Tag Archives: blog banter

Unexpected fallout

Once in awhile, a situation goes down 180 degrees differently from how I think it will. Something goes horribly awry, despite my best intentions and the clearest foresight available to me.

It has happened in the last two weeks.

Twice.

In the first instance, I publicized a cause that was important to a group of people by way of an event. I am a guest on the group’s forum and I know to tread lightly because of the dynamics between the group and a position I hold. I posted said event about said issue on this group’s space. Turns out the group (the vocal ones, anyway) did not like the person who sponsored the event nor the timing of the event — issues I did not foresee and issues which unleashed 5 pages of seething vitriol aimed squarely at me.

At the time of the unleashing I was on a road trip, touring Civil War battlefields with my family and my newly-bereaved father-in-law and sister-in-law. Which meant that on my smart phone I was able to read but not to respond to the spinning-out-thread.

And, with two car-weary kids in the back of a rented van, also meant an abundance of battle energy all around me.

I thought and thought and meditated about how to best handle this unexpected turn on the thread. Walk away and never come back? I would lose a forum that I value; plus that would mean all the allegations about me would go unanswered. Defend myself? That would likely not resolve anything, but rather fan the flames. Gather my meager forces to back me? It seemed wrong to bring others into the fray.

On the day between Gettysburg and Antietam, it hit me. I remembered the title of this post. And the way became clear.

Everyone wants to be heard. Being understood is one of the best gifts we can give or receive. So I composed a brief reply addressing what I heard group members saying. I tried to be an objective mirror, reflecting back to them the points they were making, without vitriol and without defense. I admitted nothing, I apologized for nothing, I simply reported what I heard their concerns to be.

That proved to be the key.

