Unattributed Comments: See Last Post

It’s that graceful and pithy titling style that has gotten me where I am today, I tell you what.

Perhaps naively, I imagine the relationships working differently when the kids have grown up. Part of what is happening for me right now is that I see the youngest two as really intensely needing me to prioritize them right now—I imagine that looking quite a bit differently when they’re fifteen. And while they’ll always need my support, when they’re old enough to understand it and Cricket’s old enough to maintain it, I do want to have a relationship with Cricket that is independent from my relationship with them. But right now, just about nothing in my life happens without their involvement. I don’t know whether you have parented, but the all-consumingness of two tiny kids is hard to get across.

My refusal to send the boys away for a couple of days isn’t because of Cricket himself; we practice (imperfectly) attachment parenting, and I wouldn’t send the boys away for a couple of days if I won a trip to Hawaii, either. The only family within a thousand miles of us are my parents (with whom we all live), and they do spend short periods of time alone with the boys—last week they took them on an afternoon trip—but while I imagine the kids being able to comfortable stay alone with their grandparents more and more over time, right now four hours is about their limit. I had the experience with Kit’s birth of really damaging Joey’s attachment to us, and while I think we’ve repaired the relationships, I am going to balk at doing anything similar. Not for the rest of his life—his needs are going to change unimaginably—but while he is so small and so clingy, I can’t leave him for long. Kit, I think, would have less of a problem, just because of his personality. But introverted Joey is very much like me in this. And we already insist that Joey and Kit treat everyone, including Cricket, with respect and gentleness; they absolutely would not have our support in becoming verbally abusive or anything near.

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.

This hurts to read. Not because it’s hostile (I don’t read it that way at all), but because I mostly agree with you. Two afternoons in a row? Maybe you’re right—maybe that’s what we need to do. I am seeing it as the 48 hours and balking; that’s a long time for a toddler or a baby, and longer than ever in Joey’s life, and that’s too much. But two afternoons? He won’t love it, but it’s below the threshold of what seems like too much to me. I am definitely going to bring this up with Mr. Book, and then with Ruth. Thank you.

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?

Yes: I am in the open adoption because I feel obligated to Cricket. Therefore, as you suggest, I need to do something productive with that feeling of obligation. Don’t get me wrong, I have been frozen and awkward at visits since the beginning; there is more fouling me up than the presence of brothers. But I agree with you that I need to get my head on straight, although I don’t know how.

Part of what complicates things from a “well then you should close the adoption, bad birthmother” is that Mr. Book is open and easy with Cricket, and Cricket is just crazy about him. Not that that excuses my deer-in-the-headlights impression, but I do want to make sure it’s known that there is a good thing being built at visits even in the presence of my inability to get my head out of my ass.

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.

I’ve written that I know that I’m actually “protecting” myself; yes, seeing Cricket is traumatic, and yes, that is about me and my pain and not about him. And I have very little sympathy for myself on this one—that’s a burden that no child should have to bear, that Cricket did nothing to deserve. But I don’t know how to stop. I am sincerely interested in hearing other peoples’ ideas, since I’ve tried any number of things and talked to a therapist and kept trying . . . and yet the problem persists. I see him so rarely (once a year) that I never get past my initial rush of pain and sorrow at seeing what I gave up.

I am not done working on this. For the Open Adoption Interview Project, I seriously considered asking for a partner who would ask me hard questions; I can’t express how much I appreciate being challenged, and how completely I know that I’m not doing well at this adoption thing. I want more for my kids . . . all three of them.

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5 thoughts on “Unattributed Comments: See Last Post

  1. Piggybacking on to the “two afternoons” thing – I wonder if it is possible for…someone – your mother? I don’t know…to travel with you for a visit. You all stay in a hotel. You & MrBook visit with Cricket in the afternoons and are with Joey & Kit the rest of the time, and maybe at the end of the second visit whoever travels with you to stay with Joey & Kit while you are visiting with Cricket can bring them to you & the boys can all have a shorter visit together.

