This One Goes Out

Dear Cricket,

It’s probably long past time that I wrote this. When you were still a tiny baby, I wrote you letters all the time—not to send really, but to tell you even just on a screen you’ll never see how I feel—and then my hard drive died, and they were gone, and I just stopped.

I don’t know you as well as I’d like to, but I know that you are the best kid, just like Joey is the best kid; you’re both the best that ever saw daylight, and my life is the poorer for my distance from you. When you were born, I knew you better than anyone in the world, and we fit perfectly together. Then, when you became part of a different family, I started to lose my sense of who you were. I didn’t know what your days were like, or what you liked, or what your sense of humor was like. Heck, I didn’t know that babies had senses of humor until this year. I missed you so much that I couldn’t quite understand what had happened to me.

Ah, see, I’m crying now, just like I did in those old letters. I’ll tell you a thing about myself that not many people know, and that I’ve been working on for years now: When I’m scared, I get cold. And nothing scares me like you do, kiddo. That’s not your fault! You are warm and awesome and objectively unscary. But when I think about what I did to you, and about having to explain that to you and to Pete, I get very scared. I don’t know how to tell you why I did what I did, because it seems so stupid now, and I want to tell you that I was a fool to send you away and that even now I imagine you here with me, probably snoring, curled up next to your brother while I lie in a strange bed, unable to sleep. And I can’t. You’re in a good place, and your moms are wonderful moms, and I don’t want to scare you. But I can’t make any sense without talking about scary things. It’s less scary to imagine you grown and yelling at me, because at least then I can tell you what happened and know that even if you hate me for it, you will probably understand what I’m talking about, mostly.

I’m also mad at your moms. Again, not your fault! And I’m less mad than I have been sometimes, and I’m working on not being mad at all. But sometimes I want to blame them for the fact that you and I aren’t close. Some of that might be fair—some of it isn’t. But being mad is easier than missing you, and easier than feeling guilty about having a hard time reaching out to you.

You have a brother now; you’ve met him, although I’m not sure of whether you remember that. And I can’t stop talking to your birth dad about what you were like as a baby, and what you might have been like, and how much we lost when we lost you. I don’t think your brother suffers—we dote on him, and he seems amazingly cheerful and well—but I’ve only just realized that you might, because of my worry and my coldness, and I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. It sounds so crazy to say that the reason I sound cold toward you is because I wish I was closer, but I swear to God that it’s the truth. I’m surprised even right this very moment by how raw the loss of you still is, when I stop to look. You were my perfect baby son, and now you are someone else’s perfect son, and I can’t quite explain why that feels awful. I’m glad that you’re happy and well, though; I never wanted you to pine for me.

I am a pretty strange lady. Hopefully you will one day mostly get the endearing pieces of this (the fact that I get too excited about giving gifts to keep them secret, mostly, or my odd little crooning songs, or my determination to feed the people I love). Hell, maybe it’s too much to hope that we’ll have a one day together. But I do, you know—I so badly want what feels impossible now—you to think of yourself as my son (never only mine, I would never want you to lose your connection to your moms), and to want a relationship with me and your other biological family. I don’t want to replace anyone, and I don’t want you to feel any lack in your life at all . . . so if I get my wish, you may never have any need or desire to see any one of us Books. But that would be worth it if it meant you were happy. In the meantime, I will try to be less of a jerk.

Love,

Open Adoption Roundtable #26

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

How do/would you talk with children about siblings in open adoption? How do you approach this as a (first or adoptive) parent, or how was it handled in your family if you grew up with siblings who didn’t live with you? For prospective adoptive parents or first parents without other children, has this been something you’ve thought about how you would approach? (Other responses can be found here.)

I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile.

I’ve been mulling over some of the comments I got, and am reluctantly convinced that I need to remove the language about hearts being broken; I have a weakness for faerie tale prose, and still think to myself sometimes in phrases from those I’ve read, or most especially some from a pink story tape we had when I was a child: “The wicked queen flew into a rage.” Now I’ve got to figure out the best way to talk about regret.

Mia said in comments that

As the adoptive mother, I wouldn’t want visits where my son might be told that it breaks his mother’s heart that he doesn’t live with her. My son can’t fix that situation, and he didn’t cause it, so he shouldn’t have to feel like he’s part of someone’s heartbreak or caught between two sets of parents when there is nothing he can do about it–he’s just a little kid.

It’s a fair point, and certainly I don’t want to burden little Cricket. On the other hand, I think that the absence of any mention of regret creates different problems: Why did we have and raise another child so (relatively) soon after placing Cricket if we didn’t regret the loss of him? And what birth family doesn’t wish that the placed child could have stayed with them, at least some of the time? Who doesn’t wonder what that would have been like?

I talked to a social worker at Catholic Charities who has done a number of adoptions about this, and she gave me permission to include my regret in the story I tell Joey: “It’s part of your story.” My understanding of the best interests of the adopted child (not thought up on my own, but heard from vaguely remembered experts) is that children own all of their stories, and that it is the parents’ obligation to give them all of their information—in age-appropriate ways, of course, and gently—but all of it. I’m not parenting Cricket, and I honestly don’t want to tell him anything. I want to send him to his moms if he has questions, dodging any awkward conversations until he’s taller than I am. But I want and need to tell Joey what happened, and why, and that it won’t happen to him and that I wish it had never happened at all. I am going to tell him all of that—I just want not to hurt anyone. That may be impossible.

I’m still looking for ways to put it, and hoping, cravenly, that Joey doesn’t talk to Cricket about this stuff. Heck, they’re unlikely to have an unsupervised conversation in the next decade. Maybe I can just swoop in with cake and interrupt. Or start a small fire. Or jump off the balcony.

I don’t feel as though Cricket is caught between two sets of parents—we’re clear that he’s with his moms forever, that they are his “real” parents (I use this language in real life), and that they are great moms and his family and and and. I want to find a way to talk to my Joey about this without wounding Cricket, and I know there has to be one, but I haven’t found it yet. And if I tell Joey these things and Ruth and Nora close the adoption because of it? I have no idea.