My 6-year-old changed her own name. This is what happened next.

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My 6-year-old Norah was sprawled out on the floor, in a full fit, telling me that I needed to call her Addison. She was in her school uniform, a blue polo shirt, with a brown skirt, her dark brown shoulder length hair loosely combed at her sides.

 

Addison was not her middle name. In fact, I’d never heard the name before. She never said, “I’d like to change my name to Addison.” She never asked for her parent’s permission to change her name. She just decided, one day, to do it.

 

Mel was in the kitchen with Aspen, our one-year-old on her hip. We made eye contact. Then Mel rolled her eyes and went in the other room.

 

Mel had been trying to figure out this Addison thing for some time, and I think she was done. This was her way of saying, “You give it a try.”

 

“Call! Me! Addison!” Norah continued.

 

“Your name is Norah,” I said. “It has always been Norah. And it will continue to be Norah until you are old enough to change it yourself.”

 

Norah paused for a moment, hair in her face, and said, “I can change it myself?”

 

“Yes,” I said. “Once you are older, you can legally change your name. Or I could now, but I’m not going to.”

 

“I want you to change it,” she said.

 

“Nope,” I said.

 

I thought about her request for a moment. It’s not that I had a problem with her going by a nickname, or something. However, usually nicknames were chosen by others, and frankly it seemed vain for her to pick it herself. And honestly, I didn’t have some real attachment to the name Norah. It wasn’t a family name, or anything. We just picked it because we liked it. But the thought of changing her name to Addison sounded like a huge pain in the ass, and considering Norah couldn’t decide if her favorite color was pink or purple, I didn’t really think this Addison thing was a long term commitment.

 

But the really strange part was this. Before she told us that she wanted to change her name, people started calling her Addison. Her friends at church called her Addison. Her friends at school. Her teacher pulled Mel aside after class one day and asked, “Did you change Norah’s name to Addison?”

 

Norah was calming down now. I think she was getting tired. “When did you decide your name was Addison?” I asked.

 

Norah sat up on the carpet. She looked at me, her eyes slightly narrow, and I think she was worried that I’d talk her out of this whole Addison thing.

 

Then she shrugged, stuck out her lips, and put her head down.

 

“Just call me Addison.”

 

I have to admit, I was a proud of her for sticking to her guns. It does take some gumption to, at the age of 6, say, “To hell with it. I’m changing my name,” and then, somehow, convince everyone around you to go along with it.

 

I say this a lot, but I want Norah to be a strong woman. The kind of woman that will state her opinion and fight for a cause. But I just didn’t feel like this cause was worth fighting. Perhaps its because I’m a practical man, and Norah was a perfectly good name. To me, names were like a good used car. If it’s paid for, and not broken, don’t fix it. But Norah seemed to be trying to change her identity, or something. She was going though some phase that I didn’t understand, and didn’t know if I ever would. Ever since she went to the first grade, she’d been a little shyer. A little more intimidated by others. And… she’d been wetting her pants. I didn’t know what to make of it.

 

I sat down on the floor next to Norah. I didn’t really know what to say. I wanted to ask her if she was doing all this because of her transition to first grade. I wondered if she was more stressed out than I ever could’ve realized. I know that when her younger sister was born, she started wetting her pants then, too. Perhaps she’s one of those people who really struggles with transition.

 

But all of this seemed really heady and reflective for a 6-year-old. So I decided to just ask her a simple question.

 

“Why do you want to change your name?” I asked.

 

“I just like it,” she said, her lower lip stuck out.

 

I let out a breath.

 

“Norah,” I said. “I’m not going to call you Addison. I’m sorry. You will always be Norah. I can’t control what people call you outside of this home. But I want you to know that Mom and I named you Norah, and that should mean something. We gave you that name with love.”

 

As I looked in my little girls eyes, I realized that she was much more complex than I realized. She continues to get more complex everyday. I thought about my name, and how I’d never had the desire to change it. Then I realized that I might never understand her desire to change her name.

 

This all might blow over. But it might not. I wondered what else she might want to change, or what else might be changing inside her. I felt a little bit of fear, honestly, realizing that I was her father, and I didn’t know her nearly as well as I wanted to, and I might never fully understand her.

 

Norah didn’t say anything. She looked me up and down. Then she smiled, kissed my cheek, and ran into her room. I didn’t know if I’d said the right thing, or if she was just manipulating me (she often does that). But I felt confident that I’d resolved the issue.

 

I even told Mel as much.

 

Then, a couple days later, I got a call from Mel. It was early. She’d just dropped the kids off at school.

 

“As we pulled into the parking lot, Norah rolled down the window to say hello to some friends,” Mel said. “They all waved back and said, ‘Hey Addison!’”

 

“How long do you think this is going to last?” I asked.

 

Mel sighed. “I don’t know.”

 

 

 

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