Thursday, March 26, 2015

They Think My Son Is Dangerous...Really?

I can't even.  I suddenly understand what that means.  Because, after going through our first (and, hopefully, last) discipline committee meeting....I can't even.  But, I will, because this would be a pretty pointless blog post, otherwise.  ;)

The day did not go as I expected.  I expected it to be stressful.  I expected to look down at my sweater and realize that I had dog hair on it.  I expected to have trouble walking in my boots.  But, other than that, nothing else went like I thought it would. 

Before going, we had a talk with William.  We explained that the counselor had some theories and that she recognized possible signs of high functioning Autism in him.  Although, it's not remotely official, we told him that we were going to bring it up.  We were feeling supremely confident that this information was going to tip the scales.  We explained that we wanted to home school him if they assigned him to an alternative school.  And, since he had previously stated that he definitely wanted to go back to his middle school if he was allowed, we said that he could, but we'd be watching closely.  And, at the first sign of trouble, we might pull him out.  We then asked him how he felt about everything and he said that he wanted to home school. regardless.     

We headed out, feeling nervous but optimistic.  I was sure that they would let him go back to middle school and that we would then have the ability to access the situation and go from there.  I was sure, but I was wrong.

So, we drove to the official bad part of town for our meeting at the school.  Well, where we thought the meeting was anyway.  We had been given the wrong location.  But, it didn't matter much.  We didn't miss anything because William's current vice principal also had the wrong location.  But, I include it here so I can comment that it was in a bad area....

So, we got there and we waited.  I'll skip the part where I sat there, scrolling through my facebook newsfeed, trying to pretend that this was not a big deal.  Sorry, that was some ineffective skipping.  Anyway, we got called in.  The room and the table were surprisingly big.  I looked around the table at about a dozen committee members and felt like I was in the interview from hell.  Because I just can't seem to keep my mouth shut, I joked, "Well, this is intimidating!" 

Everyone introduced themselves.  I don't remember a single name and, honestly, I only remember a few of the faces.  The vice principal gave her spiel.  They asked pointless questions, like "what period is P.E." and "When you got to school, did you realize that you made a mistake and consider turning it in before you were caught?"   (Yes, because the average 12 year old will fess up and guarantee punishment..)

I was literally wringing my hands.  Which is weird because I don't recall a time in my life when I had ever wrung my hands before.  But, it was so hard to keep my mouth shut and just listen to how they were misrepresenting him.   

I did jump in at one point.  I'm not entirely sure if it was allowed, but they were talking about William's ADHD and how it had been determined that it had not played a part in his choice.  At the time, we agreed, but since he started with a counselor, of course, that had changed.  So, we told them that she has picked up on possible signs for high functioning Autism.  Nothing is official, but we told them that we thought it was important to let them know because, clearly, it was relevant.  I was sure that they wouldn't take a chance on assigning a child to an alternative school with an unclear knowledge of his mental state.  I felt like if something happened, it was a law suit waiting to happen.  I guess that I thought wrong.  They seemed remarkably un-phased by this revelation and continued with the meeting.

So, we went back to waiting.  Oh, and more hand wringing! ;) 

Finally, we got to speak.  We explained that he had been bullied for years.  We explained that he had gotten to a point that he was fighting back.  We acknowledged that he made a bad choice and assured them that he had been advised of that...a lot.  We acknowledged his challenges with telling the truth.  We explained his history.  We assured them that counseling would continue and that nothing was more important to us than making sure that he was "ok,"  but that he didn't belong at an alternative school.  We were on fire!  We were this amazing tag team of high pitched mom and low pitched all-business dad!  Now, we're going to clear this up!  They will get it now! 

They just looked at us. 

I don't recall seeing any emotions on their bureaucratic faces.

It continued. 

They asked William some more questions.  As they asked, he started to shut down and give them the expression that I have seen a million times.  The expression of nothing.  I call it - looking at me like I'm speaking French.  Because it's like he doesn't understand what I'm saying, even though, I'm usually making very basic statements.  But, now I get it.  He's overwhelmed. 

