Ten years ago I attempted both a time warp and a mind meld when I tried to see how things looked from inside my children’s heads. I imagined, at the suggestion of a group called the Open Adoption Bloggers, what I’d like my grown children to say about the way I felt to them, adoption-wise, in 20 years. They were then 10 and 8 years old.
We are now halfway there, and my children are adults. Baby adults, but adults nonetheless. What were my open adoption goals then, and how well has our parenting aligned with them?
When I lead workshops or consult with adoptive families, I often ask parents to do this very same exercise, which is to imagine what their end zone looks like and feels like. I ask them to write this same letter, based on the prompt given to Open Adoption Bloggers all those years ago:
Imagine your child as an adult describing their open adoption experience. What do you hope they will be able to say about you? How did you view their other parents? In what ways did you support their relationship with them?
Perspective & Clarity
In writing this letter, parents not only practice seeing through their children’s eyes, but they also clarify what they want of their own parenting in the long run. (Aside: every single parent I’ve worked with wants an enduring, loving, connected relationship with their child over time, and they want their son or daughter to have everything they need to be happy and successful in their lives).
I’ve long advocated for openness in adoption for the sake of the adopted person, the baby/toddler/tween/teen/adult who is gradually building their identity, their relationships, and their patterns for how they will move through the world.
But, as an advice column in Slate shows, openness can also save the adoptive parents from a world of hurt. Namely, of being gobsmacked by their son’s/daughter’s “sudden” interest in birth parents.
The Either/Or mindset that we inherited from the Closed Adoption Era is so strong and so prevalent. As a result of it, some parents cling to the hope that, to their child, they are the only parents. As if to confirm their bias, they assume that if the son/daughter isn’t talking about birth parents, that they aren’t thinking about them.
Ever on the lookout, I love finding adoptee voices that help me better understand the mosaic that is the adoptee experience. So many generous adoptees over the years have made an inestimable difference in the way I connect with my children. My entire family benefits when I listen to understand.
Enter Sara Easterly. Sara is new on my radar, but already an accomplished author and writer. I met Sara last month at the Tattered Cover for an author event around her new memoir, Searching for Mom. In this guest post, Sara explores a word that can roll off the tongue just as easily as it can pierce a heart, with or without that intention.
Sometimes, as Sara tells us, that word can be a sacred invitation to abide with someone in their grief.