A name, an identity, a mom and a son…


fam303When my oldest olive shoot leapt in my womb, I loved thinking about his potential name. I very much like my first name and realized the great responsibility given a parent to pick just the right one. After all, it’s going to stick with them all his/her life, right?

The Hubs and I kicked around a lot of first names before finding the right one for him.

The one thing I knew for sure was that Nathan would have a distinctive last name.

A last name that was hyphenated.

This idea was not met with thunderous applause. In our extended family, my mother-in-law, (may she rest in peace) said some regrettable things about our decision. That only made the woodworm of pride dig deeper in me. Nothing and no one could thwart my resolve.

So on that treasured spring day, my baby entered the world. We signed the birth certificate, sent out birth announcements and we all settled into family life. Two brothers later, 4/5 of our family are known by our special last name. It rarely presented an issue.2013-07-04 07.36.20

But when Nate decided to go to West Point, he began to mention that people were perplexed about what to call him. His first last name? His second last name? The first year, (plebe year) at West Point, NO ONE calls you anything but your last name! This only compounded the issue. The last day of plebe year, there is even a special ceremony where the other cadets actually acknowledge that you even have a first name if you can imagine!

Throughout his time at West Point, Nate noticed that his name was longer on his uniform than others. Eventually he shortened it unofficially because according to him, even the clever-minded cadets just couldn’t figure it out and he was tired of the confusion.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me the day Nate mentioned he wanted to just have one last name. I gulped but understood when he announced that he was going to use only my husband’s/his dad’s last name from now on. Honestly it made sense and I could appreciate the reasons behind his decision.

2013-05-10 13.33.10My maturity about the whole thing has impressed me. As vehement as I was in insisting that he have both of his parents’ last names, I have remained compassionate and impartial. I completely respect his decision. He is a man of honor, integrity and character. He will be married in November. I cannot hold him down nor do I want to impede his life whatsoever.

But here comes the raw part – I’m going to admit something…a new emotion that has risen to the surface a little bit…

2013-05-10 17.14.52When I learned that my OS would be getting a new birth certificate, one with just one last name, it felt like a rope burn to my heart.

Ok, so now I’m crying while typing. There is NOTHING that will ever change my affection for my olive shoots.  Our connection extends far beyond a dumb hyphen. My boy’s decision wasn’t an offense to me as a mom. Still, when the Hubs called me upon returning from the court-house to facilitate Nate’s name change, wow, I suddenly had a hard time. I was fine with Nate changing his name from 2014 and onward but gosh, going backward in time and doing it??? OUCHY!

Thinking of him having a new birth certificate brought sadness. I harkened back to that day in the hospital when we declared his name.

There are lessons to learn through all this. Besides encouraging them to walk with the Lord, my boys deserve respect and support of their decisions. I can do even if it stings a little. Since he is an officer in the Army, Nate has endured endless background checks, mountains of paperwork, and clearances to make this happen. True to Nate’s personality, he has been diligent. It’s the least I can do even if it stings a little. Furthermore, my sweet boy has spoken with tenderness about wrestling with the decision. Maybe he felt like he was betraying the family and what we have stood for. Nate, if you’re reading this, I know you love me and I understand!

299311_10150412030338018_3766445_nHis name is Nathaniel – it means gift of God and though the last name is changing, I am blessed to always be able to call him my son. I can do even if it stings a little. Perhaps I even will get some monogrammed towels for him after deployment to celebrate his decision!

12 thoughts on “A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

  1. Wow. Yes, I see his point, but my heart feels for his momma too. Changes come in forms you least expect it at times. I am sure that your current relationship with the boot is not helping the tears either.

  2. I can kind of relate. Mackenzie was supposed to be Mackenzie Graham Pernell. Graham, being my last name and the fact that the beautiful young girl I named her after, was Mackenzie Graham (her last name). Clays mother had passed away in January of 1997 and Mackenzie was born on March 28, 1997. When his mom had passed, he had asked me if we could name her after his mom. I said not to be rude but I do not want my daughter named Joan. He replied, not Joan but Sarah, her first name. My husband’s entire family go by their middle names. I cringed at first because all I could think of was the girl I went to school with way back in the day whose name was Sarah, whom I did not like! Very rude and spiteful girl. I finally put the two names together, Sarah Mackenzie and it flowed well, however, I did not want her called by her middle name and I was certainly not going to call her Sarah. I had asked that on her birth certificate she be named Sarah Mackenzie Graham Pernell. Clay did not go for four names, as I explained, she would not go by all four names but to keep my family name as part of her name. I never did add Graham to the certificate and I regret it more now that we have all girls. If I had had a boy, his name would have been Porter Graham Pernell, after my PaPa. I am blessed to have my three girls and love them dearly but I still want a boy! I would love to pass the Graham name on! We are done though!

