So it is Christmas and we get the annual letter from my daughter's birthmother. It could be the same letter every year. Lots of sappy "I miss you more than you could ever imagine" for my daughter and pages of excuses to me about why L can't keep up with her side of the open adoption agreement.
I do feel sympathy for L, but a lot more anger. It occurred to be today that this may be the last year I can mediate between my daughter and her birthmother. Next year, my daughter will be reading independently. All that saved me this year was that the letter was written in cursive... I don't want my daughter to feel like I am trying to keep her from her birth mother, but the reality is that she needs to be protected. This is so complicated :(
How does your daughter react to the letters? Would you consider not giving them to her?
I'm really lucky that my son's birth mother is doing ok. We're going to her house to exchange gifts on Friday. DD's birthfather isn't doing well. Contact will be postponed until things change.
It seems like if the letters were of the sort to cause possible trauma you could renegotiate the agreement regarding letters. If not, and they are just upsetting then that is an unfortunate part of these types of custody/adoption situations that just has to be dealt with.
Sorry this is stressful to you. I have two adopted sons myself who were given all kinds of upsetting stuff from biomom when they were little. It was hard to not be emotional about it, and sometimes I failed. Looking back I always wish I would have just be honest, supportive and calm when dealing with those things.
I now work with children in the foster system and see that side of it. Those letters are important to the children even if they are 100% lies and excuses, they end up seeing the truth in time.
I guess I have to consider not giving her the letters. Our adoption is an open kinship adopting, which complicates things. I often don't know that gifts or letters are coming and they are often given right to dd. But she is young, so I am always with her. I haven't really put my foot down about gifts and letters coming directly to me since my family thinks I am trying to keep dd away from her birthmother. They don't get that the birthmother's totally inapropriate emotional state is harmful to dd. I guess I have to just suck it up and be the parent and not care that my family thinks I am the crazy one :)
Glad to hear that your son's birthmom is doing well. Hope his birthfather gets on track too!
Monda, thanks for your perspective too! I wish I could not let this get to me, but it is so hard.
I think that as adoptive parents, we can get too focused on being the best *adoptive* parent we can be, and forget to just be the best *parent* we can be. As parents, we get to, and *have* to make choices about what our kids are exposed to. And there are lots of things that have both good and bad parts, but ultimately, we as parents are the ones to decide if and when our child will be exposed to that particular thing, and when/how/at what age. Contact with an unstable birth parent is no different. Even contact with a stable birth parent, if if it more upsetting than not, to the child, might be something that as a parent, you have to put a stop to, for a while. If I were you, Pumpkin, I'd collect and hold the letters/gifts and save them for when your daughter is older/ready. You could read the letters, alone, and then tell her what her mom said, if there are bits of news that could be shared without upsetting her. I have really minimized the contact that we have with my dd's first family, for lots of reasons, and I know that my reasons are imperfect, and that I am often not sure that I've chosen right, whether I choose contact or not, but I also am at peace with this as part of parenting in general.
Yep. Those miss-you-so-much-it's-not-my-fault letters should go right into a box, after you and DH read them. There will be a time when your DD will very much want to read them and will be old enough to process the discrepancy between what biomom says and what biomom does.
Toys, etc., I'd be inclined to allow as long as they don't cause visible upset. But if your mom is handing stuff directly from biomom to your DD, then you probably need to step on that, because 1) it gives the impression that your mom is allowed to initiate/facilitate a contact between the two and 2) you want to be able to give DD the toy in a quiet, neutral environment so you can really SEE if her reaction to it is positive or negative.
Have you ever done the exercise of writing thank-you notes with DD for any of the items she receives from biomom? That would be a way to help DD start to take control of the contact. She can share what she chooses to share about her life, polite chit-chatty note stuff instead of emotional sturm und drang, in a situation where nobody is pressuring her or scanning her face for a response.
We get a weekly phonecall like that from the birthdad. Once our dd said "well, I don't want to talk to him because he just wants me to say 'I love you' and sometimes I don't feel like it." It was a great learning moment for our perceptive then-7 year old. We talked about possible ways to take control back (like a pp mentioned) and role-played as well. We also connected with her birthdad, suggesting some things he could ask her about to avoid the 10 minutes of sappy yucky "I love you princess, you're so wonderful, I love you sooooooo much, mwah, I love you!" Ugh. It definitely helped.
We've developed a belief that even such contact is better than no contact, as it does provide information to our children. The fact that the birthdad rarely asks to talk to his son ("give your brother a hug for me! I love you sooooo much prince, I miss you, bye" is a frequent end to the phonecall) is both hurtful and shows both of the kids a reason for why he can't parent them. Yes we make sure to give ds some extra lovin' before and after those calls and we also pretend play various scenarios to help him process that this weird interaction is because of his birthdad's limitations, not ds's unlovability. He now has lost interest in talking with his birthdad and so we don't force the issue. One day maybe he'll want to again, and that'll be his choice. It's all about gathering information.
