption to be complete, but that just gave her plenty of time to soak in all Zac's wisdom and idiosyncracies.

"I don't want to be Tera," she told us one day. "I'm Pookie. I mean Olivia. Wait--Nicole. Nikki. Yeah, Nikki."

She expected full participation from the rest of us. Wanting the vacuum one day, she popped her head in Zac's room to ask for it. "Zac, I need the bac-oo-eem."

"I'm not Zac," he said. "I'm Matt." Ten minutes earlier, he'd been Sam. From the kitchen, where I could hear the goings-on clearly, my head began to hurt.

"Mom! Tera's calling me Zac again."

Before I could intervene, she challenged him back. "I'm not Tera. I'm Nikki."

Zac ignored her. "Mom, Tera won't quit calling me Zac."

I walked down the hall. "Zac, don't you mean 'Nikki's calling me Zac?' "

"You called me Zac!"

I couldn't keep up. I decided to try to cajole him out of this nonsense. "But honey, that's your name. And it's a nice name."

He shook his head. "I'm going to change it."

"You can't just change your name. It costs money."

"How much?"

I wasn't sure about the current court costs. The last time I'd heard a quoted figure, I was nineteen and mulling over the possibility of changing my name to Natasha or Natalie. Figuring in for inflation over the past nineteen years, I doubled the figure. “It costs $500.”

Zac thought about that a minute. “I’m going to get that money. I’m going to have a fundraiser at church.”

I could only imagine the posters he'd make for that fundraiser. Give today! Help Sam correct an injustice ...

Although the thought of calling my children something other than their given names was distasteful to me, almost alarming, I had to stop and give it serious consideration. In the end, I concluded that the real appeal of a new name is the new start that goes with it. It's a reinvention of yourself. "This is who I was meant to be." It's rising to the challenge of a blank slate--and who doesn't want a blank slate now and then?

During this little period of our lives, we were homeschoolers. One day I visited a new homeschooling co-op to get a feel for things and decide whether or not we were going to join. Apparently I wasn't the only newcomer.

"Let's go around the circle and tell how many children we each have," the moderator said.

When my turn came, I smiled. "I have two."

"And what are their names?” the moderately asked politely.

I took a deep breath. “Zac, Sam, Chris, Hank, Matt, Tera, Olivia, Pookie, Nicole and Nikki.”

Flexible ... we must be flexible.

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19 Comment:

At 5/19/2005 7:55 AM, Blogger Ginger had this to say ...

How funny! And how confusing.

Have you ever wondered about the names in the Bible? Either the people fulfilled the names their parents gave them, or the storytellers about these people gave them names that fit the characters. How else could "Jacob" mean "Deceiver?"

I was named "Rena" when I was born, after my grandmother. But my dad took one look at my fine red hair and started calling me "Ginger." And thus I've been "Ginger" my whole life, but never legally so until I got married 4 years ago and did the whole name-change thing all at once. And my personality is definitely more "Ginger" than "Rena." So maybe there IS something to kids fulfilling the names that their parents give them....

At 5/19/2005 8:13 AM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...

My birth name was "Frances Kathleen Schnabel" How's that for a mouthful? I always hated the name Frances. Bread and Jam for Frances. Frances the talking mule. I was also named after some old dead aunt somewhere. (Made quite an impression on me didn't she?) So I shortened it to Fran. Then I got married. (I told Jon I didn't marry him for his money since he has none. I married him for his name!) Then I discovered that my name means "free". I like that. (Plus I can't get anyone to call me "Her Royal Highness!") :)

At 5/19/2005 8:36 AM, Blogger pam had this to say ...

It's true, I didn't like my birth name either especially when my Grandma called me Pammie Jean. I believe it was probably the first thing I learned to let go and accept, even like as I couldn't change it. Now I am honored when she or anyone else calls me that.

At 5/19/2005 8:54 AM, Blogger Michael had this to say ...

Shannon, Mary, Elizabeth or ...

That was delightful thank you.

Take Care

Dave, Benjamin or ...

At 5/19/2005 10:08 AM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, I remember when our son asked me not to call him Nicky anymore, but Nick. Second grade, during a visit from his friends. I took a deep breath and obliged. He cornered me a few seconds later, though, and whispered, "But after they leave you can call me anything you want."

Thanks for dredging up a sweet memory for me this morning.

At 5/19/2005 10:55 AM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

That was so funny, I loved it.

At 5/19/2005 11:14 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Ginger, that's a great story. And now that I "know" you a bit, I can't imagine you being anything but Ginger. :)

Fran! Love the meaning of your name. It suits you.

