So I’ve found another adoption blog to read, Puzzle Pieces, the blog of firstmom Ginger (now in my my blogroll =)). Reading the archives, there’s one bit from August that I wanted to talk about. It’s about boundaries:
They tell you the good things and the happy moments. And might be good things and happy moments. But the minute you sign the termination of parental rights papers, the rules come. Or worse, there are no rules until you cross an invisible line that makes the parents uncomfortable and suddenly you broke a rule you didn’t know existed.
There are other things in her post that are less applicable to my situations–Ruth is very good about keeping in touch, and at this point they want more visits than we do–but this part, the idea of the invisible lines, is something that drives me crazy. So far, we have only one rule in our open adoption, and it’s one that I got by asking and asking: “What is it okay to give him?” We had in our written agreement that birthday and Christmas gifts were okay, and I’m not the sort of person who’s likely to give him anything dangerous or obviously inappropriate, but what were her limits? The answer: [edited down to the essentials] “We don’t really like things that light up or make noise. We also prefer to avoid trademarked characters. Anyhow, I think as far as gifts go, these are the main things we prefer to avoid. Oh, also guns or scary things, or military. Or Jesus, or Santa, or Christmas-y decorations or toys. But that leaves lots of things.” That’s a super reasonable list, and something I wouldn’t naturally have violated–but the part that left me scratching my head was the Jesus bit. I am Catholic, they are Jewish…but do I seem like the kind of person who gives little Jewish children Jesus-related presents? I’m pretty sure that I don’t. Ever since then, when Mr. Book and I talk about possible presents, the idea of Christmas Jesus always comes up.
But that’s our only rule right now, and while I know it comes from their feeling comfortable with us, it still worries me. I can call whenever I like (I have never called), email whenever I like (I email Ruth about once a week), and if I were going to be in the Emerald City for some reason, I guess I could call and see whether they wanted to hang out. Nora talks enthusiastically about taking us to their family vacation property at some point. I’ve had to make a list of rules for myself that I haven’t shared with them, but even so, I’m terribly afraid that at some point I’ll cross that invisible line and they will feel threatened or frightened, and that will be it. I sign letters to Cricket “Your Mama Susie,” since Ruth and Nora decided that Mama Firstname and Papa Firstname were what they wanted Cricket to call us. [They are Mama and Abba.] And…I still feel weird about it, despite the fact that it is apparently not a problem. I have sent him three cards so far, and that is apparently not too many. I am careful to find occasions to mention “your Mama” meaning Ruth and “your Abba” meaning Nora when I am talking to him. That part of it is relatively easy. I don’t feel like his mom. I feel like I would like to be a mom, but now I’m some kind of quasi-mom to no one.
On our very first post-placement visit, Ruth and Nora were visibly nervous about the whole parental v. birth parental thing–maybe they worried that he’d see us and say his first words, to us, and they would be “Mama!” or something similar. Cricket definitely had some interest in my chest, although he only breastfed for a day. And Mr. Book and I were on our best behavior; we smiled and hung back and didn’t make any requests, didn’t act entitled to any kind of interaction with the baby. And it worked. When we saw them the next day, Ruth and Nora already seemed more relaxed; we were not going to do anything crazy/parental.
Last week, I got a birthday card from the three of them–it contained a crooked line that was Cricket’s signature and his very first writing. I was worried that I should offer to give it back (his first writing! Mr. Book says no), and very touched, and almost immediately afraid that I will screw this up and lose this relationship. I definitely hope never to be alone with him, at least until he’s much older–I’ll tell him not to grab the baseboard heater, or he’ll scare the cat, get hissed at, and start crying, and I will have messed up bad and the trust will be broken. I don’t feel this way about my marriage; Mr. Book has been with me for seven years, and every stupid or inappropriate thing that I could plausibly do, I have done. And he loves me. But I’m always so careful with Ruth, Nora, and Cricket that the relationship feels incredibly fragile. I wonder what it feels like to them?