It has been an intense weekend at our house, particularly for my washer and dryer. I made the somewhat impromptu decision on Thursday afternoon to start working on potty training with Madeleine CaiQun, and then yesterday evening Miranda started running a fever and throwing up. That juxtaposition has been rather exhausting, but thankfully Matt has been around to help out a lot, and hopefully we’ve made it through the worst of it – CaiQun is now wearing underwear, and it’s been over 12 hours since Miranda threw up, so as long as no one else comes down with whatever Miranda had, I think we’re probably in the clear! That’s my hope, at least!
So instead of re-living the gory details of my weekend – and sharing them with you (you’re welcome) – I thought I’d take some time to answer what is by far the most frequently asked question I receive – what is exactly is Madeleine CaiQun’s name and/or what do we call her?
Legally, her name is Madeleine CaiQun Ballou. We mostly call her CaiQun, but we also refer to her as Madeleine, Madeleine CaiQun, MCQ, and MeiMei (which means “little sister” in Mandarin). When she’s referring to herself, she calls herself MeiMei.
As an aside, if you would like to hear how CaiQun is pronounced – it’s not at all what you would think – check out this blog post of my husband’s, in which he provides an audio clip of one of our friends, who is from China, pronouncing our little girl’s name.
Why, you might ask, if her first name is Madeleine, do we call her CaiQun more than anything else?
Honestly, as much of a planner as I am, we didn’t necessarily decide ahead of time that we would primarily call her CaiQun for as long as we have. We knew that we would at first, because she was old enough when we met her to know what her name was. It seemed to us that as everything in her life was changing in one dramatic moment, the least we could do was continue to refer to her by her name as she knew it. In China we almost always called her CaiQun, throwing in an occasional Madeleine CaiQun.
Beyond that, we have actually thought of her as CaiQun for longer than we have thought of her as Madeleine. We had been calling her CaiQun since that day at the end of last July when we first saw her file. We didn’t feel quite right about naming her until China had issued our Letter of Acceptance (LOA), officially confirming that they approved us as her adoptive parents, so while we had tossed around potential names, it wasn’t until the day in November that we received our LOA that we actually decided upon a name for her. Because we all spent months referring to her as CaiQun, it feels natural.
We had talked from the beginning, well before we received CaiQun’s file, about wanting to retain part of our child’s Chinese name but also wanting to give her a more American name, something from us, something that connected with our vision and hopes for her. We knew that our child from China would come with a history, and we wanted to acknowledge that and incorporate it into her life and our lives in her name. We also wanted to acknowledge in her name the reality that she was now our child and part of our family. We debated about whether to use her Chinese name or American name as her first name, and ultimately it was a conversation I had with a friend of mine who was adopted from Korea as a baby that pushed us toward deciding to place her American name first. My friend talked about often yearning to fit in with her primarily white classmates and friends, not wanting to be defined as different. CaiQun may feel similar or she may not, but using CaiQun – a name that is obviously foreign and is not pronounced anything like it is spelled – as her first name would definitely make her stand out as different. If she wishes to try to blend in more as she gets older, it will be easier for her with a first name of Madeleine than it would with a first name of CaiQun.
We are also very comfortable allowing her to choose what she wishes to be called as she gets older, or even now, though she has yet to express any specific wish. We are happy to call her Madeleine or call her CaiQun or call her Madeleine CaiQun or switch between them during different periods of her life. It will always be an important part of her life that she came from China, and it will always be an important part of her life that she is part of our family. The juxtaposition of her two names is just one representation of that duality. And the way we see it, a large part of our job as parents is to provide our children with opportunities. In her name(s), CaiQun has the opportunity to claim various aspects of her life at different times or claim all of it at once. That will be her choice, and we are comfortable with whatever she is most comfortable with.
For now, we call her CaiQun more than anything else, because that is what we are all used to. We have introduced the name Madeleine more and more since we met her, and we may continue to use it more frequently, or we may not 🙂 She recognizes that she is Madeleine in the same way that she knows that she is MeiMei, while Miranda is JieJie (big sister). We love all of her names. We love what they represent about her. We love her.