Closed Doors

I talked to my mother about her wondering whether “they will give him back” now that Ruth and Nora are splitting up. I tried to explain—“Not even if they set each other on fire would we get him back”—but she told me that if he wants to come live with us enough, and asks them enough, they will eventually send him when he’s a teenager or something. I want Cricket to be happy where he is; I don’t want him to be so miserable with his moms that he begs to leave them until they (maybe, possibly) decide to send him to live with us. But I can see why my mom doesn’t feel the same way.

My mother met Ruth and Nora briefly twice, when Cricket was coming up on six months old; when Cricket turned one, Ruth sent my mother a card telling her that while she was free to reach out if she wished, she would never see Cricket. (I haven’t read this card, but both women have talked to me about it.) So my mother has no picture of Cricket in his life as it exists—she sees him only as missing from her life and ours. She has sent him a book for his birthday every year, and while these are accepted (he showed us the most recent one over Skype), my mother never hears whether they were received. This isn’t unusual; nothing we send is ever acknowledged, not because it’s unwelcome, but because that’s just not something that Ruth does. (Nora made a comment once that indicated that Ruth [who handles all of their family correspondence] never sends thank-you notes or anything similar.) She sees a picture a few times a year, but since the only pictures I can show her are the ones Nora posts on Facebook (taken with her phone, candid, and almost never including either mom), she doesn’t ever get a clear picture of his full life with temple and daycare and family dinners. Heck, I don’t have too clear a picture myself, but I have a lot more to go on than my parents do.

Ruth has told me that they are tentatively planning to visit us at the end of April, when my parents will not coincidentally be in Greece; I know that if they can, they will visit us once a year here without ever so much as passing my parents in the doorway. If they can’t come when my parents are gone, they have said that they’d like to get a beach house or something similar and just meet us there. My mother has been staunchly opposed to the adoption from the start, and, being my mom, made some comments about driving up north and getting Cricket—one of these directly to Ruth. She is, no question, a walking, talking, challenging birth family situation. And I love her, and I wish that she could see her first grandson once in awhile.

In my dream scenario, Cricket will feel a part of both (all three?) families when he’s grown, and perhaps then he’ll get to meet the wealthy and slightly batty grandparents he never knew. My mother wrote in her only card to Ruth (which preceded the “no way, never, no how” card she got back) that she hoped that one day Cricket would be able to fly down and visit them—I had told her that it would never happen, more kindly I think than Ruth did, but she would truly love that. When I was twelve, I made a similar trip to see my grandmothers: I went to Disneyland, I saw Las Vegas, I went to the beach. Pretty exciting for a twelve-year-old living in South Carolina! I know that they’d do their damndest to show Cricket the time of his life (Disneyland, Legoland, many meals out), and my mother is a gracious hostess always. But when I put myself in Ruth’s shoes, I can’t imagine letting something like that happen. On the other hand, I know that it would only be possible after baby steps—like, say, coming for a visit when my mother is here and at least having tea together before we all beat feet for the coast. Not in this lifetime, probably.

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14 thoughts on “Closed Doors

  1. Gah. I don’t always comment, but I had to comment on this one. As an adult adoptee who didn’t have contact with her first family, I have to say that I think Ruth needs to get over himself. There’s NO reason why Cricket can’t see/meet his grandparents. Yes, your mother didn’t approve. And I can see how that would be challenging for Ruth to deal with. But it’s not about how Ruth feels. It’s about Cricket. I don’t get why it has to be that way. I mean, what’s the harm in all of you going out to dinner? Ruth would be there, you would be there, your mother would be there, and so would Cricket. Then Cricket would get to know his grandparents (being adopted does not change the fact that your mother is his grandmother, it just adds a qualifier to it) and Ruth would be there to make sure your mother doesn’t run off with him (because I’m guessing that’s the fear?).

    I’m sorry. I just feel badly about the situation. I don’t understand why Ruth can’t open up her eyes and see that your family wanting to be a part of Cricket’s life is a GOOD thing. And when Cricket turns 18, if he wants a relationship with your mother he can do it. And there’s a chance he won’t be happy if he finds out he could have grown up having a relationship but didn’t because his mother (Ruth) wouldn’t let him.

    • When I didn’t know that my parents would be out of town for the visit, I decided to ask Ruth whether we could all have dinner (or something) together before taking off. Maybe next year.

  2. I understand what Jenn is saying (after all, ANY degree of openness is not about the birth family but about the child), but as a birth mom in a sort of similar situation (my family was vehemently opposed to my placement, though they’ve not done anything close to what your mom has talked about doing), I also understand Ruth’s discomfort, and the fact that it puts YOU in the middle. Ugh. What a complex and complicated situation!

  3. I can also understand Ruth’s discomfort, but I think she’s being pretty rigid here. I hope that over time she will loosen up a bit more.

  4. I’m just going to park my ditto with Jenn, because she said everything I was thinking, but better than I would have said it. Sure, the whole thing makes Ruth uncomfortable, and clearly your mother needs some work on boundaries, but there’s no reason healthy boundaries can’t be set & the relationship begin to include them.

