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.