As parents, I’m sure this is a question many of us have pondered, even if indirectly, or couched in slightly different terms. Daddy-O and I actually agreed on Tibbons’ name before I was ever pregnant – it was the only boy’s name we both liked, so when, at 17 weeks, we found out Tibbons was a he, we started calling him by that name (between the two of us, no one else knew his name until he was born). I think it’s a lovely name and I’m pleased to say it suits him, and he seems to like it too – smiling whenever he hears it! Like many (or most?) children, Tibbons’ surname was also settled before he was born – he has Daddy-O’s surname.
You see, although Daddy-O and I are married, I chose not to take his surname, so while Tibbons and Daddy-O have the same last name, mine is different. It didn’t bother me when I was pregnant with Tibbons to think that he would have a different surname from me, nor did I want to give him mine as a middle name or anything like that – it doesn’t fit with his name and I am not wedded to my surname because of filial loyalty – I don’t even see my dad. I just really like it. It’s also a big part of my identity, it’s who I have always been, how I have always been known and just because I was getting married, I didn’t feel that needed to change – I’m still me, just a married me. I can’t even say I reflected on the different names once Tibbons was here. No, it was only recently that I was given pause for thought.
On our arrival back in the UK from our recent family holiday to Crete, Daddy-O went to one desk at passport control, and Tibbons and I went to another. I handed over the passports, panicked as I always do when the man asked me where I’d come from that day (does anyone else get that blankness where they struggle to remember the name of the country they’ve just spent the best part of two weeks in, or is it just me? Every time!) then remembered we’d been in Crete a few hours before, fortunately in time to give my response just before the pause became an awkwardly long one. So far so good. I also got full marks when the official asked me what my relationship to Tibbons was – I didn’t even have to pause to consider that one. Then he stumped me. He asked if I had any documentation to prove that I was his mum, on account of us having different surnames. I didn’t! Perhaps I should have attempted to demonstrate how we have a similar profile, but at that moment Daddy-O was walking past, having been waved through, so I pointed to him, explained that he was Tibbons’ father and did have the same surname so the man called him over, looked at the passport and seemed duly satisfied. He gave me a Border Force leaflet explaining that it may be helpful the next time I travel with Tibbons if I could carry evidence of my relationship to him, such as a birth certificate. The leaflet also states that these checks don’t affect the right to freedom of movement for UK and other EEA citizens, which was a relief as I had been a bit panicked to think what I would have done if we hadn’t been travelling with Daddy-O.
But it still made me think: the first time I’ve really thought about the reality of having a different name from my son. That it might throw a few obstacles in our path along the way. It also made me wonder how Tibbons might feel about me having a different surname from him – my mum had a different surname from me when I was at secondary school and I wasn’t too bothered but I do remember a vague feeling of “separateness” about it. So I’ve been considering changing my surname, but I’m still not sure – would it be subsuming my identity, overreacting, responding to a problem that isn’t really there? What do you think? What’s in a name?