Amanda Comments

Hi Susie!

I’m gonna go right out and say what I think pretty bluntly, so excuse my frankness.

As an adoptee, I would suggest future visits (or at least the next 1 or 2) be *without* your other children. Your young children, if they are not informed of the visit, will not miss this occasion to see their brother. Cricket, on the other hand, is most likely already aware of your distance. Yes, your first obligation is to your kept children. But a more logistical and immediate obligation to them does not nullify your obligation to Cricket. You are still his mother. Not his only mother, mind you, but one of them! And it disheartens me to see him consistently take a back seat to the needs of your kept children. Seeing him alone will likely eliminate his aggression, and will let you concentrate on HIM. The visits are about HIM.Not about your kept children, not about Ruth or Nora. They are about you, your husband, and Cricket. Leave your other kids with a babysitter for now- they cannot bond with Cricket at the moment anyway, given Crickets lack of enthusiasm for younger kids. You don’t have two children, you have three. Cricket has already been placed for adoption. Please stop giving him the short end of the stick.

One problem is that visits are likely to be two or three days in length; Joey has been away from me for one entire day ever, and he was a mess afterwards, angry at me and at his grandparents for a long time. I think it’s easy to say “leave them with a babysitter,” but in fact the boys have never been away from family, and I’m not comfortable leaving them with anyone but family for the foreseeable future—and that not for long—and their grandparents work full time and have their own schedules that don’t usually lend themselves to the addition of two small boys for longish periods of time. Mr. Book and I have talked about trying to visit with Cricket for a few hours without the littler boys, and I’ll pitch that idea to Ruth, but that would be the limit. Another problem is that Cricket is interested in his brothers, has asked about them every time we spoke over Skype or the phone, and according to Ruth likes my letters best when I talk about Kit and Joey. He wants to see them, even if in practice he doesn’t handle it very well. And still another problem is that in fact the visits do have to be about Ruth, at least to some extent, because keeping up a relationship with her is the only way to maintain any kind of a connection with Cricket.

I do want to do more for Cricket, and work on getting closer to him—I think I’ve made that clear in previous posts—but I am absolutely unwilling to let Joey and Kit’s needs take a backseat to his. He has three parental figures at his homes up north (Ruth, Nora, and Nora’s live-in girlfriend), all of whom are able to put his needs ahead of those of any other child; Joey and Kit just have me and their dad, and they are too little to understand why I would focus my love and attention on a strange boy instead of them. He gets the short end of the stick from us—of course he does. That’s lousy, and I don’t deny it, but when his needs are in conflict with those of his brothers, my obligation is first and foremost to his brothers—Ruth’s and Nora’s is exclusively to him. I hope you don’t mind my returning your bluntness in kind.

The only real solutions that I see involve more contact; either more visits, which would I believe make the boys more comfortable together and less likely to fight for the attention of the adults, or more Skype, which would give me a chance to talk to Cricket without having to care for his brothers at the same time. But I am never not ever going to push aside Joey or Kit for Cricket. If I were parenting all three, I’d be able to find a third way—heck, I have to do that now, with Joey and Kit together. They are both old enough to watch disapprovingly if I shift my attention to the other. What I can do with them, since I am mothering them both, is to say “Kit needs help, Joey. Let’s go help him” and include Joey in caring for Kit; hold both of them in my lap, which neither of them is completely wild about, but both accept as better than the alternative; and talk to them both for the benefit of them both about treating each other with respect and gentleness. I can’t do any of these things with Cricket, both because it isn’t my place and because the visits are so high-stakes and emotional for him as well as for me—he was stressed at the last visit, and that makes it impossibly hard for a little kid to learn and work together and be gentle.

6 thoughts on “Amanda Comments

  1. Susie,

    Good morning to you!

    I hope you took my comment with the spirit with which it was intended! I notice that most of your readers (or at least ‘commenters’) are adoptive parents. I am a loyal reader; particularly because I like your writing style, and partially because your story mirrors my own in many, many ways. It’s evident that you are a wonderful mother to your children, but the rift between how you speak of your kept children and how you speak of Cricket has always been upsetting to me. I don’t doubt your love for him, of course, but as an adoptee, there are a few things I truly believe you might do differently (as if it were any of my business.)