He stopped answering.  We explained that he was getting overwhelmed.  He asked them to repeat the question.  I encouraged him to take a breath, relax, and then answer.  But, instead, he started to cry.  That's when Brian (I'm so glad that he was there) went to him and held him while he cried.

I looked at my son, with his face buried in his Daddy's chest as he cried.  And, I was never more sure that he isn't a juvenile delinquent in training. 

Apparently, they were not so sure. 

They said things like "bullied children are more likely to become violent" and "we have to worry about the safety of the other students."

And, as he cried, they went around the table and unanimously agreed that he should be sent to the alternative school.  And, for some reason, they all said the words, "I'm ok with it."  (That keeps replaying in my mind.)  The only question was whether 45 days was long enough. You see, usually they do 180 days, but since the school year is almost over, they settled for 45.  One of the committee members hesitated by saying, "I hesitate, but I think it's just the mom in me....yes, I'm ok with it." 

We were stunned.  We really thought that there would be more a discussion.  And, again, I was glad that Brian was there because I was falling apart.  As they went around the table agreeing with each other and then discussing the details, I kept repeating "no."  Then I looked at Brian, "Can I say no?" 

Then I brought up the Autism (or maybe Autism) again and continued with my dramatic tirade, "So, knowing he might have something else going on, you're just going to throw him in there and hope he's ok??"  

That's when I started to cry.  And, that's when Brian really had his hands full, literally.  He held a crying kid in his arms on one side and held a borderline hysterical wife's hand on his other as they all talked about getting William set up with ESE classes if he got the official diagnosis, etc, etc.  I wasn't listening.  I knew that we intended to home school if this happened, but, I honestly didn't think it would happen this way. 

I asked Brian, "Why are we still here?  He's not going there."

So, Brian told them that we were considering the homeschooling route.  They countered with the fact that he could never come back to public school without first doing his time at the alternative school.  We were basically like, yeah, whatever.  We were advised that we could appeal the decision, but he had to be in attendance there first.  Again, yeah, whatever.

Then, they were passing paperwork around and I had to have Brian sign everything because I literally couldn't see it through my tears.  Then the principal of the alternative school was by my side with more paperwork and explaining that it's not as bad as I thought.  She invited me for a tour and quite frankly, I believed that she meant what she said.  I believed that she felt for me.  But, that didn't mean that he belonged there.

I was so overwhelmed (there's that word again.).  I started to wonder if we were over-reacting.  But, my mind kept going to the messages and comments from the wonderful people who read my blog and about the conversations that we've had with friends, family, and teachers.  And, how we kept hearing over and over that William doesn't belong at an alternative school.  Some of these people were familiar with this particular school, some were familiar with other alternate schools, and some were just familiar with the concept.  But, they all felt that he shouldn't be sent there.   

The principal continued talking.  She said that we could come take a tour in the morning and assured me that I'd feel better, after.  I was pondering just playing along and saying never mind later because I wasn't sure how to escape.  But, I looked at Brian and he said, as gently as he could muster, "I wouldn't expect us."

And, that was it.  It was done.  We started gathering our stuff.  I took the principal's card per her request (in case I changed my mind) and we stood up.

And, because I just feel compelled to make jokes in stressful situations, I referenced the fact that it was a good thing that that Brian was there, "I was planning to leave way more dramatically!"  haha! 

Despite the fact that I'm hilarious, haha, as you can imagine, I was rewarded with blank expressions. ;)

We said our goodbyes or something like that.  I thanked the principal of the alternative school for her kindness (she didn't get a vote on whether or not he went there).  And, we were out.  Brian matter-of-factly marched up the stairs with William as I took the slower (and, hopefully, just as matter-of-factly) path up the ramp.  I  had no interest in tripping up stairs in my stylish yet not easy to walk in boots...

So, there you have it.  We're home schooling our son.  I have named our school "Parker Academy" and intend to enrich his learning by educating him on the history of Jedi's and, of course, Stan Lee's autobiography (if he's written one yet) will be required reading! ;)

But, honestly, we think this will be good for him.  And, I'm really excited about it.  He will be surrounded by people who love him and he can focus on learning and developing as a person.

