Braced Against the Wind

We last saw Cricket in April, and the visit was not a success. Cricket was frantic if anyone paid attention to Joey, and had come to the conclusion that negative attention was good enough, so kept kicking Mr. Book, hit Joey, bossed everyone around, and tried to break things. He was at what I believe is generally referred to as “that age,” his parents were splitting up, he was a thousand miles from home, and Joey—this small, sweet person who looked like toddler Cricket and didn’t seem to understand about personal space—clearly threw him for a loop. Ruth was part of the problem; she spent a lot of time texting and ignoring the kids, which only drove Cricket to wilder behavior in attempt to get her attention. And I was part of the problem; it’s hard to explain how freaked out I was just to be near Cricket, and to see how, on the one hand, this little dude looked and sounded remarkably like my Joey . . . and on the other hand, how manic and aggressive and unfamiliar he was. I was probably the least helpful o f the three adults present, scared and grieving and overprotective of my youngest. By the end of visit, Joey was sobbing whenever he saw Cricket and trying to hide from him.

Mr. Book and I talked after that visit about what would need to change next time, and now—what with Cricket’s birthday and the end of the year—we’ve been talking about it again. We have a sort of wishlist, now: we would want to Skype a couple of times before the visit, to give Joey a chance to see Cricket move and talk under safe circumstances and to get a sense for ourselves of what to expect; Cricket and his moms would not be able to stay with us; we will give ourselves permission to remove ourselves and Kit and Joey from Cricket if he gets violent again. Stuff like that. But I keep bringing up (not really seriously, not entirely jokingly) the idea that we might just say no. And we wouldn’t say no, because that would be obviously the wrong thing to do. But when I look at why I want to, my first response is that I want to protect Kit and Joey from Cricket. (Uh, I probably should have made a note earlier, but this is a grim and gross adoption post.) But that’s not entirely rational, and can be accomplished at a visit.

So. What am I really trying to protect?

And why am I trying to protect myself from my son? Because of course that’s it: I’m trying to protect myself from a four-year-old. When he was here in April, I was distant and spooked almost the whole time; after he hit Joey, I mostly stopped trying to reach out to him. When I imagine a visit with him, Joey, and an actual baby, I start out braced for Cricket to do something awful—which is obviously a lousy frame of mind, unhelpful and unfair.

I’m publishing this post in part because of a question at Open Adoption Support:

I am giving my first child up for adoption, and I want it to be an open adoption.  I also want to have kids someday when im ready. How do i tell my first child that i couldn’t keep it, then someday have more kids? Isn’t that hurtful for them to have to see?

Reading that, I thought: When I was in your shoes, I didn’t know to worry about those someday kids, too—but I wish that I had. Many open adoptions go better than ours has so far, but I suspect that in every open adoption there are times that are awkward or scary or sad. My question might go

I gave my first child up for adoption, and now I am parenting his younger (full) siblings. My placed son has been aggressive with the younger sib whom he has met in the past, and I worry about that, and also about the fact that I am scared of him in some less than rational way. Any tips for how to handle visits?

But I don’t ask. I imagine that question—and this post, for that matter—making people feel very awkward. I feel scared for Cricket, and that seems like a reasonable reaction to our circumstances, but being scared of him moves me from a sympathetic figure to one of those birthmoms; you know, the ones who never tell their parented children about a placed sibling, or who hang up the phone when contacted by a long-lost son or daughter, or who clearly favor the kids they are raising and leave their placed kids feeling angry and cheated and displaced. I lost my status as a “good” birthmother as soon as I admitted to regretting the adoption and feeling angry at Cricket’s moms, but now I know that no presents or letters can save me from being a lousy mother to that kid if I can’t find a way to be loving with him when he’s here. I’ve developed plans in the past; I’ve given myself pep talks and stern lectures; and yet when he’s in the same town, I am reduced to awkward, distant, and untouchable. At least the fact that we have no visit on the books buys me time.

6 thoughts on “Braced Against the Wind

  1. Oh Man! I wish I had a magical elixir for you. I don’t think your reaction or your thoughts are at all unreasonable. Be gentle with yourself. I don’t think there are any easy answers in this crazy thing called adoption.

  2. That visit was so hard and it’s no wonder you feel uncertain and uneasy about how a future visit would go. I wish Ruth had been more engaged / helpful. It’s hard to know what to do…those are some good ideas though about staying separately and skyping ahead of time. Maybe when Cricket sees Joey and Kit take turns sharing your attention in a positive, non-physical way, things will go better…

  3. Perhaps you could simplify the situation a bit. What if you planned to have the two younger boys present for 15-30 minutes and then had them go somewhere else with a babysitter? It might allow you more space to interact with Cricket without needing to balance protecting them.

    • For sure, one of the things we’ve talked about is leaving the boys with their grandparents for part of an afternoon—I agree with you.

  4. I don’t have anything brilliantly supportive to say, although I wish I did. But I can say clearly that this post doesn’t make me feel awkward. It conjures up empathy for you and all of your kids in a tense, emotionally charged but supposed to be joyful and connected situation. It makes me want to give you a hug.

  5. I’m wondering… do your boys have any cousins? What you are describing from that visit to me sounds so familiar with visits from long distance cousins particularly in the preschool and early years. That visit is a moment of time when kid or parents may not be at their best as there is travel and they are out of their usual surroundings. As time goes on and kids hit different developmental phases and roles often change. Soon Cricket may be the golden child and Joey may be the “violent” one. Another good idea might be joining a playgroup so you are regularly around other kids so you can get some more experience and comfort with older kids being around Joey and Kit.

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