    Despite your explanation, I still cannot agree with what you’re saying. I have a sister, two years younger, who was kept by my natural parents. Now, our stories are different in that it was always SHE who had the behavioral problems, but I’m only a bit younger than you are, Susie, and I have gotten the short end of the stick from my natural parents for all 12 years of our reunion. Your kids are still very young, but throughout my entire reunion, my sister *Nicole always, ALWAYS got the support of our family. Even when she was in the wrong. Why? Because I had adoptive parents who put me first, and my natural father consistently told me (with regret) that his first priority must always be *Nicole, even when she was verbally abusive. I have not seen them in person in 6 years because Nicole will simply not tolerate my presence. I have a wonderful relationship with the rest of my family, but we can’t see one another. They all tell me that despite how much they love me, they have to put my sister first.

    I’m in my mid twenties. I’m not a nutball, I have a masters degree, I live abroad, I have a wonderful relationship with BOTH of my families. But their inability to even *consider* my emotional needs over the years has created a rift between us.

    “We love you just as much as we love your sister that we kept, but….”

    Cricket could be me in 20 years. Yes, you are raising two other (adorable!) children. Yes, Cricket has three other adults who love him. But your two children have you everyday. They will have you everyday for the rest of your life. They are growing up secure, loved, and wanted by their parents. They are going to be fine, more than fine!

    Cricket was placed for adoption.Then, his adoptive parents got divorced. Now he has step-parents as well. I think the problem here is that no matter how many caring adults he has in his life, he still needs YOU. Cricket and you have a different relationship. It’s not quite parent-child, but it IS mother-son. And you owe him. Not because you placed him for adoption, but because you brought him into this world, and placed him our of yours. He was adopted, yes, but he deserves your love, affection, and dedication. Isn’t that what open adoption is all about? I am not suggesting you leave your children to a stranger, but since visits happen so infrequently, I’m sure you can organize SOMETHING with your parents, or your sisters, or Mr. Books parents for a partial afternoon when Cricket visits.

    Ruth is in the wrong. Big time. My adoptive parents saw the disparity between my sister and I, but I was not four years old when I reunited. They could not stand up for me, it was my choice to keep in contact with my natural family. But it enraged them to see this disparity. I would bet that Ruth sees it too.

    It’s painful enough to be the castaway child, struggling to belong. You see Cricket, what? Twice a year? You OWE it to him to give him your undivided attention, love, and support in those few days a year. I don’t understand how you can see this any differently! Your kept children will be fine! They are growing up in a loving, stable, and I would even say ideal environment (from what I’ve gleamed.) They will live without you for two afternoons a year. I don’t think you should neglect them to shower love and affection on Cricket, but they will survive if they take a back seat for 48 hours a year.

    Yes, there should be more skype. There should be more visits. But frankly, if the visits are as horrid as you say, why are you still in this open adoption? Because you feel obligated to Cricket? Because you’d feel bad closing it? Cricket may want to see his brothers, he may ask about them, but you can’t foster any brotherly feelings if they are antagonizing each other during visits. You owe him this, Susie. You owe this kid the love and adoration you give to your other children. He doesn’t get it all year round, but he deserves it when he visits. And if you can’t do that, if you can’t give him the attention and dedication you give your other children for a few days a year, I suggest you stop visiting. And if Ruth picks up on these feelings of yours, and if things don’t change, I imagine that she will make this difficult choice for you. And although it makes me very sad, I can’t blame her.

    Cricket deserved your love from the day he was born. It doesn’t matter how many adults in his life love him. He needs your love too. And if you can’t bring yourself to make him your #1 priority for a few days during the year, in the spirit of fostering a love and relationship between the two of you, then leave this child to his adoptive parents and focus on your children you are raising. You and your husband can and *should* be a loving addition to Crickets life. But if you can’t do that..what the hells the point?

