Blending a family in a house undivided by names and equally celebrated by photography.
A little over four centuries ago, Shakespeare posed the question, “[w]hat’s in a name?” to which he immediately offers a wise explanation, “[t]hat which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Despite my four daughters having two different last names, they are a bouquet of equal roses in our home. Being a predominantly traditional home, my husband takes pride in his last name. He also takes pride in our daughters feeling equal in our home. Being the caretaker of not just our home, but of the hearts and minds within our home, I try to ensure our children feel the equality. One way I devote this attention is in how I decorate our home.
Our oldest is my husband’s first born, and our youngest is our first baby together. They each have his last name. My first and second born (our second and third daughters) have a hyphenated last name. My maiden name hyphenated with their father’s last name (out of respect for him, I am not going to officially mention his last name).
If you’re curious, I have my husband’s last name. He has treated me in the manner I pray all four of our daughters will be treated one day. It is an absolute honor to carry his name. I am only referring to our last name as his last name to keep this post clear since I’m dealing with three last names here.
My girls will grow up one day and may or may not take a man’s name. That will be their choice. For now… Knowing my girls’ names are hyphenated, my formal signature while they are young shows both my maiden name and my last name. My maiden name, Word, has been moved to a middle name. It is shared with my birth middle name. Oh my… writing about my middle names has shed light on just how comical it is now that I think of it. My first middle name is my mother’s first name, and my second middle name is my father’s last name… They are divorced! Have been for 35 years. Face plant in plam of hand moment. Oh well, it’s also fitting, too. I’ve never been just a Daddy’s Girl or a Momma’s Girl. I’m a sucker for both. I see past their faults and love every bit of them both. They are equally apart of my life’s story.
Our home is traditionally referred to as The Antley household with formal invitations, mail, prominent paperwork, and the like. We do, however, have two girls that do not carry that name.
In the innocence of our eight-year-old, she has expressed the desire to add Antley into her name. This is a fleeting statement that she bounces out there from time to time. She often switches it up saying we should add my maiden name, Word, to the baby’s. Or, she asks our oldest if she would like to have my maiden name, too. It is simple. Her words are just her making sense out of her emotions as to what she is actually seeing- Different names of her and her sisters, and she wants them to not be different. She does not see beyond that desire to the adult emotions, reactions, and upset that would accompany such requests. I always listen to her, explain why the names are different, and how important it is for them to remain this way for the daddies and the mommies. She is usually good with that answer because she would never want to hurt either of her dads. (A-whole-nother-blog can be devoted to the beautiful and innocent love of this little girl for her dads.) I usually have to squeeze her tight and smother her in kisses during these discussions out of adoration for her sweet admiration for her people.
Even though I am educated enough to understand the minimal affect not sharing same last names with her sisters will have on her as she matures, I chose to see beyond the simplicity of the differing last names and dove into ensuring each of our girls feel exceptionally special. I do not want any of them to feel less. I hope and pray they never think the baby is more important than they are because she is our first baby together and is always with us. In our hearts, minds, souls, spirit… every fiber of our beings, we have four daughters. Equal. Period.
As I continue to decorate my home (like most aspects of my life, this is in a constant state of evolution for me), I consider each child. How many photos are displayed of each one? Are there more or less of any? When I count a difference, you bet I get a photo or two printed and put them on the fridge, into a frame in their shared sections of the halls, & scatter them about the house standing & leaning in frames. I used to make sure there were more of my bonus daughter because she was suddenly sharing space (and her dad) with me and my two daughters. We were with him more. I realized where I was trying to compensate for her, I was probably going to hurt mine. So, I decided to try to make the picture count as equal as possible. (Key word is try… Those elementary crafts spike the number up for the eight year old sometimes).
Speaking of pictures, I encourage our girls (and help them) display pictures of their others (a loving term we use to refer to their other parents and families) in their rooms. These are the people they love. Our children should feel comfortable celebrating their loved ones in our home. How else are they going to learn to comfortably love as they grow older? Remember, love can be scary, so do not plant seeds to scare your children from loving their others… You will compromise their ability to eagerly love. In doing so, they will have a hard time confidently loving later.
In this effort to show equality around our home, one of my favorite mini-wall collages came to life. A dear, childhood friend of mine was my family photographer, wedding photographer, & maternity photographer… I still choke up she set her photography aside. She and her husband were a phenomenal team. They are also exceptionally crafty. She took still pictures of nature and snippets of the world resembling letters. When I saw her letters advertised, my idea for the mini-wall collage was birthed. I ordered the letters for my husband’s last name, and my maiden name. I have them hanging with his last name first, and my maiden name beneath it. (Yes, to honor the traditional home.) We took an image from the maternity session and reproduced it after the baby was born at 6 months of age. I have these photos side by side in identical frame types. Above these two photos is a picture of the family framed in yellow (my favorite color).
This mini collage is in the girls’ wing of the home. They each pass it on the way to and from their room. It is a simple way of saying, this is all our home.
And, no, I do not have the girls’ father’s last name in the hallway, too… that would be a bit of a stretch. 🙂
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