Those people had already made up their mind about William.  They only let us come and speak because they had to.  Our fancy words and grown up clothes had no impact.  They actually said that they have to worry about the safety of the other students?  You do that.  We're going to worry about taking care of our child.  I guess that I was wrong when I thought that you were going to worry about that, too.  In the words of Brian, before we stood up to leave, "We'll take it from here."

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Son Thinks He's Alone

I took William to counseling on Friday.  He had been silly and chatty through most of the day, but got quiet as it got close to our appointment time.  So, I know that he must've been nervous.  As we sat there waiting, he put his head on my lap until she called him back.

As I waited, I learned a lot about what the stars wore to the golden globes and decided that Jennifer Anniston must be lots of fun to party with.  (You gotta love waiting room magazines.)  I also obsessed about what William was saying to the counselor about me.  We had explained to him that he could say what he needed to say and how she wouldn't run back and tell us, unless it was a safety issue.  And, I think it's very important that he feels safe talking to her.  But, all I wanted to do was run back there, throw open the door, and yell - "That's not true!  Whatever he said, that's not true!"  But, I didn't. ;)

When he was done, she called me back and confused me by telling me things that he had said.  Some things frustrated me like how he told her that we said that he was going to kill someone.  Why would they think that, he asked her.  Of course, what Brian had said was he could have accidentally killed someone if things got out of hand.  His point was to explain to William how potentially dangerous his choice was.  It frustrated me because Brian and I had both clarified that with him already, but I guess it isn't sinking in.

Some things were hard to hear like when she told me that she asked him how he felt about his biological mother.  She probably only paused for a moment when she said that, but for me, it felt like an hour passed as I waited to hear what he said about her.  Finally, she continued and explained that he took off his glasses, started to cry, and said that he didn't want to talk about it.  She let it drop and told him that he could if he ever wanted to.  She told me that there was a lot of pain there.  It hurt my heart, but it definitely makes sense.  Because, really, how could there not be...

Some things I needed to hear like when she was telling me that he said he eats lunch alone, how the kids pick on him, etc.  This wasn't new information, of course.  But, then she said that he feels alone.  I thought to myself, how can that be?  We're taking him to counseling, considering homeschooling, and worrying about him non-stop.  All I want is for him to be happy and "ok."  Then, it dawned on me.  I'm talking to Brian about it.  I'm talking to my family and friends about it.  I'm blogging about it.  Everyone knows how concerned I am.   But, I wasn't telling him. Why wasn't I telling him?  Then, I knew that I had to so just that.  He needed to know that he wasn't alone.  (Hey! who is getting the counseling here??)

So, we left.  We walked to the van in near silence.  I managed a "How do you feel?" and he said "Good."  We went to my parents (who were watching Lizzie and Antwan) and then headed to Wendy's for a comfort fast food dinner.  Lizzie and Antwan rode with Grandma and Grandpa so William and I were alone in the van.  It was so quiet.  I knew that I needed to say something, I knew that it would make things better, but I was over thinking it (I do that) and didn't know how to start.

Finally, when we were pulling in to Wendy's, I started to talk.

"I need you to know that you are not alone.  Yes, Daddy and I are upset.  Yes, you made a bad choice.  But, we are on your side.  I really need you to know that you are not alone."  Pause  "Ok?"

He said "ok."

And, you know what, it did make things better.  I think that he did feel less alone.

And, as we walked into Wendy's, he said, "One thing that I didn't like about counseling, when she asked me about my birth mother, she kept calling her my real mom.  Finally, I got so upset that I started to cry."

Wow, she played that one wrong. 

I fought the urge to go emotional Emily and instead calmly agreed that she should have used the correct terminology.  I told him that I would politely mention it to her.  And, I will.  Because she really should know better.  But, for once, I went a different way in my head.  Instead of getting hung up on how insulting using those terms are, I realized something else.  He was upset that she was referring to someone else as his real mom.  Because for him, that's me.  Now I know that the counselor was right about there being pain there.  And, I know that he is going to want to know more about her one day.  But, I also know that I'm his mom and he feels that.  With all the other things that he's confused about, he's not confused about that. 

