Cringey! Midpoint of the Adoptive Parenting Feedback Loop

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).

With such insight and foresight, parents can make sure their daily interactions are aimed in the direction of their overall goal, that they are living in line with their highest values. They can point the gazillion little decisions they will make over the years toward their north star of connectedness.

My Open Adoption Goals

So with much humility, I republish my original attempt at a time-warp mind-meld from 10 years ago, aiming for 10 years from now.

From Tessa in 2031:

Dear Mom,

See? I waited until I was all grown up — 28! — to get married, have sex, and start a family. In that order.

But first I became self-sufficient in my chosen career. I married only because I wanted to (and because my partner is a wonderful person), not because I needed someone to take care of me.

Anyway, now that I’m a mom, I understand a little bit more about what it took to raise me. I want to tell you that I thank you for keeping Crystal and Joe in my life. Being with them always felt good, and I’m glad you didn’t feel threatened by the bond I have with them. It means the world to me that you love them, because that freed me to love them and to love myself.

Also, I appreciate that you let me talk about adoption stuff when I wanted to, but didn’t bring it up all the time. Even though you wrote about it ALL.THE.TIME.

If the sleepovers I had with Crystal and Tyler [birth brother] or with Joe and his family were hard for you, you never showed it. I have always felt fully connected to my birth family and, of course, fully connected to you and Daddy and Reed.

It hasn’t always been easy, having two sets of parents, but you made it as easy for me as you could. I love you so much for that. And for grounding me for only a week that time I took your car without permission on my way to work at the soup kitchen.

Love always,
Tessa

Cringey, I Know!

Oh, dear lord, my naivete.

Midway through, I’ve gotten some things right and some things wrong, but I’m not telling which is which. Such a BothAnd of spot-on and off-base.

Here is the original letter from when I channeled an adult Reed.

From Reed in 2031

Dear Mama,

I suspect that you often wondered if you were handling all this adoption stuff well. My sister’s birth parents were around in the early years and mine weren’t, and you worried if this was hurting me.

Sometimes it did.

But I never felt slighted. Crystal and Tyler and Joe and his family always included me. And then you found AJ and brought him into my life. Later, Michele resurfaced and told me my adoption story herself. It helped me to understand, even though sometimes it was hard.

Do you remember that day in the car? I told you I didn’t want to talk about my birth parents any more because it made me sad. I remember you told me that you wouldn’t bring it up again for awhile, but that if I ever wanted to talk about it with you I could. I appreciated that.

So even though it sometimes hurt, I am thankful that you sat with me during the times I was hurting. You didn’t minimize my feelings or gloss over them. And somehow I didn’t get stuck in the hurt.

It means a lot to me that you always spoke respectfully of Michele and AJ and that you provided contact with them when they were ready.

I love you, Mama. Thank you for always loving me so completely. I’ll be over on Sunday to mow your lawn.

Reed

So Much I Didn’t Know; So Much I Don’t Know

There was so much I didn’t know 10 years ago about parenting and about adoptive parenting. Experience has been teaching me. There is so much I still don’t know about parenting young adults, and experience will continue to teach me.

There is a lot of talk these days about intent vs impact. My intent in setting the stage for how we would parent around adoption, like so many adoptive parents, was to give Tessa and Reed access to all their pieces so they could build their identities, and to create a safe space for them to process any adoption issues that would arise with us.

The impact, I believe, has been that our children have been able to navigate the relationships that work for them with their birth parents, while remaining connected to Roger and me.

I wonder what the next 10 years will bring, adoption-wise — and everything else-wise.

Your Turn

if you’re an adoptive parent, give it a try. Write this letter from your adoptee’s point of view as a grown up:

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?

Post your letter, or a link to it, in the comments if you’d like. What are your open adoption goals? What is your north star in your adoptive parenting?

More on the Long View of Adoptive Parenting for Your Open Adoption Goals

guide to living in open adoption

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes 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. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

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