J and I have everything and nothing in common. We share kids, a dry sense of humor, and a disdain for picky eaters. We both have quick tempers and ample bottoms. It is actually much easier to think of all the ways we are alike than to think of all the ways our lives are different. When I start to think about that stuff, I start to cry/get angry which is not productive/results in mad voice. It doesn't help that we also live about as far as you can live from each other and still be in this country.
When we were preparing for her kids to come to Portland for the summer she and I both knew it was going to be really difficult. I knew that they would all fight (they did. Profoundly), that I would run out of patience (spoiler: every day by 2), and that there would be days we would all wish things would go back to normal with everyone in the house that they belonged to. Those days were the hardest. I realized that we were exposing everyone to a sort of trauma that might be hard to recover from. So, I joked about it a lot. I did some of that aforementioned crying. She and I had real talk on the phone. I pounded on the floor.
I wondered why we thought we had any business doing any of this.
But. Even when everything was going wrong I knew in my bones that this was the only way through for our family. It's not as though someone might have predicted this situation based on our semi-typical "open" adoption set up: there were years of un-reciprocated communication and worries about everyone's health and well-being. We had asked for her address, etc., right from the beginning and after those first few months, we had given her all of our info. I didn't expect to hear from her, but I had hoped we would. And when we didn't hear it made it easier to not always do OUR best. I think that those experiences are the sort of things that give a lot of parents permission to let go and stop trying with their kid's other families. In those days of having two babies, a four year old, and drowning in diapers and strange work schedules, I made all the excuses in the world for not trying harder with J. It was harder to keep up with the letters and pictures than I thought it was going to be. I didn't know her and she barely knew us and maybe she just wanted to let us all go. Maybe it would be easier for her.
These are the lies we tell ourselves to get by.
Had we let go and had we just given up we would have lost so much. We would not have had this hard and beautiful summer. We would not have a deep and abiding love for our boy's brothers and sisters. We would not have been able to disrupt the fantasy that our boys were surely forming in their own minds about who and where they came from. Our relationship as a family would have stayed largely theoretical. We would not have a clearer picture of J's life and the choices she made when our boys came to us.That is… I don't know how to say this… powerful information that interrupts popular adoption narratives.
I know that, as parents, we don't all get chances to put ourselves out there like this– even when we are desperate for them. Other times we get the chance and we blow it. I have written before (I think) that I believe that my boys live with a low level grief and understanding of loss every day. It is a part of them when they wake up in the morning and crawl in bed to give us a hug. When we are together with their whole family it catapults this grief into the middle of the room. It can get really ugly. This is, in part, because they know how many people they are connected to. They can suddenly put faces and feelings to their loss and it SUCKS and it HURTS and it's NOT FAIR. So when we get these chances we have to take that into consideration. And it SUCKS and HURTS and it doesn't seem FAIR and we open ourselves and say yes anyway.
J and I have talked about how we are blowing all of our kid's worlds wide open. I just want to put out there– for anyone who is wrestling with something similar– that it is worth it. This is a long game we are playing and it is worth it. There are people across this country who have loved my boys even when they didn't know if they would ever see them again and it is worth it. I don't know what is going to happen– my kids could hate me for all of this. Actually, I'm pretty sure they will. I am choosing to believe that we can drive out some of that hate with the truth of all this difficult love.