And, you know what, that made me feel less alone, too.

He stayed close to my side through out dinner and seemed more at peace than I had seen him in awhile.  Although, admittedly, it's hard to tell with him.  And, as confused as I am and as worried as I am about the future,  I finally felt in my heart that we're gonna be ok.  Because, you know all you need is love, etc, etc.   We've got that.

P.S.  Thank you for your supportive comments and messages (and for reading!).  It means a lot to me and really helped me gain some perspective on our situation.   That, also, made me feel less alone. :)


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bad Situations Lead To Bad Choices.

I don't even know how to write this.  Living as someone who is often amazed that my life is what it is, I'm even more amazed now.  But, this time, not in a good way.

William.  We've worried about him so much over the years.  We've watched him struggle and we've watched him succeed.  Sometimes, we've been so amazed at his character and sometimes we've wondered if he would ever stop lying to us.

He's had his share of struggles.  This year, he's struggled the most.  Stories of bullies which could not be verified.  Rapidly deteriorating grades.  Internalized anger turning external.  And, an increasing tendency to fight back, instead of taking it.

Today, an awful thing happened.  Today, William got caught with a weapon at school. A box cutter that he found in our kitchen.  I had forgotten that we even had one.  But, when I was trying to open a package, Kaleb brought it out for me.  It made my task easier and, apparently, gave William an idea.  Because, a couple of days later, he pocketed it before heading to school.  He wanted to intimidate the kids who mess with him.  Since they don't back off when he tells them to, he wanted to give them a reason to take him seriously.

Well, there's a lot of people taking it seriously now.   

Even though, I love to cling to the idea that he impulsively grabbed it that morning and, therefore, use his ADHD as a rationalization; the fact is that he wasn't feeling so impulsive when he took the time to switch it to his PE shorts' pocket when he dressed out that day.  Then, he participated in a game in P.E.  Then, it fell out of his pocket.  Then, all hell broke loose.  This is, of course, very lucky.  Because as much as we hate what is happening now, we are so relieved that William didn't pull the knife on somebody and that nobody got hurt.  Besides our hearts, of course. 

So, that morning, I got the call.  I actually got two calls from his school, that day.  The first was to tell me that he had skipped a "Learning Lunch" that he received because he didn't turn in a homework assignment and that he would, therefore, have lunch detention.  I thought that was pretty bad, but I had no idea how bad it was going to get.  Not long after, I got ready to head to Target, armed with a birthday gift card.  (Shopping Therapy is the best!)  But, then I got the second call.

I listened to the Dean telling me that William had brought the box cutter to school, that it was a level 4 offense, was an automatic 10 day suspension, and that a committee would decide if he could come back to school or whether he would have to go to an alternative school.  I didn't know what to say; I think I just made a lot of gasping sounds.  How could William, my sweet, gentle William have gotten to this point?  Who the hell was this kid that she was talking about?  The only thing that didn't surprise me was that he told a couple different stories about why he had it before he finally admitted the truth.  (Come on, Will.  No one buys that you brought it so you could cut your nails.  The nails that you don't have because you bite them constantly...)

I remember sitting there for a minute, listening, and then hopping in my van.  Somewhere in my denial-filled mind, I was under the impression that I was still going to Target.  Until, of course, she clarified that he needed to be picked up and asked if I was nearby.

"Yes, I'm in my van.  I was going to go to Target, but I guess I'll come there instead." Then, I laughed as if it was funny.  She didn't laugh back because it wasn't funny or well-timed.  Usually, my jokes are way funnier, but usually, my son isn't getting suspended.

I picked him up.  I listened to them tell him the same stuff that we've always told him.  How it's important to tell the truth, make good choices, etc.  And, when I asked them if the committee would take into account that he's been bullied, she pointed out that he had been involved 50% in the cases that I reported.  I could explain that this was because he was trying to defend himself, but since he wasn't telling anyone the full story, he had no credibility.

