When we had our boys, my husband and I weren’t married, we had no plans of getting married and I had ZERO desire to ever change my name. To be honest, I have never – at any stage in my life – looked ahead and envisioned myself ever changing my name. It just wasn’t something, regardless of marriage or kids, that I was going to do.
Now here I am, married with children and my last name strongly intact. My kids’ names are appropriately hyphenated and life is just as my younger self, even as of only four years ago, would have had it. I’m in love with a man who couldn’t have cared less that I didn’t want to take his name – and was smart enough to understand I didn’t want to take any name – not to mention a man who didn’t bat a lash when it came to agreeing my last name sounded better as the second half of our kids’ hyphenated names. It might be 2018 but I’d be naïve to think I didn’t get lucky with that one.
And I’ll admit, when it came to naming the boys – even though we hyphenated – I was proud that my name was the second last name. It felt progressive (and still does); it was completely what we wanted and I was proud of us for that. But now, as our oldest’s days in preschool wind down (in mom days of course because we still have about 18 months), I keep getting this recurring impulse to hyphenate my own name to match my boys’.
And it’s an impulse I’m struggling to define.
On one hand, at the most basic level, it makes complete sense. But on the other hand, where I’ve held tightly my values and morals and all my independent goodness, I’m severely confused. I’ve spent my entire lifetime unwavering in my absolute belief that I shouldn’t have to change my name for anyone; I’ve probably spent days worth debating the very stupidity behind the archaic tradition imploring women to change their last names. I’ve even admittedly thought – if even just a smidge – less of the men in my life who’ve vehemently countered my opinions with such strongly antiqued statements that it’s hard to take them seriously in all other aspects of life. I mean really, how do you take any man seriously after you find out they genuinely believe women should be treated like property, after watching them act like we owe them our last names?
Nah. I’ll pass.
Granted, I wouldn’t be changing my name for just anyone. These are my kids we’re talking about. I grew them inside of my body; I watched my feet swell beyond my shoe size, I laid in bed night after night and waited for them to move just so I could watch my skin stretch and distort, I have a 6-inch scar where they were both ripped out of the world I created for them and lifted into one I can’t control. Maybe this impulse to change my name is my own weird way of balancing the gradual loss of control that is raising children. As Matty draws closer to this new chapter in his life, one that, to me, clearly signifies the beginning of his life, the one he’s going to build without me in it, the one he’ll have in parallel to the one we have together at home and on the weekends, I wrestle with the challenge of letting go. Maybe more so than some. After all, it is only Kindergarten.
But isn’t that the real plight of parenting? Three and a half years in and I already know all too well how it goes. One day, you’re bringing them home and the next you’re evaluating school districts. Tomorrow, we’ll be evaluating colleges.
When my husband asked why I thought I was having these impulses, I didn’t have an answer. But as the thought crossed my mind and the words came out of my mouth, tears filled my eyes and a lump formed in my throat.
“Their my kids and I feel like when I send them out into the world I want us to still have something that, like, ties us.”
I’ve been having dreams in which my teeth keep falling out and I’m left feeling so confused and lost. I thought it was maybe my body’s way of telling me I should go to the dentist, but now I think it’s just another side effect of the constant transition that is parenthood.
It really is incredible that people have made it seem so easy for centuries, to have part of your heart out there wandering around, doing what they will without the faintest idea of how much love went into making and raising them.
But it’s even more amazing that so many of us survive it.
Happy early Valentines Day to all the parents – all shapes, sizes and kinds. Your hearts – in all the places they wander and call home – are something worth celebrating.