Sunday, July 1, 2007

When keeping the door open means the bugs get in

Susan from My Life in a Foster Care Space Warp wrote -

"I want some written-by-an-expert dialog questions designed to give them insight into their inappropriate behavior. Why didn't anyone tell me that it would be like this?"

-about how hard open adoption can be sometimes.

(Go and check her out, if you haven't already.)

I thought I would take a whack at answering it.
Not because I fancy myself as an expert but because it is something that I think about fairly often and it also gives me something to post about.

Monkey and Buddy are now 8 and 11. They were 7 and 10 when they got to us.
During their two and 1/2 years at their foster home they had almost no contact with birth Mom, none with birth Dad, monthly dwindling to mostly none with Obie (then 11 and 12) and ongoing but not often, with Birth Grandma.

One day, shortly after they moved in, I made a short and awkward speech to the two of them about how if there was anything they wanted to know about the whys and paperwork of what happened to them and how they ended up here with us, to just ask and I would do my best to help them out with that.
They stared at me blankly, silently.

Plunging on, I somewhat weakly, added that if there was anyone they would want to see or know about, again I would do everything in my power to make that happen.
I swear they didn't blink or even breathe loudly.

I felt like a dork and cursed the dumb book I had been reading that had prompted me to do this obviously failed attempt at opening the lines of communication with them.

Until the next day when they both approached me, as serious as I had ever seen them.

"Did you mean it?" Buddy asked.
"Uh, mean what?" I asked warily.
"That stuff you said yesterday about telling us stuff we want to know?" Monkey's eyes not leaving my face.
"Yeah...yeah, of course I meant it."
"We want to see Obie." Monkey nods, briefly but vehemently.

That book, Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past ,is not so dumb.

So I found Obie for them and now they get to see him.
And despite all of the heartbreak that brings, they are happier and more secure because of it.

Yesterday Buddy told me that when he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he can see that his face is changing and he looks more and more like Obie. He was so happy to have that reference, to know that he looks like someone.
I didn't realize until then, how much that would matter to him.
How he hears other people saying all the time how much his (non bio) brother and sister look like their (bio) Dad and me.

We have made the decision to allow the two of them to spend a weekend with birth Grandma.
Not something I would have imagined us doing all that long ago.

Birth Grandma is a bit of a hard pill to swallow for some of us.
Okay, my husband and two older children and I all have a hard time with her.

She treats Monkey like a princess, Buddy gets a sort of second class version of her love and attention and Sunny and Bunny are treated more like aliens she doesn't understand and therefore she doesn't acknowledge much.

And there is more...
-the woman drives me crazy, if I let her.
-she takes credit (?) for putting all her grandchildren in foster care.
-despite being young and healthy, she has refused to take any of her grandchildren into kinship care, even temporarily,
-she would rather train for and go on a religious mission to an African country than take care of them

(Why yes, I am judgemental, why do you ask?)
But sometime this summer, my husband and I will drive our two youngests 4 1/2 hours up to where she lives, drop them off with her and stay in a nearby hotel for two nights, while our older kids stay home with the dogs.

Mostly we have decided that she isn't dangerous and right now this is what Monkey and Buddy want and need. Connection with blood family members.

Recognition that they are different and have come from a different place.

We have also talked about when and if they would ever be able to see their birth Mom and birth Dad.

What we have all decided is that if either of their birth parents is ever healthy enough to be safe to see, we will do that.

Until then, we will send pictures and letters to a file folder in a government office somewhere, that birth parents can access and can also send stuff to us.

I have gotten a hold of all the pictures of birth parents and my children, before they got to me, that I can (one of the good things about birth grandma) and made copies of them for the kids to keep in their rooms - and they do.

What I am really hoping, is that by keeping this as open as is safe and as I can handle and being honest about it all - I am heading off a lot of pain and trouble when my kids are teenagers.


Bacchus said...

It is amazing where this path has taken us as well. We would never have guessed that we would be sharing our lives with Baby R's birth family. But to know that he has his mom's smile, his father's hair and build, his grandma's eyes.

It is an adventure and a learning curve but I agree with you, it is worth it.

Susan said...

I agree with you so much, in theory. I just can't seem to make it work in practice with birth mother's side. We have wonderful relationships with every member of birth father's side of the family that we have met. She is told (understands?) who they are. They love her appropriately just as she is. They don't frighten her. I so want this to be he case for all of the birth family members that we are in contact with.

Oh and thanks for the mention.

Dawn said...

Gawdess, will you plese join the Open Adoption Support site? You've got such heart and wisdom and I know you'd be a really valuable addition!!!!

Granny said...

It's water under the bridge or over the dam or wherever the heck it is water goes now but, looking back, I would have been saved a lot of grief if my adoptive parents had been honest with me from the beginning.

It took a long time for me to trust them again.

Lionmom said...

You're doing good work! I know how hard it is to include people you don't really like into your lives for the sake of your kids.