Last week, I stumbled upon a post from the Guardian bemoaning the travel troubles of parents who do not share their child’s surname. As I read, I laughed and inwardly cringed at the same time. I’ve been in the same boat enough times to know exactly how that feels. Though I have never actually been asked point blank to ‘prove that you are your daughter’s mother’, it has been close. In fact, to make matters worse, not only do my daughter and I have different surnames – she and her Dad also have no common one. Yes. We are a family of three different surnames.
To cut a long story short: I retained my maiden name and in my daughter’s case she got surname-d her Dad’s middle name because of south Indian traditions – blah, blah, blah. And then add to the merry melee the fact that her place of birth is somewhere in Europe but she carries an Indian passport. Traveling and filling forms just takes a whole new dimension.
I can understand a border security issue in having three people with different surnames being allowed to pass through without enough proof of relationship. But it is ridiculous to be questioned every time about your choice of name (We live in a world with people called Will.i.am and Snoop Dogg for heaven’s sake!). All our official documents have our relationships stamped and ratified. So why make an issue out of it every time one travels?
And then there are the PNR’s. I have lost count of the number of times our little family of three has been assigned seats in three different parts of the aeroplane, just because our names differ. Travel agents, booking systems and forces unknown seem to have issue with our different surnames as well. Almost every second flight we take together seems to have one harried episode of begging airline staff, fellow travellers and random others to exchange seats in a bid to sit together.
And I know for a fact that we are not alone. As the article in the Guardian is proof, it is a common dilemma. The easiest way to rectify it would be to go get a common surname. But what if one doesn’t want to? Our names are our identities. And we need to have control over our identity and we expect the same for our children, don’t we?
Historically, it has been the name of the father that has been called the surname. Thankfully, that is changing now. A few brave people are going in for double-barreled surnames (a combination of mother’s and father’s name). And a very small and extremely brave group has let go of the surname for good.
Given the fact that we the parents, are responsible for naming our children when they are born it falls upon us to decide what is the legacy in the name that our child will carry. And if some of us do decide to keep the slate clean of any such legacies of name or lineage, our decision should be honoured, don’t you think?
Do you have any such name stories that have left you fuming? Did you ever reckon that the simple act of naming a child could have such far-reaching consequences? Oh, and have you heard of Hashtag and Blue Ivy 😉