The Spirit of the Season

I’ve been thinking about gifts and open adoption. I’ve mentioned before that gifts are important in my family, and it was important to me that the right to send a birthday and a Christmas gift be in our open adoption agreement. The state legislature will now theoretically enforce my right to send Cricket two presents a year. When I married, I secured Ruth and Nora’s permission to give Cricket a wedding present. Talking with Mr. Book recently, I realized that I like the idea of in some years being able to send a book or a cd or something at the other end of the year, in the spring or summer—maybe sending a souvenir when we travel. Of course, this would only be once a year or so, and nothing terribly expensive. Part of the reason that I’m so tentative is that in my experience, what I’ve read and seen, gifts can be tricky.

In my group therapy, there is a woman whose children were taken by the state. That’s got to be much harder than the kind of adoption that I have personal experience with, but I winced to hear her talk about all the presents she sent—including a box of back-to-school clothes in the fall. Now, I can see that a new school outfit might be a sweet present, but a full box of back-to-school clothes would feel to me like the firstmom was trying to parent from afar. One birthmother whose blog I read talks about sending presents frequently to give her an excuse to contact the adoptive parents. And I’ve heard adoptive parents talking about getting a box full of things ever month or so and feeling a bit overwhelmed; the gifts were too many and too impersonal to feel really special, but the adoptive parents felt guilty throwing anything out. Those adoptive parents talked about wishing that the birthparents would call or visit—the presents were taking the place of the contact that the adoptive parents and the kids really wanted.

When I visited my sister, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to buy Cricket a book. I resisted the impulse. Ruth has mentioned in the past that she doesn’t want gifts to take the place of a close relationship, and that makes sense to me. At the same time, if I had a nephew in the area, I would probably have brought him back a book. And since I am mostly cut off from Cricket, I want badly to give him extra gifts and make him food and make the other gestures of love that are important in my physical vocabulary. Since I’m aware of the impulse, I guess I should redirect that energy into reminding myself that in most of the ways that matter, Cricket is not my son. Fighting to stay close to him isn’t really appropriate right now. I do believe that we’ll have a relationship, but I don’t think it will probably be very close. Understand, I grew up barely knowing the names of my extended family—I don’t have a model for closeness outside of the immediate family.

Therefore what? I ordered a copy of that book I wanted for Cricket, but not for him. I will make graham crackers, but not for him. I sent Cricket a birthday present, I will send a Christmas gift (two books; I already have them), and I won’t do anything else—this year. It’s hard for me to sit back and let things evolve…but that’s all I can do in this case, I think.

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