The fabulous Thanksgivingmom asked on an adoption forum whether other birthmoms ever hold back when they give their placed kids presents:
Do you ever worry about giving the “keepsake” gifts for fear that they won’t be kept and treasured the way you hope?
I have this (probably) irrational fear that I’m going to send something that means a lot to me or that’s in some way symbolic and that it won’t be received as such.
I answered her briefly there, but I want to talk about it in a little more detail here. At first, I thought of clothes—we gave a couple of things, I suspect that they were not at all liked by Ruth or Nora, and he didn’t (as I realized later I’d sort of expected) wear any of them on a visit—or at all, maybe. My feelings were a bit hurt by that, which is my own fault; I somewhere picked up the idea that if you get the gift of clothes, you send that person a picture or pictures of the baby in said clothes, even if you don’t like them. (My mother is going to love this rule. ;)) Okay, we won’t send clothes again, because at this point it would feel like setting myself up for possibly inappropriate disappointment. But then I thought of a much better example:
These are just two mediocre picture books, but I adored them as a little kid. I can still recite from memory Goofy’s song at the end of the book (“I paid the price of a friend’s advice and worked at jobs I did not like—but now I can work even harder! And be who I am: Goofy the Gardener!”) or Miss Mouse’s startled cry upon seeing her garden (“‘Oh my goodness,’ cried Miss Mouse, ‘My garden grew too much!’”). I loved those books with a deep and unreasoning love, and I still have the copies that were mine. I wouldn’t want to send those, of course, because they’re in lousy condition—but I certainly will get futurekid his or her own copies, and I would love to send the pair to Cricket. Except that I don’t think they would be special for his family. I am hesitant about suggesting that he has things in common with us. Oh, I’ll say things to Mr. Book—“He looks so much like us!” “He got your sweaty feet!”—but I’m very shy about it with his parents.
Ruth sent me an email this week talking about how she sees his personality resembling mine in some ways, which feels like a rare and fragile gift. It seems like the kind of thing that she can offer and I can’t reach for. It’s also a little strange because some of the things she described sound much more like my husband than like me, but they know him so little that she wouldn’t have any idea. So I did, in my reply, mention that something she mentioned sounded like Mr. Book—and then I felt a little conflicted, but I left it in.
The email overall felt very friendly, which I greatly appreciated. And, since it’s a new month and all, I spent my monthly allowance on baby/kid stuff. While I was browsing children’s books on amazon, I started to want very much to send a book to Cricket. I have a blanket-if-vague permission from Ruth and Nora to occasionally send something if I like as long as it doesn’t get to be too much or too weird, and a book probably wouldn’t cross that line. I want to send him books especially because I am a great reader and hoarder of books—I have, shoot, I’ve never counted but certainly more than hundreds of books. Hell, I probably have a hundred children’s books (if you count young adult books, most of which were bought for myself). But Ruth and Nora own very few books, preferring to rely almost entirely on the library. For me, a life not surrounded by my books sounds sad . . . so I want to surround Cricket with books a little bit. And then I started trying to figure out what kind of book would be appropriate: board books are out, because he’s not allowed to chew on them or treat them roughly (so what’s the point), I accidentally picked a book for Christmas that in hindsight seems super adoption-y and I am now a bit paranoid about that, I know that they don’t want to expose him to books that contain things they don’t do or agree with (for example, someone gave them Bedtime for Francis, but spanking is mentioned, so it’s out). . . . It’s not just me, right? This sounds hard?
So I narrowed it down to three books, worried about all three, and gave up. Maybe next month.