Many forum members were gracious,  reaching out to me publicly or privately. I was thanked for the understanding and I was redeemed.

~~~~~

The second derailment began with my recent post about questions from a closed-era adoptee. I “met” JoAnne online somewhere along the way. She would clue me in whenever she made progress on finding out more about her adoption and her origins. Hers is a  story that has villains (judges, attorneys, doctors — at best unethical and at worst, criminal) as well as angels (librarians, historians, genealogists — common people with common decency in helping her find her roots), with twists and turns worthy of a John Irving novel. She’s in her 50s, adopted at birth and readopted later on, her truth hidden from her by so many players in her saga.

She is also one of the kindest, gentlest people I can imagine. Think Beth of Little Women, Celie of The Color Purple, Truvy of Steel Magnolias. Graceful and gracious to the core. In spite of the numerous wrongs done to her, JoAnne has maintained her ability to see the good in people, proof that what you see and assume about others is what you see and assume in yourself.

JoAnne was raised in the 1950s and 60s when adoption was something all parties pretended didn’t happen. Her petri dish, if you will (we are all surrounded by culture and grow in it accordingly, just like strep germs do in agar), was full of spoken and unspoken beliefs and assumptions. She read my stories about the way I’m raising my children, and she wanted to further explore those assumptions she’d been exposed to and had absorbed, almost by osmosis.

Now I know that many in the open adoption community are committed to educating about openness in adoption. So I had the bright idea to not only answer her questions but also invite others to. When I gave a heads up to Heather, the founder of the Open Adoption Roundtable, that I was doing so, she offered to make the questions part of the OART.

Similarly, the Open Adoption Roundtable once tackled O Solo Mama’s “Ignorant” Questions about Open Adoption (her blog is no longer available so I cannot direct you there). This mom via international adoption sought to better understand the strange-to-her thing that is open adoption, and OA bloggers were eager to help her understand, abiding by the old adage that there are no stupid questions.

This was my expectation with JoAnne’s wonderings, as well. She, too, was trying to wrap her mind around a road she didn’t get a chance to walk. She, too, had an innocent curiosity about a concept that was foreign to her.

I did not foresee that some would take offense at the questions JoAnne posed. I did not foresee that JoAnne would thus be hurt and shamed.

But our intentions were good. Neither JoAnne nor I set out to insult or inflame, but rather to illuminate.

Does that matter? Should it matter?

As I hover over the Publish button, I acknowledge that this post, also, may be taken as either an explanation — or 180 degrees opposite my intention. I do hope it turns out to be the former.

Blogging 4 years

Happy blogday to me
Happy blogday to me
Happy blogday dear WriteMindOpenHeart
Happy blogday to me

Four years and 730 posts ago, my foremother prompted me to bring forth on this blogscape a new space, conceived from nonconception, and dedicated to the proposition that so many ALIs are created fascinating.

On my blogoversary two years ago, I unveiled my Appalachian Trail name, Lavender Luz, and asked you to “tell me if there has been a post that has had a lasting effect on you. Let me know what it was and why you have remembered it. That will be a truly wonderful gift for me, each generating a perfect moment. Thank you!

Would you indulge me again? Please tell me if there has been a post that has stuck with you and why. I’ll compile your answers and update my Reader Faves page.

Thank you for coming to my party!

Images: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ignorant questions & answers about open adoption, part 2

Earlier this month, Jessica from O Solo Mama asked seven questions about open adoption. Jessica is a mom via international adoption, and her wonderings have stirred many open adoption bloggers to respond insightfully. Seriously, click over and read some of the posts — they have helped me deepen my own understanding of open adoption.

A few weeks ago I answered Jessica’s first question, If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? That post got to be very long, so I promised to address remaining questions in another post.

And here it is.

2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent?

First of all, I think we must be careful in believing that placement requires ongoing suffering. Like most things in adoption, the amount (if it could be measured) and duration of suffering probably spans the spectrum. I’ve read of first mothers who have an unhealable hole in their hearts and I’ve read of those who move forward without regret, content with their decision even years later. Grief and mourning are likely part of the placement process, but enduring suffering does not seem to occur in every open adoption.

Does openness prolong suffering? None of my children’s four birth parents think so. For one of them, the adoption is still difficult (the person says “tender”), but the openness helps soothe the loss rather than exacerbate it.

Who helps the first parent? My husband and I do what we can by keeping in touch with and including our children’s first parents in family events. If I thought any of the birth parents were in need of additional help, I would get them in touch with the agency we all met through and press for post-placement counseling. I’ve done so before.

3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.

We don’t give kids enough credit. Our children know or can figure out their multiple places in our family constellations. It helps when parents do what they can to normalize open adoption.

4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?”

I’ll surprise you, perhaps, by saying once in awhile.

But not in the way you might think.

On occasions when my child and I clash and rub each other the wrong way — when one of us wants to run away and the other wants to help pack — I wonder if I just don’t have the right temperament and synched personality to deal with my child, and if my child would be better off with another mother.

It is very difficult, at times like this, to separate parenting issues from adoption issues. It’s impossible to know what the ratio is in any given situation.

But if you’re asking if I think the adoption was a mistake, the answer is no. Furthermore, the other mother believes the same.

5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?

All four of my children’s birth parents have at least one parented child. One of the birth siblings is older and four are younger than my children.

This is a question better asked of adoptees, for any answer I give is pure conjecture. I can say that we try to keep a dialog open about how my children feel about anything adoption-related. And I know I could ask the involved first parent to enter the discussion if that would be helpful to our children. It’s up to the adults, I suppose, to help the kids work through (rather than merely cope) any emotions that arise from seeing their birth parents parenting other children. So far I am not aware that it has been an issue.

6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?

Adoption is not as simple as open or closed — there are infinite points in between the two extremes.

I advocate for choice — we should not take choices away from placing mothers. But because openness is helpful for the child in healing the split between biology and biography, I think that openness should be the default setting and that agencies should provide child-centered evidence of its benefits as well as support in creating open situations.

However, the people involved in an open adoption should be free to co-create what works best for them. And, like a marriage, such co-creating is an ongoing process. To think that you’re ever “there” is folly. All that exists in any relationship is the journey.

7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?

Yes. We closed ours once.

Well, not totally.

When people ask this question, they are usually taking the viewpoint of either the adoptive parents (how awful would the birth parents have to be for us to shut down?) or birth parents (not parenting was too painful so I had to walk away).

Rarely do we ask this question from the adoptee’s perspective.

If one of my children needed some space to work out an issue (as actually happened), I would comply with his/her wishes. Giving the child a measure of control over the birth parent relationship is critical.

Such closure doesn’t last forever, though. Until my children are grown, I am merely the caretaker of their birth parent relationships. My responsibilities include maintaining contact  and being a  good steward until they are able to manage the relationships on their own. Sometimes this may mean nudging the child through any issues that arise, much as I do when the kid has a fight with a best friend.

Other than an issue that arises for the child, I cannot think of a reason to close an open adoption. I suspect that any move I would make in that direction would backfire on me eventually, and I do not want that.

Search and reunion after a lengthy separation would be very difficult to navigate — not just the relationship, but the feelings that go with establishing it. If I can prevent my children from having to go through search and reunion, I will.

~~~~~

Thanks to Jessica at O Solo Mama for opening this discussion. I’m glad she voiced these questions because people entering into open adoptions need to know what they are getting into in order for those involved to reap the benefits, which are considerable.