Right now there is a little girl in Sydney terribly confused about the name her parents gifted her.
Lovingly thought of, and painstakingly chosen, little Isis has walked this earth with a name that until recently was unique, had special meaning, but more importantly was hers.
Named after an Egyptian Goddess, one that fit perfectly with that of her older brother Maximus, both names were adopted from ancient mythology and represented strong, vocal figures. But sadly, Isis has recently come to be synonymous with the extremist Islamic militant group spreading terror around the world.
Little Isis is not alone, there are many like her the world over who are now coming to grips with the fact that part of their identity has been hikacked. Now their name, which was once greeted with compliments, has an entirely different reaction, and it’s not good. Especially for an 8 year old.
Sheridan Leskien and her husband Frank have both been sideswiped by the situation and are completely at a loss at what to do. “It’s ruining our family and it’s ruining Isis’s future,” Sheridan told the media. “I’m heartbroken for all the families being affected (by Islamic State), the journalists, the different people who are suffering, but my family is suffering too.”
I think this is the most powerful parenting question I have ever asked, but what would you do in this situation? Would you change your child’s name?
It was a question too big for me to answer. On the one hand, I wouldn’t want to. It means they win. Just as choosing not to travel to New York after 9/11 would have meant the terrorists had won, I would feel that changing my child’s name would mean the same thing. But then, what about my child’s new reality? One of ridicule, or worse, fear?
I spoke to child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg about the situation.
What would you do in this situation, and what ramifications are there for this little girl if she has to go through the rest of her life with this particular name?
Well, I’d change her name for a start. The ramification is threefold. One, it may well be she has more difficulty making friends because other parents won’t want their children associated with her. Secondly, it may impact on her functionality at school. And thirdly, it may impact on her when she grows up because people are going to immediately assume there is a connection between her and the terrorist group.
But the name’s original origins are innocent?
I know, and sadly it now has unfortunate ramifications. I don’t think ISIS is going to go away as a terrorist group, therefore I think maybe she could modify it or she could choose another name. It is very bad luck but I don’t think it’s going to be good for her short, medium or long term psychological development.
Her family is saying they don’t want to change it because she is a strong child and she wants to keep the name. As a parent, how would you handle that?
Well, it reminds me of the whole A Boy Named Sue thing. If you’ve got a kid who does have the intestinal fortitude to handle this, then that’s a judgment call you make, but you’d better be right!
Yes, but Sue is hardly a name for a terrorist group.
True, but it reminds me of a story of a boy in New Zealand whose parents wanted to call him Adolf… the country made it illegal to call any child that. Sometimes you have to step in to protect the child.
Have you ever heard of a parent changing their child’s name?
I have, actually. There was one very unfortunate case in the UK where the parents had called their child Orson and they were Mr and Mrs Cart, so it was Orson Cart [think ‘horse and cart’]. The kid got the life bullied out of him and so they said, look, possibly we thought this was terribly amusing when he’s four but now it’s not so funny and they changed it. It will be better in the long run for this little girl to do the same.
Maybe they could call her Issy for now and wait to see if things change?
I would certainly recommend that.
All I can say is I feel deeply for the parents of Isis. I’d hate my Millie Valentine’s name, one I loved for many years and discussed with my husband for months while our child was in the womb — a name that holds very special meaning to us — to one day be beautiful and special and the next provoke fear. But for the sake of Isis’ future, maybe she should be called Issy for now.
What do you think?
You can sign a petition for the media to stop referring to the terrorists as ‘ISIS’, started by Miami woman Isis Martinez, here.