In The name of Love
by Chrisy Richardson
I will never forget the first moment I laid eyes on the man that would be the love of my life. I remember how he looked, what he was wearing, how he was walking and most of all, his smile. Although we fell in love quickly it took me a long time to completely trust him with my life, my damaged heart, and of course my most valuable asset, my then 3 year old son.
My son was 5 years old when my husband and I married. We had a small ceremony and wrote our own vows. As my husband started speaking his vows he dropped to his knees and spoke directly to my son. He vowed to be his father and mentor, his role model and his teacher. He vowed to love him forever. My son adores my husband and asked immediately if he could start calling him “dad” now that we were married. As time passed we added a little girl to our family. My husband was the baseball coach and volunteer at our son’s school. He was the involved, attentive father and husband I had always prayed for. It was about a year later my son realized something that really bothered him. He had a different last name than his mom, dad and sister.
The first time my son asked me to change his last name he was 6 years old. He asked me if he could change his last name to be the same as the other people in his house. Now, this being a touchy subject I tried to reassure him that no matter what his last name was, we didn’t care. We loved him the same. I tried telling him that his was the last name of his biological father (my ex-husband) and of his paternal grandparents that he loves, and of all of his cousins. But this did not stop him from talking about it constantly. He would say he felt “left out.” I told him that this was not a decision I could make and he would have to talk his biological father about it.
My son was almost 9 years old before he worked up the courage to ask his biological father if he could change his last name to his moms (mine). However, his request was denied, with the reason as just being “no.” My son was devastated and felt like he was not even listened to. He asked me what else we could do because this was something that was important to him. I explained the law and told him there were only 2 options, if his biological father did not agree. His options were, wait until he was considered and adult (18) and change it himself or go to court to let a judge decide what was in his best interest. I encouraged him to talk to his biological father about how important this was to him again. The next weekend he spent with his biological father he again worked up the courage to discuss it, but the conversation ended the same way. So, my very mature son then told his biological father we would go to court to decide. Looking back, I am sure my ex-husband felt strongly that his biological child should have his last name, but our son was asking for the choice to make his own decision. He did not have a choice in the name he was given, but now that he was old enough to understand what was associated with a name he had decided he wanted to have my last name, and that was the right he was asking his biological father for.
1 week before my son turned 10 we sat in court as a family, waiting to have our turn. My husband reassured our son that no matter what the outcome, he would still be his son. He would still love him just as much no matter what his last name was. I had been told that judges like speaking to children and that my son would get to talk. When we were called up our son was excited to talk to the judge. He knew exactly what he would say and had been practicing it with us for the last month. He had mature, thought out reasons. However, my son and my husband were sent out of the court room as soon as we were called up to the stand because my ex-husband was contesting the name change. After listening to both myself and my ex briefly the judge simply determined that because there were other court proceedings in the process, she did not feel comfortable making the name change. We would need to file through superior court. As I walked out of the court room shaking my head no, my son started crying. He was upset and kept saying “but I didn’t even get to talk.”
Over the following 24 hours we decided that we would not go through superior court, as going to court is very stressful and usually has made things very difficult. I did not want to make things difficult. I only wanted to pursue what was important to my son. Having the same last name as everyone in his family (his exact words, not mine) was what was important to him. I told him that when he was older, if he still wanted to change his name, we would try it again.
AND THIS IS WHY I AM MARRIED TO THE MOST AMAZING MAN EVER: 2 days later as we were driving to town still feeling very solemn and quite my husband suddenly blurted out, “if we can’t change our son’s last name to ours we will ALL just change our last names to HIS.” And so we did. Several months later, as a family, we all sat in that court room again waiting to have our turn to change our names. A nervous 10 year old boy, a 4 year old little girl swinging her legs as she tried her best to sit quietly and patiently, and a mom and a dad who would do just about anything for their family. And when it was over we all walked out of that court room with smiles on our faces, heads held high, holding each other and hugging this time. We did it because it is important to our son. We did it because we love our children and LISTEN to what is important to them. We did it because we are a family and how can we be happy as a family if one of the members of that family feels left out. My husband gave up his last name for my son, our son. The boy he married right along with that little boys’ mother. My husband is the strongest man I know. He is a blessing and my hero. He sacrifices everything for his children. There is absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do for his family, including taking the last name of a little boy that he didn’t help bring into this world, but loves just as much as if he did.