I went to a meeting, the next morning, with the vice principal, the guidance counselor, and his English teacher so it could be determined whether or not his ADHD was relevant.  But, everyone agreed that it wasn't.  Again, I pointed out that I understood why they were now officially recommending the alternative school (for the remainder of the school year), but I wanted it on record that we truly believed that this was a textbook case of being bullied until he just didn't know how else to cope.  That he tried to defend himself, in horribly unproductive ways.

Basically, no one bought it.  Again, it was pointed that he had been involved.  He had cursed, he had yelled, he had allegedly kicked, and, he, of course, had brought a weapon to school.  They mentioned the story of the boy who cried wolf.  I assured them that we had said the same thing to William many, many times.  I went home, depressed, and, unsure of what to say to William so I continued to avoid him.   

It could've been so much worse.  Nobody got hurt and we are so grateful for that.  But, still it is pretty bad.  And, after the initial anger subsided, we were so painfully aware of how lost our son is.  He's lost because he's being picked on, he's lost because he's making some awful choices, and he's lost because he's lost virtually any chance of anyone believing anything that he says at the school (and, sadly, at home, too).

Lucky for us, this happened a few days before spring break so we've had lots of time to dwell and talk to each other and lecture him and talk to other people and I've had plenty of time to cry. 

We were initially fine (so to speak) with him going to the alternative school, but then we heard the reactions of people who were familiar with it and their horrified reactions.  Then, we weren't so sure.  We talked about home schooling (still are); William then told us that he wants to go back to his school.  Why??   The counselor thinks his best shot is to just go back to his school.  Personally, I think that would be difficult since most of the kids have probably heard what he did.

Anyway, I was notified today by the vice principal that the official meeting to decide his fate will be on Tuesday.  I told her that we no longer think that he should go to an alternative school, still stand by our belief that he was reacting to years of being bullied, and that we were considering home schooling if he was assigned to an alternative school.  She told me that if we home schooled, he would never be able to come back to public school without first doing his alternative school time.  And, that if we moved to another school district, they would probably make him attend their alternative school, first.  She said all of this in a nice way, for the record, just making sure that I had all the information. 

We feel so trapped in this situation of William's making.  He is both the victim and the perpetrator.  I'm so worried and angry.  And, I can't seem to talk to any of these school administrator people without nearly bursting into tears.

Friday, we go back to counseling.  Saturday and Sunday, we distract ourselves.  Monday, three of them head back to school.  And, Tuesday, we find out William's fate.

I don't know what's going to happen.  I don't know if they'll decide that he's a danger and that he needs to be in an alternative school or if they'll decide that he just made a bad choice (really bad choice) and can head back to school.  I do know that I'll give up all my beloved recliner time to home school him, though.  Because I don't want him being picked up from our front door, walking through metal detectors, and being treated like a juvenile delinquent because he was scared and desperate and no one was helping him. 

I'm not naive.  He's done and said things that he shouldn't have.  He has been dishonest and impulsive.  And, of course, he has brought a box cutter to school.

But, this is a kid who leaves "you're a great teacher" notes on his English teacher's chair, made all of his teachers cards on Valentine's Day, and walks the kids with special needs to class so they don't get lost.

This is a kid who has been bullied and didn't know how to cope.  This is a kid who made a desperate move which backfired. It could've been so much worse.  Someone could've gotten hurt.  It could've been William, it could've been someone else's kid. 

I'm hurt, mad, scared, angry, and worried.  I'm mad at him for putting us in this situation.  I'm mad at the other kids for putting him in this situation.  I'm mad at the schools for not having teachers in the locker rooms or more teachers in the hallways and not seeing what's really happening.

But, I'm grateful for this wake-up call.  I'm grateful that it made me aware of how important it was to get him into counseling.  And, I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to make his "It gets better" moment happen now.  He could've become a statistic.  He could've become a horror story.


He's going to become something amazing. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Does My Son Worry About The Future?

Kaleb has this weird habit of bringing up topics in blogs that I just wrote (but haven't published yet) or am currently writing.  It's like he has some bizarre, power never used-for-good, psychic super power connection with me.  It really happens all of the time.  

