Monday was a rough day. First, some background.
On Valentine’s Day this year, after a bit of saving and a little help from a friend, I managed to scrape together enough money to file a petition to change my daughter’s middle name from Conteá to Awesome. It cost $150 to file the petition, and $194.36 to post legal notice in the paper, once a week for four consecutive weeks.
Spending almost $350 on anything that doesn’t involve putting a roof over our heads, maintaining my 1998 Honda Accord, or feeding and clothing kids who never seem to stop growing is not something I can afford to do lightly. It is something, however, that I felt needed to be done to correct an error I made when it came to naming my daughter.
When I was pregnant with Viviana, I didn’t want to find out the gender in advance. Frankly, I was so shocked by the pregnancy (the result of a contraception failure so unexpected that I was not even remotely concerned that I had conceived) that I was in denial for a good chunk of my pregnancy. People would ask if I was having a boy or girl and it was all I could do to tamp down the hope that I was having a puppy instead of a baby. Puppies are easier. They’re infinitely cheaper. And no one bats an eye if you keep them cordoned off in the kitchen while you are at work, and they are still potty training. I was in a committed relationship at the time, but having another baby, nearly 12 years after the first was simply not part of “The Plan.”
After a lot of soul searching, praying, talking to close friends, etc. I decided to continue with the pregnancy, even though it wasn’t part of “The Plan” and even though I knew the huge financial burden we would face as a family by welcoming a new member. The committed relationship I was in? It didn’t survive the pregnancy and by month two of gestation, I ended things romantically with the father.
I wasn’t completely alone, as some single moms unfortunately are. I was surrounded by support. Friends made me lunches, gifted me much needed maternity wear, and even watched the baby overnight on Fridays, while I was finishing up my degree, so that I could get at least one full night of sleep a week. Coworkers threw me a huge baby shower, and in addition to many wonderful gifts, they chipped in for a much-needed car sear. My roommate made the heated garage their new digs so that I would have more room in the rest of the house for my progeny - and didn’t charge me a single dollar more in rent.
And then there was Dominic. When I was married, Dominic regularly petitioned his father and me to provide him with a sibling. When that didn’t work, he started asking Santa. When he found out I was pregnant, he was beyond excited. He didn’t care that a new baby meant less money for the two of us and that he would have to give up activities he loved like dinners out, going to the archery range or hitting a movie – he was finally going to be a big brother!
I was put on modified bed rest half way through my pregnancy due to early contractions. If I couldn’t see it from where I was sitting, then I wasn’t allowed to walk to it. If it weighed more than five pounds, I wasn’t allowed to lift it. Dominic was happy to play fetch and carry for me. Not only did he step up and start doing more things for himself – his own laundry for example, he would do really kind things for me, like let me sleep in and then rewarding me for my efforts by scrambling me up some eggs for breakfast. He was the epitome of a good son and was vying for brother-of-the-year all while the baby was still in utero.
The next part of the story you know. We talked names. He wanted Danger. We settled on Awesome – for a middle name only. Letting him pick the middle name was my way of thanking him for all of his help and support through a rather bumpy time in our lives. And c’mon, what well-adjusted adult wouldn’t love to be able to say, “well… Awesome is my middle name” and have it be true? I didn’t think it would be an undue burden on the little one. She could share her middle name if she wanted to, or keep it completely to herself.
Beyond Awesome, I had no names picked out for her. Dominic liked Taia, pronounced Tey-uh. I also liked it, but I had difficulty getting to a spelling that worked for me. Friends, Angelica and Blanca (from Argentina and Mexico respectively) said that Taia was a very common girl’s name but that the correct spelling was Teá. Perhaps they are right in Spanish speaking countries, but in the US, Teá is a beverage and I didn’t want my daughter to have to deal with that her whole life. I was leaning towards Vivienne – which was modified to Viviana, but Dominic still petitioned for Taia. My mom, the great problem solver that she is, suggested Conteá – a stylized Spanish version of Viviana con (meaning with) Teá. It seemed reasonable to me. I was tired, and I went with it, forgetting my promise to Dominic.
Fast forward to this June - a local reporter who thought the name change was sweet wrote an article about it for our local paper. Emily (the reporter) said that our story would be in the Sunday edition, and when it wasn’t, I assumed that the story got cut from lack of interest or for a more newsworthy event. Imagine my surprise when two days later, not only was the story in the paper, it had made front page news – accompanied by a huge photo!
The front page of the Empire through the window of the newspaper box, taken at a funny angle because I was riding a wave of joy and surprise at seeing my kids’ happy faces on the front page of the paper. Plus, I’m not always so great with the camera phone.
The surprises didn’t end there. The story was picked up by the AP and in a blink, a friend in Manchester, U.K. was reading about the name change in the online version of the Daily Mail. Two days after the original story, a digital reporter for ABC News in New York and Good Morning America (GMA) named Katie Kindelan reached out to me. She saw the original story and asked to do a short interview. I was truly surprised that anyone outside of our family would be interested in this story – and if you read the comments sections of the vast majority of the outlets that picked up the story, you will find that no one is. There are very few comments or shares on Facebook or Twitter, but I agreed anyway. I thought it would be another fun layer to add to “the story of your name” that we would tell Viviana as she got older.
Which brings us to yesterday. I finally found the story Ms. Kindelan wrote for GMA and was stunned to see that there were over 2,000 comments. What was more shocking was that the overwhelming majority were ugly, vicious personal attacks on me and my children. Highlights include:
Hahaha, oh c'mon, really?! It is a MIDDLE name. My son is never going to beat me, and if my daughter chooses to become a stripper when she is older, I hope she picks something more creative than Awesome as a stage name - like Hope Diamondz (maybe with two z's for extra pizazz).
Viviana making a living on a pole is not much of a concern for me. She is fortunate to be surrounded by family and close friends who love her dearly and are invested in her health and happiness – but if that is her choice, I won’t stop loving her. I just hope that I will have taught her enough about good financial planning and self-respect that it is just another job for her and not a definition of who she is as a person. Oh, and that she is savvy enough to invest early, so as to retire comfortably at 45.
And yes, I am a single mom, but so what? It was my sincere hope that the father would be there for the baby, even though we weren’t in a relationship. Alas, the he has different priorities and is not involved in Viviana’s life, but please, feel free to bash me for his choices.
I would like to apologize to all of the mothers who bristled at the idea that I might think my kid is better than theirs. When I was interviewed, I told the reporter that the name was fitting. I also said to her that all parents think their kids are awesome - because it is true! Your kids, my kids, their kids - all fun, funny, smart, creative, interesting, engaging little beings. I cannot control how a story is edited. In fairness to Ms. Kindelan, she did a nice job of accuracy in the quotes that were used.
Finally, a big thank you to all of the people who see the humor, joy, and positivity intended with this name change (like Eve Vawter, and the readers of Mommyish.com), and to all of the people who responded with vitriol. Your ugliness didn’t ruin my daughter’s name story. You’ve instead provided me with a great teaching opportunity for my kids on how to treat others with respect and kindness. You’ve illustrated the importance of letting go of negativity in one’s life so that it doesn’t poison you, until you are spewing hatefulness towards strangers just to feel a little better about yourself. Those are very valuable lessons. So I thank you. Dominic thanks you. And if the judge agrees to the name change, Viviana Awesome thanks you as well.
(Image: Author's own)