Pammy Jean, I'm not calling you Pam anymore. You may be sorry you shared that little bit of information.

Hi there, Michael-Dave-Benjamin! :)

That is a sweet story, Bonnie. I wish Zac had told me I could call him Zac at home--but no! It had to be Sam ALL THE TIME.

Hi Darlene!

At 5/19/2005 11:18 AM, Blogger Nancy had this to say ...

I have never liked Nancy, it was the name of a comic strip. There was only one other Nancy all through school. Instead of changing my name I changed how I spelled it Nanci, that lasted for about a year. Almost no one calls me Nancy, it seems that immediately it becomes Nance, Nan, Nanners, Nanny Goat, Nancy Pants and my favorite Fancy Nancy. Oh, and a little boy in the neighborhood couldn't say Nancy so he called me Lancy. The Lord knows my name and that is all that matters to me, call me whatever you want!!

At 5/19/2005 1:37 PM, Blogger whaaaat! had this to say ...

I wanted to change my name when I first went to kindergarten. My real name is Tracy and wouldn't you know there would be a girl named Tracy in my same class. Being a guy, I sure didn't want to have a girl's name, so I convinced my parents to let me go by a different name. We decided to drop the "c" and go by Tray, which has it's own problems with people assuming I am the third until I spell it and then they poke fun at me as being an object to carry plates of food. OK, this is the first and maybe the only time I will give out my real name on a web site, so no comments poking fun. :) I should have just stuck with whaaaat!

At 5/19/2005 2:00 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

I feel humbled that you would reveal yourself here. This is a "Dear Diary" moment, to be sure. :)

I had a male cousin named Tracy, and it's funny, but not thirty minutes ago I mentioned my husband's college friend, Trey, to him. Very odd.

So do we keep calling you whaaaat! now that we know??

At 5/19/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

I feel humbled that you would reveal yourself here. This is a "Dear Diary" moment, to be sure. :)

I had a male cousin named Tracy, and it's funny, but not thirty minutes ago I mentioned my husband's college friend, Trey, to him. Very odd.

So do we keep calling you whaaaat! now that we know??

At 5/19/2005 2:35 PM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Kids are so adorable! lol That post was way too cute.

Natasha or Natalie huh? That cracks me up! I just can't picture you as anything other than Shannon or Shanny. :)

I was named after a street sign, Kimberlina Avenue. Yep, I could have been Kimberlina. Haha. My mom had pitty on me and named me Kimberli instead.

Btw, I've been planning on naming our dog Hank when we get one some day in the future. :)

At 5/19/2005 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Sorry. Feeling sorry about your name? I got you all beat. Nobody can top a name like Cora.

At 5/19/2005 4:36 PM, Blogger Bill and Glory had this to say ...

Glory is my real name and I had real name issues when I was younger. My maiden name was Funk so you can only imagine how cheesy that sounded curdling on the tongue. I wanted to be Lyndsay, Lyndsay Harcourt, in fact. I wanted to be a city savvy blonde without glasses and perfect teeth, not a four-eyed dentist's goldmine of a farm girl. Elizabeth wants her name to be Ealasaid (her celtic name). What's in a name?...


At 5/19/2005 8:58 PM, Blogger thequeen had this to say ...

I love my birth name: Toni and hate the name my adoptive parents gave me: Denise..UG..My daughter hates her name and wants to be called crystal, which is close to what she was almost named : crystalyn. She also likes Ashlei, and Amber...Kids what can you do but have patience and be "flexible"

At 5/20/2005 7:17 AM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

Hi Shanny :-)
Loved this post!!When I was a child I hated my name(Sharon Louise)as I thought it sounded"hillbilly"LOL.What does one know when young...LOL...My mom always used both names when mad at me.As an adult I found out my name means"Princess Warrior"Pretty cool I think.Thanks for bringing back a funny childhood memory.Love ya!

At 5/20/2005 10:16 AM, Blogger JOE B had this to say ...

I am sitting here with a smile on my face while reading this, it is very funny to me.
My son's name is Zack and we called my sister Pookie until she was 7. Brings back memories.


At 5/20/2005 10:56 AM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

Hi Shanny :-)
I also forgot to add I call my husband Pookie!! LOL :-)so naturally I laughed at this post as well!!

At 8/26/2005 10:48 AM, Anonymous Pam had this to say ...

Two little girls I've loved had unique name changes of their own that still bring a smile to my heart. Three year old Anne Marie asked us to call her "Allison Underland" from then on (lasted about a year). A few years later, her sister Jen, age two, insisted she was to be called "Robin Hood." So cute!!


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