Anyway, yesterday, as I was still writing my previous post about name changes,, Kaleb randomly asked me to change his name to "Byron."   He was just joking and referencing a cool name of some basketball player (or some sport involving a ball...).  I jokingly said that he missed his chance and I wished that I had known that we could've gotten away with changing it.  He was intrigued and asked what we would have changed it to.  I said that I liked Kaleb.  Then, somehow, the middle name thing came up.  I wanted to make sure that it didn't get heavy so I just joked that we should've named him Kale.

Sidebar: Kale was the middle name that we had jokingly suggested when I trying to sneak in the idea of a double initial name.  Kaleb Kale would've been lovely, if you ask me. ;)

So, it was all silliness until he said, "And, if I was adopted by a family that had a K last name..."

He didn't get the sentence out before I was reacting.  "What??"

He got quiet...and annoyed.

Me, still reacting, "You don't worry about that, do you?"

"No.  (with an annoyed tone).  I was just trying to make a joke and you interrupted me."

"I'm sorry, but this is important.  I don't want you to worry about that."   Unsure what else to say, I added, "You're stuck with us."

My snarky, but sentimental words were met with silence so I encouraged him to tell his joke.  Which he did. 

The joke was that if a future family has a K last name, he would be KKK.

I forced a laugh (because my head was still working on his other comment) and agreed that he was lucky that our last name started with a P.

Kaleb is loud, boisterous, seemingly completely confident, attention-seeking, and unwilling to take anyone's BS.  I spend my days reacting to all of that; sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a bad way.  It's really easy to forget that he was damaged, in his past.  And, if I think that William has his feelings of rejection to deal with; God knows that Kaleb does, too.  And, maybe, he always will.

Yeah, in that moment, when he was trying to make a joke, all of it hit me.  It's so easy to forget, but it's so important to remember.  I hate the idea that, somewhere in his head, he might think it's a possibility that this is not forever. 

I know that we will continue to drive each other crazy, I will get frustrated with his antics and his tendency to bring up random topics at inopportune times will make me crazy.  I will unsuccessfully listen when he needs to be heard, I will correct him when he needs me to just praise his ideas (he may have pointed that out to me...) and we will fight about grades.   I will fly off the handle over things that seem silly to him, I will sometimes wonder what the hell I was thinking by wanting to take on a teenager (not him specifically, just a teenager, ha), and there will be many times (maybe, even today) that I will not like him much (but always love him) and the feeling will be completely mutual.  But, as sure as I know all of that, I know that I will not abandon him.   I will not let that fictional, future family stick him with such awful initials.  So, they can just go ahead and back off. ;)

Kaleb, I'm sorry that we sometimes clash and that I snap and that I make you take a jacket to Grandma and Grandpa's house so that Grandma doesn't get cold.  I'm sorry that you won't always be glad that you are stuck with us.   But, you are, in fact, stuck with us. :)

I don't know if this will touch him deeply in his soul.   Or if he will think that I'm making a big deal of nothing.  I'm thinking the latter since, as I've mentioned before, he's not a fan of deep talks.  But, I do know that no harm comes from reminding him.  Because as important as it is for me to remember, it's just as important for me to tell him. 

His glasses are cooler than mine. :)


Monday, March 9, 2015

Is It Wrong To Change Your Child's Name?

I'm in a transracial adoption group on facebook.  Unfortunately (and ironically),  I don't have much in common with them.  The focus is more on the negative aspects of adoption while I'm more into celebrating the positive.  That's kind of my thing. ;)   I mean, no one knows more than I that adoption (from foster care, especially) comes with baggage.  But, there is a lot of beauty in it, too.  Anyway, after learning the lesson of keeping my mouth shut when I don't agree (they don't like that, haha) and learning how to wade through some of the irrelevant to me posts; I have gained some insight on a few things.  Like, I don't offer up too much information to random, curious people, anymore.  Because, it's true, it's not just my story.  Sometimes, I'm more successful than other times.  But, I'm working on it. :)

The other day, I got into a conversation in the grocery store with a teacher from William's school.  Clearly, this was not when I was remembering to censor myself, ha.  It was pretty basic, though.  I just commented that William was the name that we had wanted to name our child and it was pretty cool that it was already his name.  This, of course, led to questions from the kids that I tried to effectively field as I pulled hot pockets out of the freezer section. 