    That way, you and Cricket get the dedicated time he (and you) deserve without having to split your attention with the younger boys, but the brothers all still get to spend some time together – and maybe the shorter time together will cut down on the aggression, especially since Cricket will already have had your undivided attention for the rest of your time together.

    It probably would be a little complicated to work out the details, but if you could swing something like that I’ll bet it would benefit all of you. You know I am pulling for you, as always. xo

  2. I don’t really comment on here, but I follow your blog regularly and get a lot out of hearing your perspective (I am an adoptive parent). I’m only commenting now to say how much I appreciate this whole interaction between these commenters and yourself. These are such challenging conversations with so much personal heartache, but these all come across as kind-hearted and with an actual goal of figuring out how to best serve your son. Too often on adoption blogs when people with different adoption perspectives express themselves, it comes across so very harshly and full of judgment and contempt. It is refreshing to read these comments from adoptees and your responses that are not full of judgment and defensiveness, but rather of reflection, challenge, and genuine consideration. I just had to say something because it gives me hope that it is possible to have these very difficult conversations about the complexities of open adoption from different perspectives and maintain overtones of respect and kindness, even when we are saying or hearing things that are hard to say or hear.

    I genuinely hope that the recent open communication with Ruth results in an improvement in your relationship with your son and perhaps even a realization on her part that she is putting you in an impossible situation where you need to build a stronger connection with your son, but cutting off every way you have to do so. I didn’t understand why Skyping was off the table when it seems like a great idea given the geographic distance between you, but one of the comments reminded me of something. I have a friend with a son Cricket’s age who cannot handle video chatting with anyone he loves – he doesn’t understand how he can see/hear someone right there, but then not being able to hug them or see them in person. It’s very upsetting to him afterwards because he doesn’t understand why they just disappeared. They’ve had to stop all video chatting until he’s old enough to get it a little bit more. It seems like Ruth should explain why these things are off the table, but it is possible (even likely?) that she’s doing it for Cricket and not just to be an obstacle. I hope your recent conversations with her create a better foundation for open communication where you can jointly problem-solve and ultimately build that connection between you and Cricket that it seems everyone desires.

  3. I’m so sorry that this is so hard. I wish I had a helpful suggestion. Actually, when I read your initial post about the one visit a year thing, I was pretty shocked that Ruth said Skype was out of the question. Why on earth? It’s not like it’s difficult or time-consuming. I could see that it might be emotionally tough, at least at first, but really, if she wants you to have a relationship with Cricket, how can she prohibit Skype calls? I think it makes perfect sense to suggest Skyping as a way for you to build more of a relationship in a way that’s slightly less challenging that a full visit. Because honestly, of course a once-a-year visit is difficult. How could it not be?

  4. Hi, I never comment on your blog though I’ve been reading you for a few years and cheering you on. Even now I worry that I’m not eloquent enough to comment! I really appreciated Amanda’s words, and Amy’s, Barb’s and Molly’s. It is such a difficult situation you’re all in, and it’s going to be so much work to make these relationships meaningful and *safe* for all parties for years to come. My heart broke for Cricket though when you said that your other children will always come first, and that you weren’t willing to devote your full attention to him for even a few hours. Normally when I read your words I nod with understanding or sympathy, but not this time.

    Kids are so smart and so intuitive. I can’t help thinking that watching you shower love and protectiveness and care on your other children must feel like a second rejection for Cricket. He may have other adults and relatives who love him, but you are his first mom. I’m still stung (30 years later!) by my stepmom telling me that she would always be first in my dad’s eyes because she was his wife and she would be there till he died, but kids are secondary because they grow up and move out.

    True or not, I could see Cricket coming to believe that he was unlovable and that’s why you gave him away and that’s why his other brothers got to stay with you. That he has to deal with his moms’ divorce (now and for the rest of his life) makes it all the worse. That’s not on you, of course, but I think it points to how he needs more support from you when you can give it, not less. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to have any type of warm relationship with Joey or Kit until he has a secure one with you, and I think when you bring the three of them together he can’t help but notice that he comes last and gets their leftovers. (sorry)

    I second everyone that Skype would help improve the whole situation and I hope that becomes an option soon! The whole situation is so so hard. I really hope it gets better soon.

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