    J&A’s first mother’s mother is also apparently not happy with the whole adoption thing – last I heard, she didn’t know whether Asher was a boy or a girl, because she didn’t want to hear anything about it – and I would be over the moon if she decided she wanted a relationship with the kids. Because it’s about *them*, not *me*.

  5. It is so odd, and so interesting, that people would believe on any level that Cricket would be returned to his birth mother based on a divorce. Divorce is really common in our culture and the normal consequence isn’t for children to be adopted away from the parents who are raising them.

    I’m wondering Susie what was said to Nora and Ruth about your mom at the time Cricket was placed. I’m guessing they probably wondered why he wouldn’t go to live with your mother instead, particularly since you’ve ultimately moved in with her. It is clear on your blog that your feelings have evolved a lot over time about your mom. I remember when you posted she was so abusive you would “never leave her alone with a child.” https://susiebook.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/before-you-ask/ Do you think Ruth picked up on these feelings and that explains any part of her hesitance to have Cricket in contact with your mom? I’m just guessing but if I was an adoptive parent I think I’d be really hesitant to allow grandparent contact if there had been any whiff of abuse and maybe even if I perceived the grandparent was unwilling to support their child during the difficult time of an unexpected pregnancy to the point where the grandchild would be placed.

    • Well, I still don’t leave her alone with Cricket, really—once, for an hour, so far. You’re right, that my feelings about her continue to grow and change, mostly I think for the good; heck, you should have talked to me ten years ago, when I was in a still different place, and very angry.

      I think Ruth’s reluctance has something to do with knowing that I didn’t place with my parents, and why, and a great deal to do with my mom joking to her about stealing the baby, and something too to deal with Ruth’s relationship with her own difficult mom.

  6. I think it would be awesome if your parents could be included in a visit and work up to having a week with you, Mr. Book, Cricket, Joey, and the Possum. Hopefully Ruth will see what devoted grandparents your parents are to Joey and the Possum and realize that Cricket is missing out on a big source of love.

    I still can’t believe that Ruth doesn’t write thank you notes. I wonder if she finds them antiquated or overly formal or it’s that she didn’t grow up writing them.

    • I am not, like, Stupendous Queen Thank-You Notes myself (alas)—but if Ruth would mention when next we talked that “Oh, we got that thing you sent,” I would be very happy. When we sent his Christmas present, I also sent a pound of fresh-dried dates, with a note explaining that since he keeps asking what Joey eats and Joey *loves* these local dates, I thought I’d send them for him to try. I guess they probably arrived, but I don’t know whether Cricket likes or ever ate one. It bugs me.

  7. “but she told me that if he wants to come live with us enough, and asks them enough, they will eventually send him when he’s a teenager or something.”

    Would your mother have sent you to live with another relative when you were a teenager if you had wanted it enough, and asked enough? I’m interested in this view of adoptive parents as mere placeholders/obstacles, and the notion that knowing birth parents and having spent time with them will automatically lead adopted kids to want to live with them, and only the selfishness of adoptive parents can keep them apart.

    No room in your mother’s mind for the idea that Cricket might be happy where he is, or that, if unhappy, he might be so resentful of being placed into that unhappiness that he seeks to avoid bio family rather than move in with them?

    re: Ruth not wanting Cricket to spend time with your mom, there is a parallel to our own adoption in that grandparents were willing to raise the baby but the bio parent said no, being adopted (through foster care, no less!) was preferable. I took that as a serious sign that the bio parent did not consider the grandparents to be safe–I didn’t think someone would make that decision lightly or based on small differences of opinion about how kids should be raised. If I imagine meeting those grandparents and them “joking” about coming to take my son back….yeah, that’d probably be a no-go.

    • “Would your mother have sent you to live with another relative when you were a teenager if you had wanted it enough, and asked enough?”

      To be fair, the answer to this question is yes.

  8. I’m sorry but Ruth seems to have a really twisted view of what open adoption means. She seems to have such rigid ideas on family and forgiveness. There are times I wonder, did she conceal these pieces of herself while you were matched? Were you aware of her inflexibility. She seems so deeply flawed. Was she always like this and if so, why did you pick her to be Cricket’s mom?
    Were you actively looking for someone who was the complete opposite of you?

    • Funnily enough, she’s a lot like my mom.

      I don’t know exactly how to answer the “conceal” question; we were all trying to be our best selves, and somewhat nervous and careful with each other, and I didn’t get any sense that she was an inflexible person. Was she always like this? Well, probably, but it wasn’t something that I encountered in our interactions together. Even when we were only matched, I was really afraid to ask for things (e.g., a willingness to have dinner with my mom once or twice), so I didn’t run up against her on anything much. The one real conflict we had was over naming (Ruth didn’t want me to name Cricket), and when I refused to back down, she let it go. I think they were probably almost as nervous as I was, worried that they wouldn’t get Cricket if they pushed me too hard.

      What I really wanted, I think, was someone who seemed like an older and more successful version of me—I wanted to see that in her very much, and certainly we had things in common (both vegetarian, plans for attachment parenting, difficult mothers). But it turns out that when the rubber meets the road, as you point out, we are very different persons with opposed philosophies–and I’m sure that we each think that we’re right.

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