August 09, 2007

R's Parents

This will be jumbled (I'm supposed to be working), but I want to write it down for my own memories.

Last night we had dinner with R, his mom and dad, and his younger brother. They brought Puppy a giant mylar balloon in the shape of a turtle. Puppy loved it. We grilled chicken in the backyard and played ball with Puppy as the sun set. R's brother kept asking when we would have dessert. When it grew dark we went inside to play with Puppy some more before they left for home. Puppy got to stay up late and eat blueberries. What a treat!

Puppy was in fine form, smiley and playful. He is thrilled when people want to play with him and rewards them with dimpled grins. At one point I sat with R's mom on the patio and watched Puppy bounce like a pinball between the four guys playing Fumble on the lawn. (Fumble is Puppy's favorite game. You literally just throw the football on the ground, yell "Fumble!" with your arms in the air, then run to pick up the ball. It cracks him up. He could play it for an hour.) It was a comfortable scene; it felt like everyone fit together. Earlier, Puppy had looked up at me, pointed at his first dad and said, "R____!" It was the first time I've heard him say R's name.

Today I am again frustrated by our distance. I enjoy R's mom a lot. Of all the players in Puppy's extended first family I have the most natural connection with her. If we lived closer I don't think we would see each other all the time, but it would be more frequently and more casually than it is now. This was our first time with R's parents in which I felt comfortable from the beginning. Spending time with them is what helped ease the nervousness, so I think that our limited times together probably slow our relationship in other ways, too.

K has strong feelings about R's parents, especially his mom, the result of things apparently said during her pregnancy. I've done my best to learn as little about it as possible, to just interact with everyone on the basis of of how I've seen them treat Puppy. I don't want him to be in the middle of a fight that has everything yet nothing to do with him. I don't ever want Puppy to feel like he has to choose sides, between us and his first families, or between his first families themselves.

Even though I find it easiest to relate to R's mom, our relationship with R's parents has been the most awkward. No one explained open adoption to them in depth or offered counseling or books. T asked them if this is what they expected things to be like two years into the adoption; they said they never expected they would still be able to see Puppy. I think they've struggled to have the good kind of entitlement, the kind that tells them that they have something of value to offer by being involved in Puppy's life. I sense that they worry their presence is an intrusion on our life. They are nervous and unsure at the beginning of our visits, although that fades faster then it used to. They don't like talking about the adoption. I don't know if it's embarrassing, or painful, or weird, or all those things. I just know it makes them uncomfortable. We make a point of bringing it up, not to force the issue but to let them know we're comfortable talking about it and that we care about their participation in it. They kept everything a secret until after Puppy was born, not even telling R's younger brother. I still don't know how much they've told their friends and family. Our relationship with them exists in a kind of in-between space of parks and backyards. They've never really come into our world or let us into theirs.

R's mom shared more with us tonight than she ever has. On the steps as she left, when R wasn't around, she said she is glad now that Puppy is with us, that she didn't think K or R was ready to parent. But she doesn't know how to feel for herself, having her first grandchild not really be her first grandchild in the way she dreamt. She said she checks our family website for new pictures several times a week. She mentioned coming to visit us up north one day.

Watching Puppy last night I was reminded about what a cool little kid he is. He is awesome, he really is. He's confident and adventurous and playful. I saw how much joy he engenders just by being himself. I was also so aware that his adoption is the reason for many complicated emotions for a lot of people. Someday he will become more aware of his own complicated emotions and begin to process them. I know all that will emerge in a way unique to him, that the seeds of it are already there and growing. I do my best to watch and engage when I can. But last night I just wanted him to be in his bubble one day longer, bouncing from person to person with a smile, enjoying the evening and the people gathered to love on him. I don't know if that's wrong or right. I just know I wanted him to have fun with his family for the night, to feel the gain and not the loss.


Dawn said...

You're doing an amazing job. :) I'm glad to virtually know you!!

soccer mom in denial said...

Your acceptance is remarkable. The Puppy will grow up so happy and loved because you welcome people, not close them off.

As my 3-year-old would say "Nice to meet choo!" I'll be back.

Heather said...

Thank you for your kind words, both of you.

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