A Boy Named Sue

In 1969 Johnny Cash recorded the song, A Boy Named Sue, at a concert in California’s San Quentin State Prison. The song became one of Cash’s biggest hit singles.

The song told the tale of a young man’s quest to take revenge on a father who had abandoned him at three years of age and whose only contribution to his son’s life was to name him “Sue.” As a result of growing up with a feminine name, the young man constantly suffered ridicule and harassment by everyone he met. So, Sue frequently relocated because of the shame of his name, but consequently, grew up tough, mean and cunning.

Sue was angered by the embarrassment and abuse that he endured in his life because of his feminine name and swore that he would kill his father for giving him that terrible name if he ever found him. Sue finally encountered his father in a saloon in Tennessee and confronted him by saying, “My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you’re gonna die!”


Sue and his father engaged in a vicious brawl that spilled outdoors into a muddy street. After the two had beaten each other almost senseless, Sue’s father admitted that he named him Sue but the name was given out of fatherly love. Sue’s father knew that he would not be there for his son, so he gave him the name, believing that the disparagement he received because of his name would force him to be tough.

In the preceding post (which has become the most-read post on this blog), I told you that I had finally finalized my adoption of the kids. One of the legal options available with an adoption is making changes to the name of the adopted child. With an adoption you can actually revise the birth record of a child to include a different birth name.

As I pondered the possibility of making name changes, I was reminded of a concern I constantly keep at the forefront of my plan for their lives. Since my care for them as a parent could be abbreviated from that of a typical parent with a five- and six-year old, I want them to be able from an early age to grow into independent, self-actualized individuals.

I suppose I’m just finding reason to worry about something that I really have no control over, but such is the reality of our lives. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the children to ask me when I’m going to die. Now, it’s not because they they think I am so old or are wanting their inheritance, but it’s a security and self-preservation instinct. Their experience has been that Nanna died and so maybe I am going to die as well, and then who would take care of them?

Although I’m not planning on dying before they get married and have children, I probably need an alternative plan for their future care and well-being. I need the assurance that my little peeps can become independent, self-actualized big people at a young age, if necessary.

With the adoption I can have control over what might be their future care if I’m not around. As for their future well-being, the plan is what I call, as you might have guessed by now, “The Boy Named Sue Contingency.” Because, like Sue’s father, I know that I might not always be there for them as they grow into adulthood and so they need to be “tough” enough to make their way in life without me!

So, I allow the children to develop nurturing relationships with other grown-ups and I encourage them to grow up together as best friends so that they will always have one another. They are able to bond easily, and quickly, with just about anybody that comes into their lives. (I know this can also be a problem and I addressed it in this post.)  They have formed a very deep bond with Conner, their part-time nanny. They love her and know that she cares for them and loves them. And though they fight with each other like siblings do, they do everything together.

With the adoption taking place and the possibility for a name change, I suppose the thought crossed my mind that, like in the song, I could accelerate my plan for their early independence and self-actualization by giving them names that would help them grow up tough. Maybe I could rename Kaleb “Sue” and Kenzie “Hugh!”

But, then I remembered how the song ends. When Sue learned the reason behind his controversial name, he reconciled with his father but promised himself he would never name his son Sue!

So, maybe they don’t need to be named Sue and Hugh to make it in life without me. Maybe Kaleb and Kenzie will work just fine.

And maybe I’ll get to be around until they don’t need me.

And, maybe one day when they become their fully independent, self-actualized selves they will realize and believe how worthwhile and significant their lives are because they were so worthwhile and significant to me!

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun,
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son, 
And I came away with a different point of view. 
And I think about him, now and then, 
Every time I try and every time I win, 
And if I ever have a son,
I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! 

Anything but Sue! I still hate that name! 

Lyrics from A Boy Named Sue

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