Category Archives: Adoptive parenting

Adoption Issue? Parenting Issue? Ego Issue?

In response to my Triangle Tangle, I’m getting a lot of empathy, for which I’m grateful, but not a lot of concrete advice. I believe this is because Open Adoption is still largely uncharted territory. And Crystal and I are like Lewis and Clark.

One person asked me privately if such a situation gives credence to Closed Adoption advocates. Or to anyone who judges one’s parenting decisions from the sidelines. She says:

People have their own agendas, and validation of their beliefs may be one of them. And my children’s behavior may be one of the indicators used in vindicating a cherished doctrine.

At first I thought she was talking about people who say “Told you it was a mistake to have Crystal in your lives,” (which no one has said). But she continues thoughtfully with:

So I wondered if something similar may turn the heat up a little higher on you when these questions begin. And maybe cause you to read more into it than Tessa may have meant; maybe in this case it really WAS about the purse and keys. Maybe it’s about wanting to feel grown-up.

Me, have my own agenda and need validation?! Oh, that damn ego again. No matter what happens, there I am having to deal with me.

So maybe, as my friend says, Tessa really just wants to carry my purse and keys and phone (don’t suggest giving her old ones — we’ve tried that and they must not be “me” enough for her because she still comes after my real ones.)

Maybe lipstick is just lipstick. Reframe the tangle as a parenting issue, not an adoption issue.

OR:

Maybe this is a problem with Open Adoption (not that I would throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater). Tessa has enough information on how her life would otherwise have been to build an idyllic picture in her head about it. She can see the grass on the other side of the fence, but it will never be her yard. Yet her older bio-brother gets to play there all the time.

I am still wondering about a day at Crystal’s or even a sleepover. Would either help to resolve the issue for Tessa, or would it exacerbate it? Would it help her to see that the grass isn’t greener? Or just intensify a longing for that yard?

Someday I will know these answers…I’m thinking in about 16 years. For now I just try to lead with my heart and be aware of my ego’s motives.

Parenting: a Triangle Tangle

The other night our family went out to eat with a good friend, her 10 year old son, and her new boyfriend (whom she was very excited for us to meet).

As always, being together was full of laughs and fun. The boyfriend, a charming, attentive and down-to-earth guy, passed muster.

After dinner, Tessa asked to speak with my friend and me privately. We three went outside the restaurant.

“So,” she said, “what I want to tell you both is that it’s time for you to switch.”

My friend and I looked at each other, knowing what is coming and trying to figure out how to handle it.

“Mom,” Tessa said, “It’s YOUR turn to be my birth mom, and Crystal, I want to come live with you for awhile.”

You’ve figured out that my friend, Crystal, is also Tessa’s first mom.

“Well, honey,” Crystal said, “it doesn’t work that way. I already gave birth to you and no one else can ever do that again. You’re too big!” We all giggled, a bit uncomfortably.

“But I want to live with you, just for awhile,” claimed Tessa, ever the persistent one.

“Why? How do you think life with me would be?” asked Crystal.

“We could play. I could have your purse and your keys and your cell phone and your lip gloss. All day!”

(See, I learned after the first time my keys got lost and I found my cell phone perched precariously over the toilet NOT to allow my children to play with these things. Tessa has always had a HUGE affinity for these accouterments of adulthood. Other people indulge her, but I do not.)

“Oh, Tessa. It’s not like that at my house,” responded Crystal. “I work much of the time, and when I’m home, Tyler and I do a lot of chores.”

Before long, Tessa brought Tyler out of the restaurant and into the conversation (I told you she’s a pitbull), and he vouched for the fact that there’s not a lot of play time in Crystal’s household.

Tessa hung on to Crystal’s keys, purse and cell phone for the rest of the evening. While out of Tessa’s earshot, Crystal offered to have Tessa over for a day just to see what a “typical” day in her house is like. I can see this scenario going so many different ways.

