Distance

We had a visit on Saturday. It was not what I’d expected, and I’ve been sitting with my feelings for a bit, in part because I think they’re upsetting.

We didn’t find out until Friday morning that they were coming, whi9ch was stressful, but we got ready and washed Joey and they turned up a little after noon on Saturday. I had suggested that we go to a children’s museum, but Ruth felt that we should stay in and have “quality conversations” with Cricket. Boy, do I wish we’d gone out—he is thoroughly a manic, screeching two-year-old, and I think that might have worked out better if there had been more room for him to run around and tire himself out. Cricket is bright and engaging and completely besotted with Mr. Book—I’ll follow this post with a few pictures, and there are a few reasons that none of them include me. Cricket was not interested in me or in Joey, and Joey slept almost all day—unusual for him, and possibly a response to my stress.

Here’s the weird/cruddy part: Mr. Book and I discovered that we currently feel pretty neutral about Cricket. As soon as they left (at 6:30, and yet we were exhausted), Mr. Book and I started talking about that. I’ve come up with several possible reasons for the change:

  • Cricket is very clearly someone else’s child at this point. He looks different, has a different diet, and even behaves differently than he would if we were parenting him. He is honestly kind of annoying right now, which is I think partially just his developmental age (constant screeching) and partially their parenting (they have apparently chosen not to teach Cricket about using what I grew up calling an “inside voice”). I’ve heard birth parents talk about it being hard to watch someone else parent a placed child—perhaps this is my version of that feeling.
  • The seven-month gap between visits this time was the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing him. Nora mentioned hearing from someone that at this age, seeing someone once or twice per year is really a lot, and I smiled and thought Oh, please. We don’t see him and the relationship withers.
  • Joey. This might be the most interesting one, and it’s certainly the one I feel worst about. At one point, I was watching Cricket and though, I know what “my son” feels like, and this ain’t it. It makes me wonder how much of my grief was a longing to parent. Let me make something clear: I don’t think this would have happened if we had a close relationship with Cricket. But as it is, almost the entire connection was in my head, being maintained on a wish and a prayer. I can stop worrying about Cricket hating me for awhile; he doesn’t know me well enough to care.

I still feel a strong sense of obligation to Cricket, but I’m tired of having my hand sapped by his moms. Ruth asked whether we’d like to talk to him on the phone some time, and I responded quickly—Love to! Name the time!—and she never mentioned it again. After checking with her about his diet, I made brownies for them (him) at the visit: he wasn’t allowed to have one. Okay, you win. At dinner, Nora suggested that we should Skype with Cricket, and our response was disinterested: maybe. We’ll see. You can’t get us to reach out after nothing again right now. I gave a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes that he’ll probably never wear, and I just feel done. If they want to talk, they can reach out (okay, I did email them visit pictures they’d ask for). I’m not holding my breath.

That said, we’ll still do the same things for Cricket that we have been: holiday cards, birthday and Christmas gifts. But I’m not emailing or calling them, or trying to set up a visit, or even mailing them the pants they forgot here until they say something. I’m at the end of some kind of rope.

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27 thoughts on “Distance

  1. Oh, it saddens me to read this and just seems so wrong!

    I’ll go ahead and tell you to blame the age most of all, though. Keeping him cooped up in a car and then an apartment with people he doesn’t know well is not going to be key to getting an active child to be easy-going. Mara was just coming out of her more-blob-than-child stage at almost-three and I imagine Cricket will be faster, but that’s still a factor. I guess I’ll just say don’t give up on him, though you might on everything else. I can’t find a way to say anything that isn’t depressing, though. I’m sorry.

  2. oh, susie, i’m so sorry. i will second thorn on the age thing — my son is two, and he’s a crazy wild thing (despite attempts to introduce the concept of an inside voice!), which makes it really hard for people who see him rarely to connect with him, since he spends so much time running laps and jumping. but, yeah, the situation sucks, and you and cricket and joey and mr. book deserve better. i wish there was some advice i could give you, but i just don’t know what could be done re: nora & ruth.

  3. Thank you for your honesty. I think it is perfectly natural for you to feel this way- Cricket is at such a different age now and you are still the parents of a newborn which takes an incredible toll- sleep deprivation and joy and diapers and hands-on parenting! I also wonder how I will feel in the future when I start to interact with my daughter and her parents- there will definitely be things that I’ll notice in her upbringing that isn’t neccessarily the way I would have done things (not good, bad, just different) and it does interject a lot of social/cultural distance. I don’t “get” why Nora and Ruth continue to wedge things between you; it’s like they are territorial (ie. the brownie issue) and still feel threatened as his parents which is absurd!

