I've sat down to write my contribution to the third open adoption roundtable a few times now. Each time, I'm caught up thinking not so much about what my current wishes for my children's open adoptions, but how much those wishes have changed. And it is difficult to put it all in words.
If you had asked me around the time of Puppy's adoption what my hopes were, I'm sure the dominate theme would have been peace. Peace for his birth parents in their decision to place and and peace for Puppy about being adopted.
It's not that I don't want peace for my kids and their first families anymore. Of course I want wholeness for the people I love. But what I meant by peace back then was for there never to be any struggle or doubt around the adoption. Underneath those early wishes was fear. I believed a positive approach and the continuity of open adoption should be able to deflect any long-term guilt, regret, anger or sadness. If Puppy or Kelly or Ray faced an ongoing struggle with such emotions, it would mean that we had failed. And I did not want to fail.
We're barely four years into the world of open adoption, and if anything I feel like I have fewer answers than I thought I did in the beginning. But I know how much my thinking has changed. I still wish for happiness, security and peace for all of us. Just not a shallow, flimsy peace that comes from sticking our heads in the sand. Rather one that has the confidence to face up to both the positive and negative in our adoption experiences.
Modern-day adoption is a complicated mess of good and bad. While I've always acknowledged that, I used to think that success meant somehow managing to not have the negatives of adoption affect us. But that's as futile as thinking I can shield my children from racism, sexism, or any other injustice. We're doing our best to raise our kids to be critical thinkers. Puppy may be three, but we talk about justice and inequality in a preschool sort of way. I want them to learn how to question and challenge. It would be strange if I never expected them to examine and critique adoption, too. Just as it would be odd for their first parents not to have mixed feelings about their experience. Or me, for that matter.
This may sound deterministic, but I don't mean to put it that way. I don't think we're all doomed to years of drama and angst. It's more about being free to live with eyes wide open and able to do the hard work when it's required. Open adoption has been one of the most affirming and challenging things I've ever experienced. It's forced me to stretch myself in wholly unexpected ways. I've had to confront people's limitations, including my own. I've had to face up to my privilege and others' lack of it in new ways. But no matter how hard it has been (and I recognize that it has been the least hard for me, the adoptive parent), I've always been optimistic about our possible futures.
So, today, my wishes for our family:
For the adults, all six of us, I wish the courage to be honest with each other, our children, and ourselves. May we have the maturity and wisdom to set aside self-interest when we should.
For my beloved Puppy and Firefly, I wish the confidence and strength to wrestle through what it means to them to be adopted. May they go through that process, whether it's smooth or rough, confident that they are surrounded by love and have never been outside that love.
For us all I wish the grace to look at the past with forgiveness--both for others and ourselves--and to the future with hope.