“The Wait” tends to mean something in adoption, something that hopeful adopting parents endure.
But because of my lack of foresight, Tessa was the one who had to endure this 2-month wait. And it was not easy for her — and, consequently, for us.
Tessa found out about Joe’s desire to meet her in mid-May. Our family and Joe’s family had busy and conflicting schedules most of the summer, until the end of July.
I wish I had taken better care of the photos of Joe, not let on yet that meeting him was coming. I’ve been a mom awhile — I should know this! Never tell the kids something is going to happen — until it is practically happening.
Once the cat was out of the bag, though, I tried to make it a positive thing. She could get to know him over the phone first, the way we got to know him via email. We could ease into this relationship and she’d be able to process gradually and slowly.
That was my hope. It was not, however, the reality.
Tessa and Joe began a telephone relationship. Joe had 7 years of pent-up eagerness churning in him, and he called 2-3 times a week. He always chatted with Roger or me first and asked if it was OK to talk with Tessa. I am very thankful that he was intent on making sure Tessa’s needs were of prime importance. Also that he often asked to speak with Reed, respecting and accepting easily that we are a package deal.
Tessa was giddy with each phone call. She felt very special. I think, perhaps that she had in her mind that Joe was a person who would “fix” whatever was wrong with her life — HE would surely give her a set of real keys (she loves real keys, indicators of power); HE would take her swimming every day because he has a pool RIGHT NEAR HIS HOUSE; HE would let her stay up as late as she wants; in other words, HE would buy her the proverbial pony.
(Please understand that Joe did not plant or water these thoughts. Tessa has plenty of magical thinking all on her own — it’s part of her charm.)
My job, as I saw it, was to keep her grounded with all this fantasy that was going on. Let me tell you that she was very mad at me a lot during this time period. We continued to have chores, bedtimes, rules and limits.
One day I became aware of a push. And I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. I was intent on providing her the freedom to develop a relationship with Joe — so intent, perhaps, that I missed a deeper layer.
One afternoon we had an out-of-proportion argument over chores. She went from zero to steam-coming-out-the-ears in a flash. Her eyes a-blazing, she hissed, “And if I don’t, are you going to send me to Joe?”
Sudden flash of insight: she wasn’t JUST worried that we would keep her from meeting Joe. She was ALSO worried that we might abdicate our place as her parents. This thought, I believe, filled her with terror. Like an earthquake was about to hit.
“Oh, Sweetie.” I came toward her and she collapsed into my arms, her flame doused by her tears. “Do you think Daddy and I would ever let you go? We will ALWAYS be your parents, no matter what. We love you NO MATTER WHAT. Now you just have someone else in your life who also loves you and who wants good things for you.”
I continued, “Your life won’t change a lot when you meet Joe. This is your home. Reed is your brother. Daddy and I will always tuck you in at night and wake you up in the morning.”
“Teddy [Bear] and my babies will always be mine?”
“Yes,” I said. And smiled, “And you’ll still have to eat your veggies and empty the trash and finish your homework and kiss your mother!” as I smooched toward her and tickled her.
Her body relaxed with the release of weeks of tension buildup.
I am still chastened by the fact that I didn’t see the push/pull develop and try to mitigate it. I am lucky Tessa is so resilient and strong.
Too bad there are no do-overs. I’ll need one more before this reunion thingy is over.
Next in this series: Face-to-face.