Category Archives: Open Adoption

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.

Birth Fathers…Are You Out There?

On this Fathers’ Day weekend, I’m thinking about two gentlemen in particular.

where are birth fathers?

Our children have access to their birth mothers. We feel it’s what is best for them. And besides, we like Crystal and Michele. A lot.

The reasons we welcome Crystal and Michele in our lives:

  • to alleviate the rumored Primal Wound of adoption
  • to have access to medical information
  • so that our children will never have to wonder
  • so that our children will never have to search
  • so that our children will never have to begin a relationship with someone who is both a stranger and yet intimately necessary to their lives.

All these reasons also stand for birth fathers, yet we have no contact with either.

Tessa’s birth father is, according to Crystal, a wild card. He can be incredibly sweet and sensitive, or extremely manipulative and angry. Through the agency, we have invited him to introduce himself to us through letters, which could progress to telephone calls and maybe even visits, as his personality and intentions become clear. We have yet to get a response.

Reed’s birth father is just absent. Michele let us know about two years ago that he wanted our email address, and we wait to hear from him. He has moved out of state and may not know how to begin a relationship with us.

Even though the idea of a birth father is much more abstract than a birth mother, our children have begun to ask about the two male names we include in our nightly prayers. I ask that we soon have either faces to go with the names, or the guidance to answer the questions.

(Update)

~~~~~

Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.

 

Open Adoption: When what you know is wrong

When Roger and I embarked on the journey of adopting a baby a few years ago, everything we “knew” about adoption was from decades past:

  • You waited on a long list until the agency matched you with a situation. Top of the list of criteria for the match? Your place in line.
  • You tried to make the building of your family as close to “normal” (read: biological) as possible. You didn’t talk much about the adoption, either inside or outside of the family, and you certainly didn’t have any contact with birthparents. The goal was to make it seamless, almost as if adoption were never part of the story.
  • As the child grew, you continued not talking about adoption. Surrounding my friends who had been adopted was an air of secrecy. When we did speak of adoption, it was in hushed voices. These friends didn’t know much about their birth families, their birth story, or their origins. And it would hurt their parents too much to wonder too much. So they tried not to.

In the early part of the 21st century, our agency introduced us to this newfangled thing called “open adoption.” Wikipedia (a shared consensus rather than a definitive pronouncement), at the time of this writing, defines open adoption as, an “arrangement allowing for ongoing contact between members of the adoption triad.” It adds, “an adoption is open when the biological mother (and/or father) may make the actual decision on who is chosen to parent their child.

It may seem, then, like closed adoptions were the “default setting” of the ages. Wikipedia further explains, “all adoptions in the United States were open until the twentieth century. Until the 1930’s, most adoptive parents and biological parents had contact at least during the adoption process.”

Far from being newfangled, it turns out that open adoption had always been the norm, with closed adoptions the aberration. Adoptions became closed when social pressures mandated that families preserve the myth that they were formed biologically.

Roger and I learned all that we could about open adoption. Over the years, we have replaced the myths with these ideas:

  • Adoption isn’t about waiting passively in line — it’s about who we are. A couple in an unintended pregnancy would make a conscious decision about us parenting their baby. The criteria for their decision would be our values, our bundle of experiences, and our vision for the future — US!
  • Why try to deny that our family was built by adoption? Is my ego so fragile that acknowledging the birth mothers of my children takes away from me? Loving and respecting our children’s birth parents is just another way to love and respect our children.
  • Walking a fine line between dwelling on adoption it and denying it, we tell our children (now ages 8 and 6) their adoption stories once in awhile. We encourage them to talk with us about it as their cognitive skills grow. I believe that anything kept under a rock can get moldy, and I want their adoption tales to bask in sunshine.
  • There are many more benefits to open adoption. Our children have access to their medical histories and to clans who look like them and love them. Also, our children will not have to go through the potential minefields of search and reunion just to get answers to their wonderings.

In public, Roger sometimes kicks me under the table me as I proudly reveal the way we became a family. After all, he reminds me, I am merely caretaker of my children’s stories. Someday they will choose what to tell and to whom.

But it’s my story, too, and I am so happy about our story I share often and a lot, in an effort to combat myths from a bygone era.