  4. I’m going to echo everyone above on the age thing but still, Ruth & Nora should KNOW that. It’s almost like they set the meeting up to fail and that is just wrong and so sad.

    • yes, exactly — they should KNOW what two year olds are like! they should know that you need to see a toddler frequently to have any sort of relationship, and that you can’t have “quality conversations,” and that it’s better to do things with them if you want to bond. i just do not understand why they would do things this way, unless, like barelysane says, they wanted it to go badly. and that makes me so sad and angry that i really don’t want to think it’s true.

      • Funnily enough, the “quality conversations” thing reminds me of my mom; she wants us to sit and stare at each other rather than do things together, because we can’t bond by (most common example) going to a movie together. So I can see where she’s coming from, but really disagree.

      • I got the impression from what you wrote, that they (selfishly) didn’t want you to have that experience with Cricket…like only they can enjoy taking him to the museum…I may be off base but its what popped in my head, and I couldn’t help but thinking how incredibly desperate they are to control every situation/interaction yall have with him.

  5. This is so sad, and so wrong on so many ways…I just don’t understand where Ruth and Nora are coming from in terms of the choices they are making. Quality conversations with a 2 yr old? Argh. All of you definitely deserve better.

  6. Oh I’m so sorry Susie. What a letdown…after having to wait seven months to see Cricket I wish you and Mr. Book had been given some say in how the visit would unfold. The asymmetry of power in the relationship w/R&N is so frustrating and unfair. I had hoped that somehow things would shift with Joey’s arrival and R&N would occasionally feel willing to defer to you guys. So many things about the visit would have driven me to tears, esp. Nora’s comment about the sufficiency of seeing a child Cricket’s age once every six months and their rejection of your loving offering of brownies.

  7. I hope you won’t close the adoption. I can see why things would be very, very difficult, though. Nora is, in my opinion, an absolute b*tch for suggesting that twice a year is sufficient to maintain a connection. It isn’t.

    It hurts me to hear that you don’t feel that Cricket is yours. That’s what my nmom says to me, over and over–“I have only one child. You aren’t my child. You are your parents’ child.” Ouch. I know she didn’t raise me, and we went 41 years without talking, but she *did* give birth to me. I look like her and share so many of her talents. There’s nothing we can do now about the not parenting; we both agree that train left the station long ago and that I don’t need a parent. But to say I am just like a stranger in the supermarket who she enjoys speaking with? It’s cold. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that she isn’t very close to my brother, either. He is still very angry with her about lying to him about me, but that’s another story.

    In the case of Cricket, perhaps you can let go of the disappointment of not parenting him. It’s true. You’re not doing it, and you would do it very differently. R&N are not you and Mr. Book. Cricket is different individual than he would have been if you had kept him. But he is still genetically part of you. Can you perhaps imagine yourself eventually in a different role than mother–confidant, playmate? Something less emotionally fraught and that isn’t so defined?

    In as much as Joey slept through the day and sensed your stress–do you believe that Cricket did not feel it? I would argue that he did, and that may be why he kept his distance from you. I can imagine, in as far as he can understand things at the tender age of two, that it is painful for him to see that you kept his brother and not him.

    And as for the difficult two-year-old and infant dynamic: I have two sons, born 21 months apart. I remember the screeching and manic physicality of my elder when my younger was a newborn. I remember feeling that I didn’t love my elder son as much anymore, with my little bundle of me held in my arms, nursing, not in the NICU, etc. My second looks just like me, and my first looks just like his dad. I have always had a closer bond with my younger one, and probably always will. He was the better nurser, the snuggler, the one who didn’t want to be put down. EVER. The dirty honest truth is that he’s my favorite. I love them both, but I quite frankly love my younger son more, even today, five years later. I do feel guilty about this from time to time. It sucks for kids to sense parental emotional distance, and I know my elder son feels it.

    Could this be the case for you, as well? Joey is your favorite, for a thousand different reasons? It does feel very awful to be ambivalent at best about your own child. You can at least live with knowing that Cricket has other people to whom he means the world–at least I hope he does. I am *parenting* my less-loved child. I don’t regret not placing him–I couldn’t have done so, nor could I have predicted he and I wouldn’t mesh on an emotional level. It just is. Life is messy and unfortunate. My elder son’s temperament is just like his father’s, which is probably part of the problem, but they get along swimmingly. I know he’s his father’s favorite, so I suppose it works out in the end.

