People tend to think “open adoption” means contact with birth parents, but I believe there is a better measure we should be using.
How Shall We Measure Open Adoption?
Over the years I’ve found that openness — another way of saying mindfulness — is the real key to making sure parenting decisions remain focused on our children.
Openness often leads to a desire to make contact work, especially for parents who struggle to untangle their emotions about contact. Once you understand the benefits of openness for you and your child, a desire for contact (assuming it’s possible and safe) naturally follows.
The Problem with Contact as the Measure
Contact invites complexity. Openness, which I define as dealing with What Is, helps us deal with all that complexity in a mindful way.
I’m talking secondarily about complexity between you and your child’s birth parents, and primarily about complexity between you and your child. When you are able to be mindful, you are able to respond rather than react when adoption issues arise in your home. You can then choose your words and actions in an intentional way rather than resort to a knee-jerk reaction that stems from your own fear, insecurity, or hurt place.
Example of Openness in Adoption
If you get triggered when your son says, “You can’t make me clean my room! You’re not even my real mom!” — well, then, your son can use your own trigger against you. Before you know it, you’re in a shouting match with someone half your size. “I AM TOO YOUR MOM! LOOK AT ALL I DO FOR YOU! I CHANGED YOUR DIAPERS AND SANG YOU LULLABIES AND THAT MAKES ME F%*#ING REAL!”
Your child has knocked you off your game and there is now distance between you and the child you want more than anything to be close to.
But if you’re already aware that you had such a hot button and have neutralized it within you, instead you have an opportunity for connection and exploration.
Here’s what can happen with just a little bit of self-awareness and inner work:
“Ah, Sweetie. Nice try. No matter who your mom is, your room needs to be picked up. Would you like me to help you or would you prefer to do it yourself?”
You take advantage of your son’s opening volley to build trust with him and focus instead on his hot spots. Was this really about a Real Mom or about avoiding a chore?
“Hey. While we’re putting these toys away, would you like to talk about what makes a person real? I wonder if you’re thinking about your birth mom.”
Then allow space for your child to fill the silence if he’s ready to.
Open Up! An Adoptee’s View
My friend Anne Heffron has a series dedicated to the connection she wishes her mom had been able to make with her, impossible due to her own inner minefields and closedness to Anne’s experience. Two few examples.
This is the first in the five part Open Adoption 101 series.
More Along These Lines
- The Open Adoption Grid
- Real in Adoption and How it Splits the Baby
- Returning to the Well
- Kohl’s Video Brings Out the Either/Or Brigade
Other Posts in Open Adoption 101 Series
- OA 101: Two Key Points for Adoptive Parents Entering into Open Adoption
- OA101: Open Adoption in 50 Words or Less
- OA101: Open Adoption is Not…
- OA 101: The Future of Adoption
- More to come in this series. Subscribe so you don’t miss a post!
Lori 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.