May 31, 2010

The Ideal Me

At some point during Puppy's first couple of years, I realized that the shape of his open adoption was more or less out of my control. Open adoption is, at its core, about relationships and relationships are slippery things. I might have a vision of how I wanted things to go, but I couldn't control how his first parents could/would respond and I certainly couldn't dictate how Puppy felt about everything. And who was to say my vision was the right one to begin with?

But I could decide the kind of person I wanted to be in the middle of it all. It's an image that shifts and adjusts as I learn more about myself and my family. But it's been quite empowering at times to focus on what I do have a say over (myself) instead of fretting about what is outside my control.

When I imagine Firefly and Puppy twenty, thirty years from now looking back on open adoption in their childhoods, this is what I hope they will be able to say about me:
  • That I took their thoughts and feelings about adoption seriously, even when they were young.

  • That I was comfortable with ambiguity. I didn't have a pre-formed idea of what open adoption looked like that I was determined to shove us all into.

  • That I gave them space to develop relationships with their first families independent of Todd and me and let them have more and more ownership and control of those relationships the older they grew.

  • That I didn't see open adoption as a zero-sum game. I realized that their relationships with their first parents took nothing away from their relationships with me.

  • That I worked hard to offer grace, hospitality and honesty to their families of origin, even when others weren't offering the same to me. I kept a thick skin for myself, but a thin one on behalf of my children.

  • That I faced up to and worked through whatever anger, anxiety, or frustration the open adoption relationships brought up for me at times so that I could always speak about (and to) their first families with respect and care.

  • That I didn't segregate adoption or their first families into a separate category; they were simply part and parcel of our extended family, our regular lives, our normal conversations.

  • That I learned how to be an advocate when they were young and an ally when they were older, both in our personal life and in the broader community.
This is my contribution to the latest open adoption roundtable.


Sam said...

I would love to have my First Son's mom thinking these thoughts and striving for this type of relationship. You're doing a great job!

Three Cats and a Baby said...

I am lucky to have such great open adoption role models. Thank you.

tammie said...

Thank you so much. I'm going to print this out and tape it to my mirror. We're a year into a foster with the possibility to adopt relationship. Because we've had contact with this birth family for the past year it's inevitable it will be an open adoption. I struggle with the roles in this - with who we all are in this dynamic.

Your post gave me the words and goals I need to have to continue down this path with grace, respect and compassion.

It's such an emotional roller coaster and some days I wonder if I have the courage and stamina to encounter another hill, then I look in baby girl's eyes and know I would climb the biggest mountain to do what's best for her.

Once again - thank you!

Lori Lavender Luz said...

I especially love the points about a zero sum game and the integration of first families into extended family.

Really great thoughts, Heather.

aidensmom said...

I absolutely love what you wrote and I hope my son will feel this way about his adoption as well when he is older.

Anonymous said...

This was so beautifully written. I'm (hopefully) about to enter into an adoption in July. My husband and I would like an open adoption, the prospective birth mom is not sure how open she wants it to be. You turned a lightbulb on for me when you wrote
"But it's been quite empowering at times to focus on what I do have a say over (myself) instead of fretting about what is outside my control."

Thank you...I will focus on how I am approaching the adoption and what I can control.

Jen said...

Thank you for this amazing, touching post. Just from what you say it's clear you are such a conscious, evolved parent. Your kids are lucky to have you (as you are them) and I appreciate your sharing this.

luna said...

I also like the part about integrating families and being your kids' allies. great contribution.

Anonymous said...

So now I know why you chose this prompt--you had an excellent answer!

Heather said...

@susiebook - Ha! It looks that way, doesn't it? I promise that's not how I pick them. :)

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