    To assuage my guilt about loving less, I try to find things about my elder that I like and then engage with him on that level. He’s very bookish and focused, just like I am. We love to read about history and poetry together, to go to museums and the ballet. My younger son couldn’t care less about literature or the arts. So I engage with them differently. Maybe down the line you can find something about Cricket that you really love and connect with him to support him with that particular talent.

    Cricket will never be Joey, but I hope that you can eventually build relationships that are acceptable for all of you.

    • I don’t for a minute think that my feelings, whatever they are and however they change, lessen my obligation to the kiddo. I still firmly believe that we need to be around so that he can decide what he wants to do with us—we won’t be closing the adoption. If he wants to be ours one day (not just ours, of course, but also ours), that would be lovely; I can’t imagine telling him no. But right now, I don’t feel connected to him. I hope that will change in time.

      By an odd coincidence, Joey does look a lot more like me than Cricket did at this age, and I am ridiculously pleased by the similarities (especially ridiculous considering I don’t like my looks). But I do think that at this point, at least, my clear preference is just because I have time with Joey and not with Cricket. I hope.

      • The situation just breaks my heart. I hope that Ruth and Nora don’t do more to alienate Cricket from you, and that you don’t feel increasingly like there’s no relationship to salvage. Again, this should be about you and Cricket, not about Ruth and Nora dictating the terms of the relationship by being so controlling. I hope that sometime soon you, Mr. Book, and Joey can spend time alone with Cricket. I wonder if that might help you feel less neutral.

        I know this isn’t easy. What they’re doing to you is so very, very unethical.

  8. Forgive my assvice — I can’t help myself (though of course I understand there are a million things we as blog readers don’t know or understand)… but wouldn’t you write them a frank letter or email and basically tell them your view of the situation?

    It doesn’t sound as though things could get much worse, unless they close they adoption… but two visits a year? Are they serious? It makes sense that Nora would say this if she wanted a closed adoption to begin with, but hello! They entered into an open adoption, they knew you wanted an open adoption and ethically what they’re doing absolutely, completely stinks.

    Like other said, it almost sounds as though they’ve set up the visit to fail. I challenge you to find any two year old you can have a ”quality conversation” with, and cooping one up in a car and then an apartment with people he doesn’t know well for hours on end is NOT going to go well. I’m not sure you even need to be a parent to see that.

    Ugh. This sucks… and it’s completely understandable you’d feel neutral about him and worn out by his moms. Sorry this isn’t the situation you hoped for.

    • There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t planned to—the biggest one right now is that I’m writing them a letter of recommendation for their second adoption, and I don’t want it to feel like I’m holding that over their heads or anything. I spent awhile thinking about nice and also true things that I could say, and I think I can make a pretty good job of it: maybe after that’s past?

      • OMG, don’t! Don’t write them a letter of recommendation, no eeek! Put on the breaks, oh they are so neurotic. Tell them that you have been given advice from adult adoptees to not involve yourself in their “family building” lol. I mean do you want another mother to not be allowed to giver her own child one simple brownie? It may be just passive-aggressive, but that is down right cruel. It takes a special kind of person to do something like that.

        My amom was really strict about my diet too–no refined sugar, which set-up a whole power struggle because I had the normal, must have candy gene.

        Cricket sounds stressed to me, but then I get stressed out just reading about all their bloody rules. My aparents are also *very particular* and I nearly growl now when people try to control me. I totally second J.s idea. None of this is healthy, whatever healthy is, this isn’t it, but maybe “healthy” doesn’t exist in adoption.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about feeling neutral about him, people have weird feelings all the time. They usually pass. Maybe I am wrong, who knows?

        It is sad to here how he is aching for Mr. Book. When my son was little, his dad was not around and he missed him something fierce. It was uncanny. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end for us, little boys love their daddys.

      • Please, please, please do NOT write a recommendation for them! They have failed you in nearly every way possible. How can you even contemplate putting another woman into your position? They DO NOT deserve anyone’s child if they cannot respect the needs and desires of the first parents. I feel sick about this.

  9. Two year olds are so so so hard and I find myself feeling very scattered and tense when I’m trying to talk to someone and there is one in the room. I felt tense this way w/both Madison & Noah and I feel this way with Roscoe and other toddlers, too. I think it’s an introverted thing. They can wind me up and make it really hard for me to focus. If you add on the emotional stress of the visit I’d say the fact that you are still upright is pretty freaking impressive because I think I’d need to crawl under the bed for days and days.

    You know, it is sad to me that Nora & Ruth don’t appreciate the gifts of a particular relationship with you and Mr. Book NOW. But NOW doesn’t have to dictate what it will be someday; it’s just now. There is no telling what it will be in five, ten or twenty years. I don’t know what I’m trying to say here but maybe something about no guilt for you and remain hopeful? Damn, this is not coming out right but I hope you can somehow psychically understand some of what I’m trying to say.

