Saturday morning, I’m having a little chat with D while making her breakfast. We talk about the adoption order again – there’s still time before we go through it but we’re mentioning it every now and again.
I explain that after it’s all finalised, her last name will change to our last name. “But what if I don’t want to change it?” she asks, “I’m a Smith [she said her original last name, but obviously I will not mention it in the blog]”. I have to admit, for the first moment or two I’m a little bit hurt. It feels like rejection.
But as parents, especially to adopted children, we need to learn to put our feelings to one side. They exist, they are valid, but they should not cloud our interactions with the child. I try to look at it from her perspective. Maybe to her, changing her last name will take away the history, her identity, her last connection to her birth family.
“Well”, I carefully word my answer, “changing your last name won’t erase your past. It won’t mean that you’re no longer a Smith. It’s just a piece of paper, no-one can take your memories from you. All you need to do is to look in the mirror to remember that there’s a little bit of your mummy and daddy in you. No-one can change that.”
She looks around the kitchen and randomly opens one of the cupboards. “What’s this?” she asks, pointing to a bottle of maple syrup. “That’s maple syrup, you put that on pancakes”. She looks at it for a moment, “I think I had that once. We went with mummy and daddy and had pancakes with maple syrup and strawberries”. I smile, it’s the first time she shares a happy memory from her birth parents. “Well, we can make pancakes sometime if you like”, I say. “Okay, but it has to be with maple syrup and strawberries”.
The following week we got some strawberries, and on one of the evenings (we like pancakes for tea) we had pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup. D was very happy.
Changing the last name is a requirement. But it will not make her part of our family – she’s been part of our family since the day we met her, and it won’t erase her birth family – they will always be there, in her appearance, her memories and the experiences she had with them both good and bad.