  2. SusieBook, I’ve been missing you lately and never got the things out for you that I meant to send but I’ve been reading and wanting to respond. If you ever want to talk any of this out, I’d love to call you and chat. The things you’ve written and some of the things Amanda has said resonate with me and with my experience in lots of ways. Anyway I’m thinking of you and you ever want to talk some of this out and help ME talk some of this out, that’d be grand.

  3. Another adoptee here, frequent reader, seconding what Amanda has said. It is clear that you love all three but have difficulty expressing it to Cricket and end up scapegoating him for what sounds like typical three-year-old behavior rather than pathology. “Protecting” your raised kids from behavior is one thing: or is it from the sadness you feel, displaced on Cricket? Many adoptees are excellent at picking up on adult emotional turmoil/coldness. Ruth’s unwillingness to allow you to Skype may be not to punish you but to protect Cricket from raw feelings afterwards if you are shy and cold with him, or easily distracted by Joey and Kit. I am a mom and know how hard it is to talk on the phone and concentrate with little people pulling you away; Cricket is another of your little people, and once again, is he relegated to the back of the scrum? If you cannot commit to showing him the same kind of love you describe for your other two, closing the adoption would be kindest. It can be hard (sometimes impossible) to repair repeated emotional wounding.

    It sounds like seeing Cricket is traumatic for you. He has become a symbol of your pain more than a small kid, and that is not about him, it is about you. You once said that you wanted to maintain contact so that he could tell you off as a teen, or something like that. You are setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy along those lines.

  4. I might not be able to respond until tomorrow, but I will, and I want to thank y’all who’ve commented. I agree with some things that you’ve said for sure, disagree with others, and will think about what you’ve said while I wait to be able to write.

  5. Susie,
    I would view meeting Cricket’s needs as an opportunity to develop yourself further as a parent. I understand you practice attachment parenting for Joey and Kit. I’m an AP parent too and AP is not about saying you need to be some kind of martyr who is always with your children 24/7. It does not forbid you from ever being away from your kids. Instead AP is about building strong attachment between your kids and other trusted and caring individuals which helps them build a relationship of trust with the world. AP core principles suggest both self care and building a network of support. How do you think you are doing with those aspects of AP?

    While the need to visit Cricket may be the first situation to point out the need to make some changes, it is something that just as well could come up another way (medical crisis taking you away from home, Joey and Kit becoming more anxious as they don’t develop ties with other trusted adults, your anxiety becoming more pronounced because you don’t have a support network of mom and kid friends to help you see the normalcy of developmentally typical behaviors). If you regularly were involved in a playgroup or were around a network of other kids I think you’d see pretty quickly that Cricket’s “violence” and your overreaction in feelings of defense of the younger kids are in fact very, very, typical in situations far less complex than what you are dealing with.

    So I propose how about seeing this as an opportunity to learn more about attachment parenting and think critically about how you could be more flexible to meet the needs of all of your children. Finally, as you feel stuck in these thought patterns, I’m wondering if you’ve considered that blogging might be making it worse. Blogging is a kind of one way conversation where people see only the bit of you that you choose to present. It is lacking real context and it can easily become an exercise in reinforcing negative thought patterns. Do you think over time your blogging about Cricket has in some way helped or has it possibly reinforced feeling like you’ve been done wrong?

  6. I think that one thing that is necessary about reunion is to talk with our lost child and our raised children about relationships and choices. For our lost child, telling them, “You are my daughter. I want to treat you equally to my other children because you are no less my daughter than they are, I don’t love you any less than i love them. Will you let me treat you that way?” Give the adopted person the choice. Can you do this with Cricket?

    Secondly, we must tell our raised children that they have another sibling and that this sibling is their brother/sister and is to be treated as a brother/sister if even they do not live with us. And that if they have questions, just ask. And if they have problems with that, just let us know. Even small children understand.

    Don’t “prioritize” your children, it just minimizes your lost child and is good reason for him to be angry at you for doing this.

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