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Does Open Adoption Get Easier?

Last week I led workshops on openness in adoption in Seattle, Portland and Eugene (OR) for an agency whose values closely align with my own, Open Adoption & Family Services.* The staff members at all three offices were incredibly hospitious (to employ a term Jim Gritter coined about using the hospitality model in adoption), as were Monika and Heather, who generously opened their homes to me and let me hang out with their delightful family members.

The Portland workshop was attended by my bloggy friends Heather, JoAnne, Liz and Lisa. One of the questions that came up from the general audience, a woman who is preparing to adopt, is the question the Open Adoption Bloggers now puts forth to you:

Does open adoption get easier?

It was another participant who gave this insightful answer — in the form of another question: Does marriage get any easier?

Things change and get different. Comparing something at the beginning of a journey to something seemingly similar later down the line is like comparing apples and oranges.

And as someone told me when my kids were little and I was exhausted, wondering if parenting gets any easier, “little people little problems; big people big problems.”

I didn’t really get that notion back then. It had been years since I’d slept through the night. I was with the kids, not yet in school, all day. There was crying, frustration, and boredom (not to mention what the kids were experiencing). When my husband came home from work each evening I often felt like hiding in a closet for awhile just to be alone and regain sanity. The problems from this era did not seem small. They seemed huge and unrelenting.

Now I sometimes sleep through the night. The kids are in school much of the day, much of the year. And still we have issues and angst. Bigger issues and bigger angst with higher stakes. We are constantly negotiating household rules. We are helping the kids navigate school and friendships and relationships with teachers and coaches and each other. We have health concerns, treatment plans with the orthodontist, disagreements about fashion and makeup and high fructose corn syrup, negotiations about shower time, bed time, screen time. We mediate between our kids and with neighbor kids. We teach, we model, we teach more and model more. Are we teaching and modeling all the right things? Will we have covered all the important lessons before they are ready to leave home? In less than a decade?

They will be ready to leave home one day, right? We will raise them to be independent, won’t we?

Hence why I don’t always sleep through the night.

So I can’t say that parenting has gotten easier. I can say that it’s gotten different.

Maybe our open adoptions have gotten not easier but better. When we started we had just one first parent around — Crystal. Since then we have connected with Tessa’s birth father, Joe. After talking with AJ on the phone for a few years, we finally got to meet Reed’s birth father (and his parents, wife and daughter) for the first time when he came to town this summer. And we have hopes in seeing Reed’s first mom in the coming months.

The relationships with the people who created our children are gradually shifting from me as caretaker to Tessa and Reed as the owner-operators. So my role is also changing. Whereas my prime responsibility was at first to maintain a wide-open conduit between our family and our children’s birth parents and make sure there was no corrosion, I am now moving into more of a consultant role. As Tessa and Reed begin to helm their own relationships with Crystal and Joe, with Michele and AJ, I will be on hand to assist as requested, to comfort if needed, and to abide, always to abide.

As John F Kennedy advised, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger people” (gender neutralization mine).


 Some scenes from my night in Seattle.

Lori Holden leads open adoption workshop

Open Adoption & Family Services adoption workshop

Open adoption agency and workshop with Lori Holden

 Monika and the Seattle staff of Open Adoption & Family Services.

* Check these out on the Open Adoption & Family Services website:

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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15 Responses

  1. I love this. it’s true, it’s not like marriage gets easier, only different. it evolves and grows as we do.
    and so it is with open adoption.

    I love how you describe the changing roles from conduit to consultant too. excellent post lori, as usual! looking fwd to hearing you speak in SF!

  2. Oops, I called the ask-er an adoptive parent in the writing prompt. Glad the speaker knew her audience better than I did.

    Her question totally stuck with me. I’m really interested in hearing what people have to say.

  3. Love is not a big enough word for how I feel about this post! Things shift and change and evolve and move. They aren’t straight roads that go from hard to easy… no matter what relationships you’re talking about. Hearts!

  4. Clearly open adoption comes with certain challenges, but as you point out so well, so does parenthood, period. Special needs or sick kids. Divorce, meddling in-laws… There are always other relationships that impact your parenting, from teachers and coaches to kids’ friends’ parents…

    Congratulations on making it work.

  5. Makes perfect sense to me. Love the quote at the end. No point in expecting things to get easier. Life will just keep changing. We have to face it and pray for strength.

  6. Lori,
    I am so very proud to have you as a friend. While my son is not adopted, and while I am, I have nothing and also everything in my life and my heart in which to relate to this post. I think that in every parenting relationship that our children shift (eventually and should) to owner-operator roles. Let’s face it. It’s the celebratory and heartbreaking part of parenting them (hopefully) out of the nest, right? No matter where the bio falls?
    I would never say this on my own blog, but as an adopted child who has met my bio family, I’m so glad I was adopted. They are not “bad” nor any less imperfect than my own family. I’m just glad my family is mine. Bio or not. We’re all stronger people. Every day. Which is the very best thing of all. Easy would be boring as ____.

  7. Definitely don’t get it until you’re in the middle of it. I’m finding that out! Parenting and open adoption 2 years in are changing. Constantly! Spot on with this post. 🙂

  8. “Little people little problems; big people big problems.” Truer words were never spoken.

  9. You are always so inspirational Lori! I love that you are transitioning from a wide open conduit to having your kids be the owner-operators of their relationships.

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