    You are truly a wonderful writer and I enjoy so much reading your blog. You are blessed with three wonderful boys, who fill you with great pride! They are even more blessed to have such a warm, compassionate and loving mother as yourself!!! I can understand both sides of this story but do know your disappointment. Do you think the other two will follow suit?

    • It’s very sweet how you and Clay compromised on Mackenzie’s name! I think she has a name that fits her perfectly and the story behind it is so interesting! I have three girl names I was never able to use and when the boys were little every now and then I’d call them by the girl names just to be silly! As far as my other two, I am going to respect their decisions and not meddle in it! We shall see! Thanks for your sweet words, they mean a lot to me!

  3. Oooooo. I do understand. Saying it, changing it, is one thing. But somehow the birth certificate thing makes it different. It does seem “tampering” with the original more in some ways. I think it would make me feel a little “raw” too for awhile. Try to take those thoughts captive and focus on how much your son loves and respects you! Not a whole lot of parents have children that do that. You have a very special family!

  4. You know I love you, and I totally get it. I really do. But I have always been a bit puzzled by hypenated last names.

    I mean, they are first-generation fine, as in the Winter-Hartleys’ case. But what happens to the Winter-Hartleys’ children? What will their last name be? What if their mother also has a hyphenated last name? Will the children’s last name be _____-_____-_____-____?

    Now I know in Nate’s case his children’s mother will be Hispanic, and if you ask me, they have a whole better way of dealing with last names. They use the patronymic of both mother and father, so every child has two last names, father’s first and then mother’s.

    My mother is Cuban. Her last name was Millán García. I grew up in the Hispanic culture, and my last name was Fisher Millán. My children were raised American, and alas, their last name is limited to Ables. One of my girls used Ables as a middle name for one of her sons.

    As for the wife, in the Hispanic world, she keeps her own last name (father’s last name) and adds “de (meaning ‘of’) husband’s last name.” As in my mother’s case, her last name became “Millán de Fisher.”

    This way everybody knows exactly who’s who.

    • Well Mary, you are asking reasonable questions and when I was an unsaved feminist, I didn’t want to consider these things. I love our last name but yeah, I understand what you’re asking. I’m leaving those questions up to my kids and Jesus. Ables is a super cool middle name and I’d be honored if Winter were used in some way with my grandbabies but I’m not putting ANY pressure on them! We humans certainly make life more complicated!

  5. Is it a common thing in the US? Here children tend to have the father’s last name, with no mention of the mother’s maiden name. This is no bother because the woman usually takes the man’s surname on marriage.

    I have the opposite problem! My children all officially bear the last name of my ex-husband. They all want to be ‘officially’ my husband’s children (i.e. by adoption), but this would involve a visit to court and it may mean he (ex) could find out where we live, etc. He’s a dangerous, manipulative, generally horrible individual so we can’t take that risk 😦

    Nonetheless my children choose to unofficially call themselves by the same surname as me and my husband – and they are known by this in school. They self-identify as Kings, and when they reach 16 they can change their name by deed poll, if they choose. I hope they do 🙂 It would be a dream for my wonderful husband to walk his adoptive daughters down the aisle one day. I guess there’s nothing to stop me praying for it, though!

    • Hey Sandy, No it’s not a common thing, I was trying to make a statement way back then and was very insistent. I’m sorry to hear about your ex, it sounds like your husband is the kind of man your children look up to and love. Family identity is something to be protected and honored! I like your idea about praying for that special day, the Lord knows and cares! Always great hearing from you!

  6. Wow!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you as Nathan’s mom. But I am sure it was probably just as hard for him to make that decision. I just discovered your blog 🙂 Can’t wait to catch up on posts!

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