I hesitated to respond here, as I felt it was a bit cheeky of me to offer my opinion when you don’t know me. However, I discovered your blog about a month ago and have been moved and impressed by so much that you’ve written. It sounds as if the unfulfilled promises for openness have been so hurtful, and I can see Lori Lavender Luz’s point about the value of setting boundaries for your family.
In the next two or three years, though, I wonder if you would start to see contact being initiated more and more by Cricket. (My 9 year old has an email account (supervised) and sends off messages to friends and family on her own initiative.) Right now, Cricket’s very young and doesn’t have much autonomy. It’s easy to squash a three or four year old’s requests to talk to someone. It’s much harder to do so with a seven or eight year old, and gets harder (eventually impossible) as they grow. You may be closer than you realise to being able to have more direct contact with Cricket.
Soon, he will be able to read cards and letters you write to him. Perhaps, instead of being opened by Ruth and read to him, they will be saved for him to open and read when he comes home from school. They may even encourage him to write back – you never know. And if things are kept completely open, Ruth and Nora may be more likely to indulge a request from him to “Skype with Mama Susie tonight”, Ruth obviously feels comfortable right now texting you with a question to keep Cricket happy, even if she is not particularly concerned about keeping you happy. I have the impression, from what you’ve written, that she’s fairly oblivious to the fact that you are unhappy about it – or perhaps she’s aware and just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.
But. If you lay down any lines in the sand, however delicately articulated, however tactful (you seem as if you are extremely discreet and careful in your language), any references to the broken promises and disappointment will be taken as criticisms. And doing so at this point may well result in Ruth and Nora limiting Cricket’s contact with you at precisely the time when he may just be starting to reach out. If Ruth isn’t speaking much to her own family, she is likely capable of hanging onto her bitterness tenaciously. If she feels criticised by you, she may be less likely to encourage Cricket’s interest in making contact with you in future. You don’t have much power in this relationship with Ruth, and I realise that really, really stinks. Cricket, ultimately, will have much more power with Ruth than you. He doesn’t yet, but things are going to change, in subtle but significant ways, in the coming years. And if Ruth feels … well, safe, and … unthreatened … by you and Mr. Book, I can imagine that she would be less inclined to get in between you and Cricket .
Again, please excuse the audacity of this coming from a stranger. I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve read so much of your blog, and I feel like I know you a little, even if you don’t know me.
You make some good points. I’ve been talking about this stuff with Mr. Book, and a couple of friends, and what it comes down to is that I just can’t handle it right now; the stuff with Joey, and being in some ways an acting single parent right now, and just having two tiny (wonderful) wild kids running around—I am not coping as well as I would like, and the adoptive relationship is one issue that I can simplify right now. At the same time, Mr. Book doesn’t want to lose even the chance of contact; so I’ve written a few drafts of a message, and I won’t send anything until after Kit’s birthday, but this is what it looks like right now:
Sometimes I want to walk away from the adoptive relationship. Not because it’s too hard to be in contact, but because it’s too hard to expect and hope and then be disappointed. It’s been two months since Nora said that we will definitely Skype once a month, maybe more often, and then made no further contact; it’s been four months since we were supposed to hear “soon” about dates for a visit this year. You seemed to notice my slip, Nora, in saying that my top priority is for the three boys to have a relationship; I no long hope for a relationship with Cricket in the foreseeable future, because it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Mr. Book doesn’t want to pull back or lose any opportunity for contact, but I’m getting to a point where I am hurt and frustrated enough to say: Don’t contact me. Don’t assist Cricket to contact me. I will send a birthday gift and a Christmas gift; I would appreciate it if you would send pictures as outlined in our agreement. If you want anything more, talk to Mr. Book. These tiny, unpredictable contacts are breaking my heart. I need to believe that you will do that you will what you say you’ll do or I need to stop hoping, which means closing the door, at least for now.
I know that I have no leverage of any kind, which is part of why I’m being so blunt; surely there can be no harm in it, as I have nothing that you value except possibly contact for Cricket with Joey and Kit. I do worry about them being hurt by Cricket’s unavailability, but that’s some ways down the road.
So for now, what I’m saying is that I can’t deal with things going on as they have been. I am frustrated and angry and I have just had enough. If you aren’t willing or able to change the way we deal with each other, visit Mr. Book this year; if you want to talk, talk to him. If you wish, we could revisit this setup in a couple of years—but until then, I would close off all other avenues of contact as I am able.
This leaves open as much contact as they want or are willing to have with my husband, and might even mean that they visit him this year, which he would love—and certainly wasn’t expecting. If after I send a message they haven’t taken some major steps (say, bought plane tickets for a visit this year) within a month, I will block them on Facebook and my phone and go from there.
I hear what you’re saying, Cath; I know that it is going to be more and more possible for Cricket to have and express a desire to communicate with his Bookish relatives. But it’s been almost five years now that I’ve lived in fear of their disapproval and rejection, and I just can’t do it anymore. I did finally make it to a dermatologist, and she told me that my hair loss is the result of stress. This means, she says, that it will grow back once my stress levels go down. It’d be too dramatic to say that I’m cracking up—I am taking good care of the boys, I am cooking, I am maintaining a loving and close long-distance relationship with my husband—but I’m not doing okay. I need to make changes, and I am pretty sure that that will entail my being sharply critical of Cricket’s moms.
One thing that Mr. Book and I have talked about is that we have less need to keep Ruth happy now, regardless of how much contact we want . . . if only because Nora has custody of Cricket the majority of the time. But I wouldn’t send a message that was in any way critical of their behavior unless I was willing to accept the risk of not having contact with Cricket again until his adulthood (hopefully he would entertain the possibility of contact then. I am really trying hard not to take things for granted). I’ve just hit my limit.