As a quick side note, it's helpful to us that the birthdad has been somewhat consistent in his behaviors and so he's fairly predictable. I'd likely have a very different response if that wasn't the case, or if he was predictably belittling or manipulative in his conversation with either child. So while we try to say "it's just information for the kids," we also try to really figure out, through pretend play and conversation, what information the kids are taking in about it. We don't want them to internalize it as their own wrongdoing or anything like that. I guess that's why we're all in therapy at this point in our lives! Having professionals to help us in this has been extremely helpful.
Married to DH since 2006. Adoptive mom to DD1 (June 2002), DS (Jan 2006), and bio mom to DD2 (May 2009).
My son is only 16 months old and we have an extraordinarily wonderful relationship with our birthmom, but I am so glad you shared your story because it's important to remember that things change and that I could be dealing with a similar situation in the future. My son's birth father has had zero contact with my son since he saw him in the hospital. I have sent pics and he has emailed me a few times. I wish things were different there, but he is a lost, troubled soul. I am grateful that his mother keeps in touch and sends things. Thank you again for opening your heart and sharing your story. I really appreciate it.
These things have so many variables, so it is impossible to comment directly to your situation, but having worked in residential treatment and with childrenin foster care for 10 years, contact like this can sometimes be difficult, but ultimately very important. As another pp mentioned, they are vital sometimes in helping children process why the adoption happened as the child can come to see the discrepancies in their behavior as well, or in a "better case" scenario, can show that they are loved, even if the parent couldn't care for them. They also give the child opportunities (down the line, when they get a bit older) to ask the direct questions they need to ask to fulfill their own sense of peace (if they need that). There is sometimes a delicate balance between allowing the calls (and knowing they may be upsetting) and being the person to stop them (why didn't you let me talk to her?!). For my own experience and conclusion, it seems that barring truly manipulative or traumatic statements, IMO it's better to let it play out and help support the child as they figure it all out. Its not easy, but that is the hand that has been dealt. I had kids whose parents were GREAT phone parents and in a way, that was really confusing to them too- How could my mom be so great and normal and yet couldn't care for me? The kids that seemed the most stable and strong were the ones who could see that their parent loved them but the parent was unable to care for them. And, this often happened with *more* contact and not less, as the child could see for themselves what was there. Is it hard to watch? Youbetcha. But it was 10 times harder to watch the kids that grew up with these burried, unanswered questions or parents who they only had such minimal and emotionally charged contact that the few times they had contact it turned into total melt downs. The bumps and bruises of some inappropriate (but not traumatic) calls were so much easier to talk about and heal from than the "bomb drops" of the ones that were shut out.
Additionally, if you have the chance to talk to the parent yourself sometimes in a positive way, that can give you an opportunity to maybe present some other constructive options. Many of the parents of the children I worked with sincerely loved their children, but were absolutely unable to care for them, had very little sense of what positive parental roles were, and were coping with huge problems themselves and so the calls were often ways that the *parent* would be asking the *child* for validation, love, and support. Sad, but inappropriate. So, I'd try to catch the parent and gently suggest things like asking the child how he was doing in school, or asking them about the t-ball league or how they were going to spend the weekend. While to us this may seem obvious, sometimes parents can be detached and wounded and not know what to say to focus on the child. You can also maybe suggest some other ways the parent might be able to serve both their own pain of the events without putting it on the child... Some I've suggested to parents to write a journal to "give to the child when they are older" to tell them about their life, so instead of bombarding them with adult issues at every phone call out of the blue, that can go to "the journal". Things like this. I've also dropped suggestions of more frequent but less fueled things, like "Hey, send a Valentines card! Billy would love that!" (which is usually purchased at the store, has a cute pat phrase and the parent signs it and it is easy for everyone to be happy about) or "Send a picture of your new dog! Suzie loves animals." (which gives an opportunity to keep it light and child-friendly). You don't always want to be the intermediary, and you are not the parent's therapist, but if contact is happening, it may be something to think about as to how you may be able to make it the best it can be because that ultimately benefits your child.
OP- trust yourself to judge if these are upsetting but part of the learning of their own life story or if they are truly harmful and do what you can and/or need to do. And, of course, you have your own relationship with the mother and would need to work from that as well. My post (I hope!) is more of a "Well, this is what I've come to and have done..." but is not necessarily a specific response to YOU, as there is no way to know if this is possible or beneficial. But whatever happens, I wish you wisdom and peace .