Our daughter is ten years old. She is a subject often discussed on this blog of mine, because watching her grow and change is such an amazing experience, and she is just such a great little human being in the making. I have been pondering the idea of a person’s search for identity because of something that happened with her this week.
She is legally the child of both myself and my partner; and she has always known that, known that she belongs to both of us. Her last name, due to biology of birth, is mine. She was always given the option of hyphenating it, to carry both of our names, and we considered doing it on her behalf at times. But, in wanting to help her feel one of her peer group, we never did anything except keep her name as it is.
This week, she subtly but specifically told me that she wants to change her last name. Not hyphenate it, but change it to reflect my partner’s last name only. I was surprised, a little shocked, and at first, felt really weird about that. Not my name anymore? What does that mean, and then, where do I fit in with her identity and origins? It was a strange reaction on my part, I didn’t expect it, but have been trying to sort through it since she first told me. And, she only told me directly, not my partner.
Last night, over family dinner, we all had a discussion about it. We talked about the various options with her, and although she was interested in the option of hyphenating vs. changing it, she still wants to change it to her last name.
Now, as her parents, we could say, no, that is not okay. We could express our concern about the questions that she will get, the confusion it may cause with friends or school personnel, possible negative reactions. But, I think we are of a frame of mind that we want HER to make the choice. You see, we are a nontraditional type of family; so, we need to, at times, do things in a nontraditional way, to accomodate the needs of our child, of our family.
After I stopped feeling helpless, lost, and left out about the potential name change, it kind of hit me as a revelation of sorts: she is forming and shaping her own identity. She is taking control of who she is, and part of that, for her, is changing her name. She cannot describe to us, nor explain, why she wants to do it, but identity is a hard thing to explain or describe for any of us. What is our identity? Who are we? Her questions related to this will be far different from many of her peers, so this seems to be an exercise in that, to help her come to her own, loving and individual understanding. She is searching, and we will help her in anyway that we can, that seems reasonable, to find it and explore it.
And, I don’t think we could express our love in any fuller of a way.