My kid changed his first name – and it isn’t a phase

What would you do? At the end of sixth grade, when we’d been living in (freaky, hippy) Boulder for just a year, Harrison came home and announced he was changing his name. This of course is not unusual. I remember desperately wanting to have something unusual about me at the same age. Could I please have been adopted? (Nope) Could I change my name to my middle name? (I didn’t have a middle name at that age, so with my mother, we worked out a compromise and gave me a middle name, Isobel, which is shared by one of my great-grandmothers). I even tried to use Isobel as my first name for a while, liking the novelty. But that wore off, and I returned to my usual old name, Jo.

So when Harry came home announcing his change of name, I played along happily. I really liked his desired name of Forest and it was likely to last for the summer, at most. I thought.

photo (17)Jed thought we could show him Forrest Gump and Harry would change his mind about having the same name (spelled differently, though it was). Together we all watched the movie. At the end Harry said that we were crazy if we thought the film would stop him wanting to be called Forest. To him, Forest was undeniably the most authentic, admirable guy in the entire film. Even when he was pushed aside, looked over and treated like dirt Forrest Gump just kept going, and ended the movie being the winner he always was, fulfilled in heart and soul with the blessing of his own son, which is all he really needed in life.

That all was nearly four years ago, and Harry is known to all as Forest. His teachers call him Forest. Some people don’t even know his actual name is Harrison. That’s huge. In fact, this last week he received his certificate of completion for his summer programming camp, and the name Harrison White on it looked strange to me. Almost like it’s not even him.

However, I remain the only person in our family to call him Forest. He suffers everyone else calling him Harry, and doesn’t bristle at all when it happens, but I know he prefers to be called Forest and darn it, I’ll happily call him what he prefers to be called. Even if he doesn’t follow through with the “clean your room!” that comes frequently next to my stating of his name.

Maybe we should add Forest as his middle name, and then he can use it as a first name. Jed says it’s his nickname, not a real name. (Note: Jed chose Harrison as his first name, so there’s that.) Changing it formally makes it permanent, clearly, but it’s not likely he’s going to change back. Should we wait until he’s 18? 21? Do it now? Not at all?



  • My name comes down every-other-generation of women on my mother’s side forever now. My 95 y.o. Nana doesn’t like it. She says everyone who really knows her calls her ‘Cretia Ann or ‘Cretia Annie. My parents gave me a nickname as a child that I always had to explain to everyone else as it was never obvious to anyone where it came from.
    It never felt like me. It never felt like anyone else ever got how much I didn’t like it. But teachers would get to my name on the class list and puzzle over it and say “ummmm… Madden?” So I’d say, “it’s pronounced Loo-cree-shuh, but everyone calls me…” and then this name I always hated came out of my mouth and everyone stuck to it like glue.
    When I was in 7th grade, I said “That’s it. I’m going by my real name.” Only unless someone met me independent of someone else? They’d hear the nickname and refuse to let go of it.
    So I’ve had dual identities for 35 years now. My family? They’ve outright refused to be okay with it. (With a few exceptions, of course.) It has always been fun when one of my parents tries to talk to my coworkers or adult friends and they have no idea who is being talked about.

    The thing is? I hate it so much that I won’t even tell people what it is – because suddenly, even though I’ve told them I hate it? They want to call me that. One person even said “Well, you know, Lucretia is so hard to pronounce…” and my sarcastic “yeah, all those 3-syllable names like Lucretia, Stephanie, Jennifer… so confusing!”

    If his name is Forest? His name is Forest. I think you’re spot on in supporting him. Thanks.

  • Let him wait until he’s 21 to make it formal and permanent, and in the meantime, call him what he wants to be called.

    We named my son Justin James, because I wanted to have flexibility in the name. In T-ball, there was a Dustin on the team, and from the outfield, when the coach is yelling Justin or Dustin it sounds almost identical. So he decided he would go with JJ, and that stuck for 5-6 years. Later, in high school, he decided to just go by “Jay.” A few years ago, he switched back to Justin, although he’s now also known as “DJ-Just1.”

  • Dying to know what the other name is. And I know that when Jed and I talk about you, we use your full Lucretia name, but when I’m talking with our female friends who all know you, I say Lu. I guess it’s the way Aussies like to shorten names into something tiny. Maybe I’ll try to always call you Lucretia now, because it truly is a beautiful name.

  • Beverly, what a great idea to give him a really flexible name! Forest has been Forest for nearly four years now. Hasn’t changed it a bit. I think it’s going to stick. 🙂

  • I love that you support him so fully, in fact, I had no idea that his name wasn’t Forest! My aunt is named Beverly Jean but no one even knows that Beverly is her name, everyone thinks her name is Jean. She was my inspiration for naming my boys, I gave them *plenty* of names to choose from! They each have 2 middle names and each middle name can be changed into it’s own smaller name.

    Good for you for being so great! I would wait to add it to his name, unless he is the one asking to add it.

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