Part of me (a big part) wishes this were just about the purse, etc. But I know it’s really a deeper processing. Both Crystal and I have done some of our grieving and healing from the losses we endured. Now it’s Tessa’s turn. How do we help?

Any comments or suggestions from people not emotionally invested? I really welcome them.

Resulting post: Adoption Issue? Parenting Issue? Ego Issue?

Tapping in to MomSense

A couple of weeks ago, I heard those words all adoptive parents dread.

With the kids in the backseat, I dropped off a bag of stuff at Goodwill. Among the things we gave away were some beloved purple sandals of Tessa’s, who left them on the stairs when asked to clean up (we practice Love & Logic).

Tessa began to have a fit when she saw the shoes transition out of her life. Can I just say here that Tessa is the Drama Queen of Fits? Reed, always her loyal Knight, joined in with the wailing:

“You’re a mean mom! We wish that our birfmoms and birfdads were our real parents!”

With Roger out of town and my temper rising to match the 100 degree day, I fortunately had the presence of mind to say, “We’ll talk about this in a little bit.”

Later, I gently asked Reed if he wondered what it would be like to live with his birfparents. He said no. I told him that I would probably wonder, and that it’s OK to wonder.

That was the end. For now.

But not forever. I’m gonna need some more tools in my tool kit.

So I posted the situation on a couple of adoption bulletin boards. Here are some comments with great insight and strategies (screen names follow):

1. “They ARE your real parents, just like we are.” Then have a conversation about the word real. (pnmomma)

2. “Tessa, your first mom, loves you very much and every good mom is supposed to teach you to be responsible, and I am sure that she would teach you this same lesson. Maybe you could call her and ask if she thinks it’s OK to leave your sandals out and not take care of them.” (Jensboys).

3. I always respond with a lick of the finger and an imaginary mark in the air and announce a point for myself for being one step closer to a perfect parent because all good parents are mean at some point. (Tudu)

4. Perhaps my favorite: “Well then you are in luck, they TOO are your real parents.. and the shoes are still gone. Maybe you should put them in your REAL closet next time.” (CLB)

5. This blow-up is actually a good sign. If your kid feels safe enough to lash out, it means they are comfortably attached to you. Kids will find your hot buttons and push them. That’s what they do. Think of them as small, very expensive personal therapists. You learn a lot about yourself in the process of raising them. (MomOf2)

I did cry myself to sleep that night, as Spyderkl thought she would.

Any other insights, suggestions, comments? C’mon, lurkers! I see you there on my SiteMeter.

About Face

I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicles the period after the sudden death of the author’s husband’s and the concurrent illness of her adult daughter.

On the back cover is an intriguing photo, one with such interesting composition and mystery that I’ve found myself staring into it on occasion. It was taken in Malibu in 1976. I play the guessing game with myself.

I think on their names. John Dunne and Joan Didion — Irish, perhaps? Quintana Roo, their daughter. Must have a connection to Mexico — hopefully it will be explained in the book. She looks to be about my age that year.

I study their faces. Yup, Quintana looks like the perfect combination of John’s facial structure and Joan’s self-assured sassy. She looks as though she’d like the photographer to leave already, and let her get back to the conversation she was having with her parents.

face watcher

I read for several nights. I find out, as part of a casual mention, that Quintana was adopted. On page 118: “…John and I had brought Quintana home from St John’s Hospital. She was three days old.” Not much of a clue until two pages later: “We took Quintana there on the day of her adoption, when she was not quite seven months old.” (No other mention so far, so I am still guessing at the story and filling in with what I can intuit.)

I study the photo again with this new information. I look at the faces to re-verify their connections.

I do this face-study thing often, and I wonder if I do it more often than others. I look for genetic clues in faces to see if families are biological or adoptive. I look for similarities in chins, matching mouths, equal smiles, companion expressions, between children and parents and among children.

I wonder if, on this playground or at that school function, there are other families like us — connected by biography rather than biology.

Do you? Study faces?