  10. After reading your last comment to me I’m trying to stop myself, but oh! I can’t.

    Please, please, be honest if you write a letter of recommendation for them. Don’t let a pregnant woman (or the baby’s dad) think they’re getting something they’re not with Ruth and Nora. My heart breaks for the woman who thinks she’s getting a fully open adoption (with any PAP) and then ends up with two visits a year and mayyyyybe a phone conversation. Maybe. But no cakes! I know in the past I would have looked at a prospective couple and assumed that if their first child’s first parent (lots of firsts here!) endorsed them then they must be really sticking to their end of the agreement and everything is going swimmingly. Not that I’m trying to imply you’d intentionally mislead them, of course.

    I can totally understand you don’t want R&N to feel like you’re manipulating them or holding the letter over their head. But to an extent, it seems like they’re holding Cricket over yours.

  11. Hard, hard, hard this visit. Toddlers are — in my experience — especially hard when you have a newborn & are in that quieter, slower mode. I remember this so viscerally when I had toddler/newborn (& that was kids 1 & 2 — longer breaks after that!). Being so “in” it with Joey, & not with Cricket how could you feel any other way really? I found it hard to tolerate my toddler I was caring for when the second was a newborn. And I loved him in the crazed-with-knowing-every-inch way you are when you’ve raised just one from early moments to toddling ones.

    By seeing Cricket now, what you’re doing is holding the door open for him, so that if he wants to walk through it later & sit down, he doesn’t have to bang on it. He’ll know you wanted him to walk through, if he felt like it.

  12. oh susie. ugh. so many good comments here that I agree with.

    I think the whole situation is sad but I agree it’s only what is now and hope that it will change as your relationship with cricket changes. but ruth and nora, wow, just wow. what a shame they wouldn’t just walk to a park or playground, or something. how hard would that have been (though I imagine it is cold, and maybe wet, but then somewhere inside!) two is such a tough age, 2-3 from what I know, so don’t take the lack of connection personally. on top of the normal frantic toddler energy, there was the stress. and then there is joey in your arms, as wonderful as that is, he must not know what to make of the whole situation, how could he? it was bound to be a tough visit. but still.

    I do wish you could convey to them at least some of your feelings and reflections about the visit — i.e., that you wish you had been able to go out to spend time with cricket in a better setting for his age and activity level, and that actually if you had been able to see him more often it might have been easier.

    and I have to second J’s comment above about being really honest with that letter, especially re: the limitations of openness (i.e., so controlled and restricted). I would hate to think of an expectant mom believing they are all that when they are not what you had hoped, or been led to believe. you are NOT responsible for helping them continue to build their family. I hope you only say what you know to be true in your heart.

    I know you said you didn’t want to hang the letter over their heads, but heck, have you considered using this as an opportunity to approach them and say, hey, since you asked, actually, there are a few things I haven’t been entirely pleased about…

  13. This is just heartbreaking. I have no words of advice or insight, but I do want to tell you that you, Cricket, and the Mr should not have to navigate through your relationship with each other under this kind of stressful oversight and restriction. I’m sorry.

  14. All I can think about this post is how awful it must be for you.
    Shame on them for not allowing him one brownie.
    Honestly, I thought that modern open adoption was supposed to be about people cooperating not having some kind of control contest.
    Like I said before, it must be awful.

  15. “All I can think about this post is how awful it must be for you.
    Shame on them for not allowing him one brownie.
    Honestly, I thought that modern open adoption was supposed to be about people cooperating not having some kind of control contest.
    Like I said before, it must be awful.”

    Jana:

    Please remember that Crickets’ parents are HIS parents, and if they don’t want him eat sweets, regardless who it’s from, then that’s their right.

    To the OP, I agree Susie should use the letter as an opening to discuss what she would “like” not what she “wants” in her OA. Open adoption mean the exchanging of information not joint sharing of a child ( unless one is paying child support). I understand the disappointment of expectations not being met, but adoption is adoption and maybe that is how Ruth & Nora see it. I don’t mean to be harsh but if one wants to be a presence and have a relationship in their child’s life, then do an excellent job of raising them- it’s the only guarantee you will have.

    Once again, adoption be it open or close, is adoption. And the aparents are the child’s psychological, physical and emotional parents. It’s not parental sharing.

  16. Sorry i’m so late coming to this. You write so eloquently and honestly about what is such a hard time. All you can do is be honest about what’s happening for you in the moment; what that is will always change. Big hugs.

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