I'm pretty sure I've written before about the idea of relationships as potted plants. (Yep.) It's a simple image and goes something like this: Potting a plant takes a bit of thought and fussing the beginning. You need to select the right size pot, think about the soil mix, find just the right sunny spot for it. As it grows, you need to supply its basic needs: water it regularly, fertilize it every now and then, watch for signs it might be faltering. But for the most part, you need to let it be. Give it time to grow and thrive. If you're constantly pulling it out of the pot to study its roots, the plant will eventually die.
A relationship is the same way. It needs regular care and attention, perhaps at times a little extra love or some pruning. But most of all it needs to be left in the pot to grow. Constantly uprooting it in the name of analysis can do more harm than good.
Sometimes you just need to leave the plant in the pot.
As I thought about the latest Open Adoption Roundtable prompt about commitments for 2010, the potted plant kept pushing its way to the front of my mind. Our relationships with the kids' four first parents are in four very different places right now. With some, we have a good basis of honesty and mutual respect. We enjoy our times together and--most importantly--the kids are developing familiar, good connections with them. With others, frankly the past year or so has brought a lot of confusion, disappointment and frustration.
I'm an analyzer and thinker. I'm driven to understand why things happen, why people make the decisions they do, what motivates the words they say and write. That's certainly been true for me in our open adoptions. But lately my gut has been telling me to quit peering at the roots so much. That doesn't mean going passive or pulling back. We'll continue to initiate and interact, continue to value their important place in our children's lives. But, for now, there won't be much root analysis. The relationships that are flourishing will get room and time to grow; we'll trust the roots are there. With the relationships that are struggling, I'll try to accept that I may never fully understand why--and that there seems to be precious little Todd and I can do to change what's happening. Whatever is going for them (and myriad possibilities have spun fruitlessly through my mind), it seems to be something they need to work through on their own. It's a hard thing for me to face, partly because I know I'm imperfect and worry that I'm blind to some shortcoming of my own that's causing the relationships to stumble. But the hardest thing about it, by far, is witnessing how it affects the kid(s). I want protect them from the hurt, and I can't. I can't even offer an explanation.
Imperfect as Todd and I are, we really tried our best to give each of the relationships a good start, putting a lot of thought and energy into the pots and soil, so to speak. That's just our job as adoptive parents. Some seem to be sprouting up beautiful and strong and others are having a tougher time. But yanking out the plants again and again to examine the roots isn't going to help right now. All we can do is continue to nurture them as best we can, and see what grows or doesn't.