So, between that and the facebook group, it got me thinking.

The topic of name changes has come up in the group, more than once.  The majority of people are against it.  The general opinion is that it takes the children's identity, rights, etc.  There's a lot to be said for respecting a child's past, but, personally, I don't think that there's necessarily anything wrong with cherishing the child's future.  We have four children and made four different decisions on names, based on four different children.

William and Antwan.  They came into our lives, together, and with those names.  Since Brian and I named our future children - William and Lizzie, years ago; William was a no-brainer.  Then there was Antwan.  Truth be told, we never would've picked that name.  It doesn't fall into the traditional English name category that we go for.  Having said that, I now love his name because I love him and he is all Antwan.  And, yes, he went through a phase of wanting to go by his middle name, instead, and, no, NOBODY can spell it right; still I think that he likes it, too.  I hope so, anyway.  And, out of respect for William, we didn't consider changing Antwan's name.  We could've gotten away with changing a 12 month old's name, I think, but confusing his 5 year old brother with another change?  That was too much.   (We found out later that the boys were kept separated, despite the fact that they were in the same foster home.  So, they basically had no relationship before coming to us.  But, that's a whole other sad topic.)  We did, however, change their middle names because my family has a little matching letter names tradition.   It started with my parents (I'm Emily Eileen.) and my sister and I continued it.  So, William became William Wesley and Antwan became Antwan Alexander.  :)

When Lizzie showed up, she was not Lizzie.  But, since she was an infant, it was an opportunity to have complete control over her name, so she became Elizabeth Eileen.  I see it as giving her an identity, not taking one away.  She loves her name and uses it often.  Particularly, when I hear her narrating her football triumphs (her brothers have "infected" her, ha).   "Lizzie catches the ball, Lizzie runs.  Lizzie got a touchdown!"  :)  Saying her name makes me happy.  And, for us, putting a face to the name that we picked 11 years ago is just awesome.

Then, finally, Kaleb.  All bets are off with a teenager.  Changing his name just wouldn't make sense  (unless it was his idea).  I did, however, drop several hints that I would like him to have a "k" middle name.  The hints were ignored and his middle name stayed the same.  That makes me sad when I allow myself to dwell on it (which I don't), but that's my issue to deal with, not his.  At his age, he did identify greatly with his name and, well, it suits him, anyway. :)   

Anyway, when I read all the posts about the selfishness of name changing, I did worry a bit.  That is until I got Antwan's take on it. 

After hearing the conversation in the store and, also, realizing that William has Brian's middle name and Lizzie has mine, he was unhappy.  He said that it wasn't fair and he wanted to have one of our middle names, too.  I tried to explain how we were doing the double initial thing and, even though, it was a cool idea that we change his name to Antwan Wesley, he had a really cool name now. 

Then, it hit me.  Antwan's identity was important to him.  But, he wasn't feeling stripped of anything, he only wanted to identify even more.  Sure, there is a primal wound that he will deal with, and, yes, he will struggle with the missing pieces of his past, but, for now, he wants to be as connected to his family, as possible.  That's us.  And, God knows, I couldn't feel more connected to him.  Even though, I'm not changing his name to Emilio to prove it. ;)

So, maybe, we're different than other adoptive families.  Maybe my kids are unusual in their reactions and we're just all-around, more well-adjusted than the rest of the adoptive family world.  Nah.  I mean, sure, there is a serious lack of representation of transracial, cosplaying families at DragonCon, but, beyond that, I don't think that we are that different.  :)   I think that it's ok to name your child whatever the heck you want (while taking relevant factors into consideration, of course) because it's your child.  And, it's ok to want your child to have your name and be as connected to you, as possible.  Because, again, it's your child.  No, it's not to cool to shrug off the past and pretend that your child doesn't have their share of inner turmoil.  But, adopting a child shouldn't come with qualifiers.  A name is an identity and my kids have an identity, they are ours, they are Parkers. :)