Bradley's Signature

Jan 16, 2015

There's something so magical about writing your own name. I'm sure I'm not the only one who, at 14, practiced my signature over and over again, tweaking it here and there to give it just the right flair.

When I started dating Mike, I often found myself doodling in the margins when I was supposed to be taking notes: my first name followed by his last name--just to see what it might look like.

With each of my children, it has been an exciting milestone to see them learn to write their own names. It gives them a sense of ownership to be able to see in print that thing that is so crucial to their identities. Even if someone else has the same name, no one else has the same signature. It is one of the few things that is uniquely theirs.

Ever since reading Brown Girl Dreaming late last year, I've been thinking about how being able to write your own name opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities. This poem, entitled "On Paper," made me think of my three-year-old's primitive signature, still wobbly and unsure but definitely all his own: 
The first time I write my full name
Jacqueline Amanda Woodson

without anybody's help
on a clean white page in my composition notebook,
    I know

if I wanted to

I could write anything.
When he first began writing the letters of his name, I thought about taking the easy route and shortening his name to "Brad." The extra three letters required to make it "Bradley" just seemed unnecessarily daunting. But we so rarely call him Brad that it didn't seem fair that he couldn't be Bradley on paper as well as in person. So we went for the full seven letters.

I still find myself coaching him through the letters ("a circle with a tail," "a line and a little hump," etc."), but I no longer guide his hand. I love seeing his name scrawled at the bottom of a page or arranged haphazardly across the middle of a picture, and I'll be a little sad when those letters eventually tighten up into something the rest of the world can recognize.


  1. Such an exciting milestone! My daughter is still (after several months) writing her name everywhere she can :-)

    1. Of course she is! It's a great source of pride and accomplishment!

  2. This was our milestone for getting a library card -- writing your name. I still have the original library cards with their first name sprawled untidily across the entire back.

    My son Alexander never went by Alex; his KG homework was to write his name ten times and I joked that he had more work than anyone else in his class (even Christopher dropped to Chris for the assignment). And he was a kid who found writing very difficult. Congratulations to Bradley!


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