Well, friends, we just received the exciting news of Brandon’s adoption date.
On March 26th at 9:00 am we will go before the judge who will legally confirm the bond that has already occurred in our hearts, naming Brandon as our son in the eyes of the law.
It is with great excitement that we count down the minutes to our big day.
With the impending adoption comes some big decisions, as Brandon decides what he wants to do about his name. Having been through the adoption process twice before, we are well familiar with the logistics of the legal process. At the adoption ceremony the adopted child can choose to change their last name (or not,) as well as make additional changes to their given name.
This was a special experience with both Tyler and Ozzie, who chose to not only take on our last name as their own, but also change their middle names.
When we approached each of them with the decision to alter their names, we talked about what is expected of us when we, as Christians, take on the name of Christ and what His name brings to mind. We then talked about taking on our father’s name and how a last name is a legacy that our fathers and grandfathers pass down to us and what responsibility comes with that surname.
We spoke of how taking on the name McCleery grafts them into our family tree in a way that is indistinguishable from those connected through blood, giving them all the same rights and responsibilities of being a member of the McCleery family.
As we discussed the changing of Ozzie’s and Tyler’s middle names, we approached it with the same joyful anticipation that we approached the naming of each new baby in the family. With great excitement and delight we pulled out the baby name books and looked up the meaning behind our favorite names. Then everyone wrote down their 3 favorite names anonymously, along with the meaning behind those names, and we pulled them from a bowl reading them out loud.
Then each of our sons had an opportunity unique to them because of the means that they were joining our family, and got to personally choose their new middle names.
It was a special experience for our family and one of those cherished memories I will forever associate with the beauty of the adoption journey.
Tyler chose to change his middle name from Jordan to Jacob, and Ozzie chose to change his middle name from Emlyn to William. His unique middle name had strong ties to family and he was eager to shed that connection with his abusers.
When we were approached to begin the paperwork for Brandon’s adoption hearing, we had to fill in what he would be known by from that day forward. That simple question led to a deep discussion. When we approached Brandon, we were uncertain if he would choose to change his last name. His situation is very different from Tyler and Ozzie’s in that this is his second adoption, not his first, and he is 17-years-old. There is a deep connection to his adoptive mother who died of cancer and his adoptive father who is fighting his own cancer battle, and we weren’t sure what he would want to do.
He has decided to take on McCleery for his new last name and honor his adoptive parents by hyphenating their two last names (they weren’t married) and make that his middle name.
When he told us that was what he’d like to do, we were touched and moved by his choice. What a beautiful way to honor all the parents that have loved him.
Then he asked if changing his first name was an option as well. This question took me by surprise. It wasn’t something we had ever considered for the other two, just for the sake of continuity and preservation of who they were despite the huge life change they were experiencing. I wasn’t sure how to respond. It didn’t matter to Toby and I personally, but I wasn’t sure from a therapeutic point of view whether it was an emotionally heathy choice or one that would cause issues or regret later. Rather than answer him, I suggested we bring it up to his trauma therapist at our next appointment.
I gave Miss Tina a heads-up so that she could give the question some thought before meeting with us and at our next session Brandon explained what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it
He told her very thoughtfully that “Brandon” had lived a life full of unspeakable horrors, neglect, sadness and loss. He explained that after a lifetime of bad he was ready to have some happiness and a fresh start and didn’t feel he could really start fresh while continuing to hold onto a name that had experienced such bad things.
“For this reason,” he explained, “I want to change my name from Brandon to Braden. I’m ready for a fresh start to my new life.”
She listened thoughtfully to his thoughtful explanation, and exclaimed to me that she thought that his desire to change his given name was not only healthy but showed great maturity and thoughtful consideration, and then concluded by expressing that there is no one she works with whose experiences justify the need for a “clean start” more than Brandon’s.
So, in 19 days Brandon Chesney will become Braden McCleery.
The transition from Brandon to Braden has required thoughtful effort on our part, and we recognize it will be a transition for all of you as well. We have begun that transition at home and from here on out we will be referring to our son as Braden.
He, too, is experiencing the struggle that comes with transition, as he has come to us, expressing the desire to begin calling us Mom and Dad, rather than Toby and Kate. We are all working through the adjustment of catching ourselves when we slip up and get used to the feeling of unfamiliar names rolling off our tongues, but it is with great joy in all of our hearts that we are getting used to these changes.
As a mother who has walked both roads of growing a family through birth and adoption, I can honestly say that as thrilling as it is to hear your baby boy call you “mama” for the first time, it doesn’t hold a candle to the first time your grown, adoptive son calls you “mom.”