Through the grapevine, someone asked me why we’d change Reed and Scarlett’s names. This is a great question and I am so glad it was asked! Please, please, please, feel free to leave me questions like this in the comments. I’d much rather that they were out there, and we had the opportunity to answer them, than you all are just left wondering why we do certain things.
First of all, Erika and Ilya are not their real names. Erika and Ilya are names which Andrea over at Reece’s Rainbow makes up to list on the website. This is so people can’t look at them, think what cute kids they are, and go into the agency in their country and request to adopt them by name. If someone did see our blog and fell in love with them, they would have to call around to orphanages, looking for a cute little red-headed girl and blonde haired boy. Much harder than searching the files for Erika and Ilya.
We do know their real names. Their legal names. However, we have no idea what they’re called in the orphanage. When trying to decide what to name them and researching this topic, I found that a lot of children in orphanages are not called their real names. In Russian orphanages (no, we’re not adopting from Russia, but a nearby country), it is common that orphans are called a nickname… someone which translates to “cutie” or “beautiful” or “sweetie”. We have no idea what name they identify with.
Another consideration in the name change is that we likely cannot pronounce their name how they are used to it being pronounced. We probably could learn (although there are sounds in languages, which I simply cannot make– like rolling Rs!), but Ana in Russian doesn’t necessarily sound like Ana in English.
But, none of these were our #1 reason for changing their names. Erika and Ilya’s real names do not sound like American names. Sure, with people naming their kids Apple and Banjo, lots of kids have odd names. But, I do think that it could be nice for a kindergartner, on their first day of school, to have a name which the teacher doesn’t stumble over, which classmates don’t think sounds weird. From what I understand, most adopted children go through periods where they are very proud of their home country and periods where they just wanted to fit in. Where they don’t want to be known as the kid from Eastern Europe. That’s why we’re giving them names that we chose, which sound American, and keeping their Eastern European name as middle names.
I know a few kids who always went by their middle names. And if Reed and Scarlett chose to go by their middle names, that is fine. But, we want to give them the option of having a name to fit in, and still being able to keep their heritage.
I hope that this makes sense, and answered questions that you all have about this. This is something we’ve researched, talked about and even brought up with our social worker. As much fun as I think naming is, it is not something that we would do if it wasn’t in Reed and Scarlett’s best interest. I actually think this is very common. I think lots of Reece’s Rainbow families keep their RR name and drop their first name.
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The topic of identity is addressed in Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen – my all time favorite adoption book and I've read a zillion 😉