Category Archives: Parenting

A moment in open adoption parenting

Tessa was distraught, after a Halloween party, for not getting the nod for a sleepover at her aunt’s house. The excitement of the kid-oriented haunted house, the disappointment about the sleepover and a sugar high made for a meltdown.

I got her into the car and she continued to wail about how mean her dad and I are. Roger and Reed were in the other car (long logistical explanation), so Tessa and I had some rare alone car time.

The wailing changed tone as we headed home.

“Why can’t Crystal and Joe be my parents!? I have never even been with both of them at the same time!”

Whoa.

I silenced the GPS lady so I could focus. Here’s a slowdown of my processes during moments like this.

  1. Calm, center, open. Breathe, and be aware of my breathing.
  2. Listen. Let her do most of the talking.
  3. Assess. What is she really saying or asking?
  4. Trade places. What might this look like, feel like, to her?
  5. Abide. Give her space to feel her feelings.
  6. Speak. Equal parts head and heart.

Following are the salient parts from the ensuing conversation, which lasted about a half an hour and culminated while we cuddled in her bed.

“Tell me more,” I said while driving home.

“If they got together, maybe they would LIKE each other. And then…”

“And then…?” (pause) “And then they could be your parents?”

“Yes.” (pause) “But Joe is married, and Crystal has Luke.” (pause) “They will never be married, will they, Mom?”

Now, the best thing I did here was not personalize this and make it about ME. Her words, and the thoughts behind them, had NOTHING to do with her feelings for Roger and me, her attachment to us, her love for us. The best way for me to help her find resolution about having two sets of parents, and about her own road not taken is NOT to pretend that one set of parents doesn’t exist, is NOT to feel bad that I can’t be everything to her, is NOT to “fix” it for her by pointing out all she does have.

It’s by giving her space and support to find her own way.

“No, Sweetheart. They were together many years ago, but they were not a good match. You know, don’t you, that they both love you?”

“Yeah, I know that. But why aren’t they my mom dad?”

“Would you like me to tell you the story again? After we get home we can cuddle and talk.”

“Yes!”

10 minutes later we pulled into the garage. Tessa got on her jammies and brushed her teeth. We climbed into her bed, about an hour past normal bedtime.

“Crystal and Joe were very young. Twenty may not sound like young to you, but it’s a time when some people don’t have a lot of skills in dealing with other people, with being frustrated. You know that class we took together, Taming the Anger Monster? Well, at that time, neither Crystal nor Joe had learned how to tame their anger monsters.

“They broke up because they were hurting each other. With words — you know that words can hurt. And as much as they both loved you, they knew that neither one was able to give you a stable home, a calm home. At that time. You needed a forever family then, though. And that’s what you got. Daddy and I will always be your mom and dad, no matter what.

“The Crystal and Joe you know now are different from who they were then. It’s OK to imagine what life with them would be like. What do you think?”

“Well…I would have an older brother from Crystal. And a younger sister from Joe. I’m not sure if we would live at Crystal’s house or at Joe’s house. And I would probably go to a different school. One I don’t even know. I might not even know Reed. Or Grandma and Grandpa. Or the OTHER Grandma and Grandpa. And all my aunts — I wouldn’t have any aunts! That would be weird.”

“It would be very different, wouldn’t it? You can tell a thousand stories of what your life is not. And only ONE story of what your life IS. This is your life, Tessa. Lots of people around who love you now and forever, including Crystal and Joe, daddy and me. All of Crystal’s family, all of Joe’s family, all of our family.”

“Mama,” she said sleepily, the anxiety and sadness gone for now, “I love you.”

“I love you, too Tessa.”

*****

There probably were wiser words I could have said, and things I shouldn’t have said. I’m putting this out there because in this space I try to share (within the limits I’ve set regarding Tessa’s privacy) as many facets of open adoption parenting as I can. It’s important to know that “open adoption” isn’t just something you do when you exchange photos, send emails, have a visit. It’s something that can come up even when you have other plans.

Image: JewelBasket.com

Please see my response to the reader comments (below) at my follow-up post, Hotel Rwanda and open adoption parenting.

Show & Tell: Captured

Last week I showed my documentarian tendencies.

When Tessa was born, my friend Juli (scrapbooker extraordinaire) gave me a beautiful handmade calendar that she designed especially for my daughter.

So it seemed natural that I would add my kids’ journal entries to my nightly routine. Call it a.nal-retentive, obsessive or rigid (as my husband jokingly has), but I am happy to capture each day of their lives until they are able to do so themselves. As Mel suggested last week, I plan to turn over documenting duties to them on their 12th birthdays.

