July 30, 2014 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Parents take name change too hard

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I am almost 50, a single mom to an awesome 9-year-old daughter. My parents and I have a great relationship, with one glaring exception.

I grew up with a speech impediment and could not pronounce my own name. As I grew older I avoided drawing any attention to myself. Finally as I stood in line to register for college, I wrote my name using just my middle name. My whole life turned around. I became the me that I had been too petrified to be.

At her birthday dinner, my daughter relayed a story Mom and Dad had told her and used my given name. I asked her to please not refer to me by that name.

That was when my mom told me again how much I have hurt them by changing my name.

I feel like I have spent my life trying to explain it to them. I love them so much, and I meant no disrespect to their beautiful name, I just still can’t pronounce it. Can you help me find the right way to communicate this? It has put an emotional burden on them that I can’t lift. – Anonymous

A burden on them, are you serious? That it’s your responsibility to lift?!

What about the burden they’ve laid on you, both in showing zero respect for your childhood pain, and in compounding that pain by prioritizing their feelings over their child’s?

So often my job involves pointing out other sides to a story. There is no other side here. It is your name, your life, your pain that matter. Their insensitivity and self-absorption appall me. And co-opting your daughter? Dirty pool.

As for helping you find the “right way” to explain this, the only right one is the one your parents are willing to hear. I am not hopeful. Think about it: If they actually wanted to feel better about your name change, then they would have taken one of the countless opportunities to do so over the past 30 years. An opportunity such as your relief at having a name your mouth could form.

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