Our First Visit & Reinforcing The Importance of Two Adoptive Parenting Roles
Little MPB really don’t understand the role adoption plays in his life, yet. He’s not even three years old, how could he? But, all the adults involved do understand. To be clear, I cannot and will not speak for birth parents/families, but I will speak to our experience as adoptive parents. Specifically, today I want to talk specifically about two of our roles as adoptive parents in an open adoption:
- Keep lines of communication open, including visiting from time to time.
- Keep my child safe.
We always keep the lines of communication open. My email and cell phone number are available to our son’s birth mother all the time. We send birthday and Christmas gifts, and send photos and emails whenever we feel like it (there is no set schedule, sometimes it’s multiple emails a week, and sometimes it’s once a month – our communication is organic, which seems to work well for all of us). I worry when we don’t hear from his birth mother, but I also have to respect that she may be busy and her life doesn’t revolve around us – but learning not to worry is a challenge for me.
And of course we just visited for our first time since Little MPB was born. Truthfully, Little MPB has no real understanding of adoption yet as he’s not even 3 years old – he knows adoption brought our family together, but I truly don’t think he understands what that means. But we feel it is important to visit, even at this age, even though he has no real understanding of exactly who we are visiting.
We made the decision that our visit would not cost his birth mother money and we let her know this upfront – we paid for everything and invited them to the activities we were doing knowing that we would pay – the zoo, museum’s, meals, etc. As we come from very different financial situations, we felt it was important that we were upfront about this. Everyone seemed okay with the plan. We also felt it important to do activities that Little MPB is used to doing like going to a zoo and museums, which we knew would require admission fees. And realistically, sitting around a hotel room all day to avoid these costs wasn’t a great option with a toddler. Honestly, the first few days of the visit were great. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Little MPB adored his little sibling, who he started referring to as his best friend (his choice of words, not ours). As an aside, his sibling is recovering and hopefully on the mend.
But here’s the thing about adoption birth-parent visits that we learned on this trip – you have no idea what to expect! We knew that this visit wouldn’t follow a schedule – we had no plans, other then to visit with his birth-family, when they were available and where-ever they wanted to meet. After each outing, we would make plans on where to meet – we lived in a 2 part day – before nap and after nap meet-ups.
But, what we learned was that even with a three year old, the importance of unpredictability on these visits. The first few days went really well – it was literally just like we were visiting any of our other family members for a long weekend. We’d make plans for where to meet the next morning or where to meet in the afternoon after nap. Everything went as perfect as one could expect.
But on the last day of our visit, something happened. We have no idea what actually happened, but there was a clear shift in attitude and our last planned visit was missed with very little explanation and a lot of confusion. Little MPB was visibly sad that he wouldn’t get to see his new best friend and asked constantly if his best friend was okay. And we struggled to explain to Little MPB why they weren’t coming because we really don’t know why they weren’t coming, so were were as honest as we could be and told him we don’t know why they aren’t coming.
Even though things has suddenly turned weird, we asked if they wanted to meet up for dinner before we left to say goodbye. After a few hours of silence, she asked us to go somewhere very late at night. In our opinion, where she wanted to meet up, late at night, simply wasn’t a safe place. (There is no guarantee it would actually have been unsafe, but my gut instinct was not to go, and I listen to my gut in such situations). Without a toddler in tow, I can honestly say I still wouldn’t have gone due to safety concerns. And thus, after offering an alternative location which was turned down, we said unfortunately we could not meet.
And here’s the thing, I don’t feel that bad or guilty for not making our last opportunity to visit work. Had they been willing to meet almost anywhere else, we would have gone, even late at night well after Little MPB’s bedtime, for the chance to say goodbye. But, we would not put our family in what could have easily been a very dangerous situation.
Like any other mom/parent out there, I will do everything in my power to keep my child safe – adoption does not impact or hange the importance of basic safety. And thus, our visit ended without a goodbye, but with a lot of very valuable lessons for our next visit (more on the lessons tomorrow).
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