Tessa has 9 calendars so far (Juli’s creations are the two in the upper left):


Reed has 7 (and yes, the second child’s is sloppier; what’s it to ya?):


Thanks to my mom for filling in on the overnights she’s had them. And yes, the kids LOVE scanning a month of their lives and remembering an earlier time.

See what the cool kids are showing and telling over at Mel‘s.

Which is More Difficult?

This Momversation is a discussion about which is harder: being a mom or being a wife.

Dooce, having experienced post-partum depression, says that marriage was much easier, and she shares many good reasons why. She votes for Motherhood as the more difficult.

Finslippy says (among other things) that it’s easier to neglect marriage, making it the more difficult of the two.

GirlsGoneChild, who experienced marriage and children in rapid fashion, also agrees that marriage is the more difficult.

Dooce got more than 700 comments on this and has shut them down. There are conversations going on at GirlsGoneChild and at Momversation, but I was wondering what my readers think about motherhood vs wifehood, either in the concrete (you are a parent) or in the abstract (you will one day be a parent, and you give your best guess as to which will be more difficult for you).

Conventional wisdom might say that for Infertyls, motherhood will be incredibly rewarding after the long and tortuous route to get there. And that, consequently, achieving that hard-won dream would make parenting less difficult than marriage (especially a marriage that has been tested by IF).

But my own experience did not fit into that mold. Regarding marriage, I know how to navigate a peer relationship, a (mostly) rational relationship of (mostly) equals.

I struggled then, and I still sometimes do, with the irrational relationship I have with purely emotional beings. As they become more rational, parenting them becomes easier for me.

And in theory, I should be the One In Control in my relationships with Tessa and Reed, right? I am Authority and they should, at all times, defer to my more seasoned judgment. (Don’t laugh. My parents expected this of me, and I have forgotten that I rarely gave it to them.)

Smack! That’s reality hitting me upside the head on an almost-hourly basis. My kids DON’T stop fighting when I tell ask them to. They DON’T keep their dirty and clean clothes in different places. They DON’T accept my wisdom about not eating boogers as gospel.

Control is an illusion. Tessa and Reed just might have more of it than I do. It certainly seems like it at times.

These are some of the reasons why motherhood is, for me, more difficult than wifehood.

(Well, that and the fact that Roger cooks.)

So, for you, which is or will be harder — being a mom or being a wife? Please share why you think so.

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Perfect Moment Monday: sweet surrender

Perfect Moment Monday is more about noticing a perfect moment than about creating one. Perfect moments are just waiting to be observed, and can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

We gather here once a week to engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world, if only for a, well, a moment. Everyone is welcome to join. Details on how to participate are at the bottom of this post, complete with bloggy bling.

Now, here’s mine.

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I’m well aware of my shortcomings as a mom. I lack enough patience. I don’t engage deeply and often enough with my kids. I have an overwhelming need to have time and space away from them. I am not Fun Mom simply because of my aversion to activities for which there will be more than 90 seconds of cleanup.

I am also aware of my strengths. I have healthy boundaries with them. I respect myself and expect that they treat me (and others) respectfully. I model for them how to love one’s body and treat it well. I model lifelong learning and inquisitiveness.

I added something new this week: the ability to sit with pain and discomfort without fixing it.* Which, not surprisingly, mended the situation.

Reed is surrounded by alpha people. The other three members of his household are all very bossy eldest children, and his best friend is a hellion spirited child. Reed is incredibly resilient, and has a wide range in which to accommodate the whims and demands of others.

One day last week, he’d had a particularly pushed-around day. He got blamed by his kindergarten teacher for something another kid did. His best friend wouldn’t give back Reed’s Star Wars game, and later when Tessa got home, she kept interrupting him as he tried to tell me his troubles. He grew increasingly whiny and pouty.

Rather than my usual reaction to whining, which is to send him to his room until he can be pleasant again, I simply picked him up and carried him gently to another room and told him, “It sounds like you’ve had a hard day. Sometimes it’s hard to share, isn’t it?”

His little body collapsed into mine and he sobbed into my shoulder, more relieved to be understood than sad about the day. Tessa came to get in on the action, and I gently asked her to wait for me in the kitchen (and she complied!).

Reed got the message that he deserved 100% of something once in awhile.

Then it was over. And his surrender was a perfect moment for me.

*I was grateful that I’d recently read this post by Melissa that predisposed me to an empathic approach.

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Be sure to follow the other stories/links because as we know, perfect moments can be found in giving and receiving comments. So how about you deliver a couple of Perfect Moment seeds and trust that they’ll grow?

Once you make a Perfect Moment post, you are qualified to place this button on your blog.



Now. What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of?

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