Real Talk     Home and Family    

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

What happens when your son or daughter hates their name?

What happens when your son or daughter hates their name

My name is Martha Wegner and I hated my name while I was growing up, so I decided that when I became a parent I would give my child a name they would love. Well, it turns out my daughter Christine hated her name too and wanted to change it. Like mother, like daughter. 

Christine turned 15 last June, and I turned 50. On this day, as on many others, she proclaimed, “I have never felt like a Christine.” Thinking that changing your name has got to be a whole lot easier than changing your personality, or gender, or even your nose, I suggested she change it. I told her to pick a name she felt proud to own and proud to say and go to court and change it.

And she did. The next year on January 2, Christine became Allison. And it fits her just fine. I love the name Christine, and because I loved this newborn baby I gave her the gift of my favorite name. Now, 15 years later, I’m happy to give her an even better gift: a new name. One that she wears with comfort. She is now Allison. A name we can all love.

The reaction has been the most interesting part of this process. Some people applaud the action, cheering my bravery in making such a difficult decision. Others mistrust the decision: why let a 15-year-old girl make such a big life-changing choice? Others wonder how I must feel. After all, she is rejecting the very gift I gave her at birth. And still others wonder, does a person have the right to shed his or her name just as one would shed an old winter coat?

READ MORE: Dealing with your tween's new attitude

To all this I say, this act was neither brave nor foolish nor earth shattering. If there is anything in this world that is bound up in a person's identity, it is surely one’s name. We are our names; indeed, we are called by our names dozens of times a day, and if the name doesn’t fit or doesn’t feel good, then we have the right to find something better. And if the little baby I first held in my arms 15 years ago says “thanks, but no thanks,” to this particular moniker, that is just fine. It is her name after all.

When my husband, John, first learned of Allison’s plans to legally change her name, he protested. How can she just reject the name she has carried all these years? I firmly told him that with the very classic, very universally beloved name of John, he could never truly understand. I told him to trust me on this, and he did. As we stood in court that day, the judge looked John straight in the eye and asked, “Why are you requesting this?” And he said, “It seems to us that it can only serve to boost her self-confidence if she can go by a name that she likes.” Turns out he did understand.


Martha Wegner lives with her husband, John, and her children, Allison and David in St. Paul, Minnesota.


More Real Talk