This was the first full week of kindergarten for M., and it’s getting hard sooner than I had expected.
At the beginning of the week, I got an email from M.’s teacher, with a request to all the parents:
One tradition in K-1 is to launch the year with a celebration of each community member. We do this through Name Celebrations. Each child is given a day when the whole class learns about them and their name. This is where you (the families) come in. Please send in a short story of how and why your child was given their name…
You see the problem. M. named herself after my sister when she was three years old and told us she was actually a girl. The name her dad and I gave her was a boy name, and she hates it. She generally pretends that it – and the boy it once referred to – never existed.
It’s a very sweet and innocent request from M.’s teacher, but how am I supposed to respond?
The email brings on a wave of that sadness – the kind that washes over the bow every now and then when I’m not looking, when I think I’m in calm waters: The grief for the boy that was lost, and that name – ohhh, that beloved name – that we picked with such excitement and care in that heady, clueless time before we knew what it really meant to bring a child into the world.
Worse than the grief is the dread. Will M. inadvertently “out” herself during her “name celebration” by explaining to the class that she changed her name at age three?
I can imagine the confused five-year-old faces, the hands shooting up, and the responses:
“Why did you change your name?”
“You can’t name yourself!”
“What’s your REAL name, M.?”
I wrote back to the teacher and simply stated what was true, if incomplete: “M. was named after a beloved aunt.”
M.’s naming ceremony is today. I am holding my breath.