Mom Wants To Change Cultural Spelling of Adopted Daughter's Name But People Think She's Being 'Selfish'

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@Olha_Tsiplyar/Twenty20

As a parent, choosing your child’s name is one of your first big decisions. When you're an adoptive parent, opening your heart to a child who already has a name, the decision can be a little more challenging. Although there's no rule of thumb for naming adoptive children, there are some things for parents to think about. The choice is ultimately up to the new parents, who will likely also think of the child's feelings too. Changing their last name is a given, but any changes to the first name should be carefully considered.

In trying to put the child's feelings first, Jennifer Traficanti, former director of child services of the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, has said parents should ask themselves the following: Am I considering a name change because it makes me feel more comfortable?

One mom writes on Reddit about a similar situation with her adoptive daughter. She and her husband want to change the spelling of their daughter's name to an Americanized spelling. The mom's cousin, who is also adopted, says it's wrong to change the spelling because it's like denying the baby's culture.

  • The couple has been fostering a baby girl for six months.

    The baby girl is only 8 months old, so the couple has been raising her since she was 2 months old. Her name is Aleksandra. The couple recently got confirmation that they will be able to adopt the baby girl.

    "We don’t know much about her bio family’s origins except that yes, they are Polish, which explains the spelling of her name," the adoptive mom explained. "However, most people we’ve run across have been confused by it."

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  • They want to change the baby girl's name to the American spelling.

    The couple prefers spelling their daughter's name Alexandra, and say they are not trying to deny her origins. 

    "We do plan to raise her to know about her Polish background," the woman wrote, "but she’ll have the English spelling of the name. We’ve already started spelling it the Americanized way for personalized stuff we’re ordering. And we can legally change it when we legally adopt her and change her last name to ours."

    Period.

  • A family member disagrees with changing the spelling of the name.

    When the woman revealed the spelling change to her cousin, who was adopted from China, the cousin said that she was robbing their daughter of her culture to “make [her] own life easier.”

    "What I didn’t know until now was she originally had a traditional, cultural name and my aunt and uncle changed her name to an American one," the Redditor explained. "So it’s a sensitive subject for her. I didn’t know this."

  • Now the woman wonders if she's being selfish.

    The woman doesn't see the name change as a big deal.

    "To me, it’s different because it’s the same name, just different spelling," she wrote.

  • Some Redditors believe the parents should keep the original spelling of Aleksandra.


    "As an adoptee, I have always resented my parents for changing my name," one Redditor wrote. "I lost my culture when I was brought to the U.S. and I lost my identity when my parents Americanized my name. I've always had a hard time with it. I personally don't think it's okay to change an adoptee's name. But ... I know some adoptees really don't mind that their name was changed. Maybe she won't care, but also maybe she will. There's no way to know."

    "Leave it. Let it be up to her to decide when she's older," another Redditor commented. "If you change it now and she grows up to hate it, then you're putting the cost of changing it on her, when it was never her choice to begin with. Leave it."

    "I think it's kind of disrespectful to that little girl to change her name to suit your needs," wrote another commenter. "That name may very well be the last connection she has of her old family and culture."

    "It's a super cool name," another person chimed in, "links her to her heritage but it's also really obvious what it is, easy to shorten to 'Alex' still anyway when talking to her. So I don't see why they need to change a couple letters really."

  • Some Redditors think changing the spelling to Alexandra makes more sense.


    "I'm also adopted, and my parents changed my name when they got me," one commenter explained. "A different name completely, not just a different spelling. I'm really happy they did. If I was this child, I would like the changed name better. There's no real way to know, and either way could cause some resentment when the kid grows up."

    "It totally doesn't matter where you were born or what you look like," another person commented. "You grew up in America and speak English and live exactly the way we do. You're an American! Culture is socially learned."

    "I have a name with unusual spelling and it has been a pain for my whole life," a different commenter explained. "So much so that I deliberately gave my son a name with traditional spelling. Change it, but be honest with her, and if she decides she wants to change it back later, then support her with that."

  • Ultimately, the decision is left to the parents. 

    The parents have to go with their hearts and decide what they think will be best for their daughter. She's less than a year old and obviously won't have a preference for a little while.

    As some Redditors suggested, the parents can reach out to people who have been adopted, especially internationally. That could give the parents some clues as to which way to go with their baby naming decision. 

    "You're all navigating a sensitive issue as best you can," a commenter shared. "Here's my piece of unsolicited advice. Read books/blogs/articles about adoptees (not about adoption, about people who have been adopted! Especially about cross-cultural and cross-national adoption). Read about their point of view, their lives, the identity issues and mental health issues that come with it."

    The person continued, "An adopted person without these issues is the exception, not the rule. Be grateful that you know someone who has been adopted that can share her experiences. That's a gift even when you disagree on something. You already listened, otherwise you wouldn't have posted this. Please continue listening. No matter what the decisions you end up making for your child ... they will be better if you base them on knowledge rather than ignorance."