This guest post is by Jody Dyer, an adoptive mother and author.
A few weeks ago, my husband Jeff and our sons Houston, 13, and Scotty, 4, spent an afternoon visiting Scotty’s birth family.
The small group—Houston; my husband, Jeff; Scotty’s birth mother Kerri; his birth grandmother Lynn, and his birth great-grandparents Larry and Gail — circled my child with love, pride, and adoration.
Constantly mimicking his big brother, Scotty showed off his perfected free throw warm-up routine and his well-practiced golf swing.
We applauded to his delight. Then, to the crowd, my innocent four-year-old announced, “I’m gonna play tee ball in the springtime!”
I anxiously waited for the birth family members’ reaction.
You see, the chocolate-eyed, blonde-haired boy who started visiting with his birth family as an infant, then crawler, then toddler, had now broken through the communication barrier.
I realized that, as he gained vocabulary and assertiveness, I had lost control over our visits. I hadn’t anticipated this particular predicament.
Or was it a predicament? Was this just another step in the evolution of our open adoption? Regardless, I panicked.
While our birth and adoptive family relationship is wide open, we haven’t made it public.
We meet Kerri for lunch now and then, but most visits take place at her grandparents’ home, away from people’s prying eyes.
Scotty’s birth family lives only ten minutes away from us. And now, with the prospect of them coming out to see him at his tee ball games, our open adoption relationship was about to reach a new level of openness.
I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with that.
You see, we live a small, close-knit community, one where everyone knows everyone else. People tend to gossip about things they don’t know or don’t understand.
Open adoption is a complicated issue, and we were worried that our story would be fodder for their conversations.
Jeff and I are extremely respectful and protective when it comes to Scotty’s and his birth family’s background information.
Our biggest concern was how was Scotty going to take it now that his story would be out there in the open.
I prayed that I would “err on the side of kindness.”
As my friend Michelle, an adoptive mother, once said, “Adoptive mothers have SO MUCH MORE to think about.” My mother is a fixture at my sons’ activities.
Please know that I am not ashamed of or embarrassed in any way by Scotty’s original family.
This was simply a matter of concern for potential, deep loss of privacy and the residual effects on my children.
Questions shot through my mind. If Scotty’s birth family comes to a tee ball game, how many of our friends and relatives will meet his birth family? Will that make life more difficult for Scotty?
Will I be setting a precedent that Scotty will feel obligated, perhaps resentful, to maintain? How will people react to Kerri’s tattoos? To Gail’s health issues? To Lynn’s doting nature toward a grandson she sees only by appointment?
Will my friends ask them questions? What will other children ask? Will Houston be embarrassed? Will people treat the beloved birth family with respect?
Am I shallow for being worried? Am I right to be concerned? What is the right thing to say?
What is the right thing to DO?
Scotty’s birth great-grandfather interrupted my panicked thoughts. He looked tearfully at me and simply stated, “I’d give anything in the world to see this boy play ball.”
I melted. In respect, in humility, in moral obligation, in kindness, in weakness, in love? I don’t know. I simply stated, “I’ll get you a season schedule.”
Open adoption is just that: OPEN. Open minded, open hearted, and open ended.
Our family will learn and adapt as Scotty gets older. We will put his emotional well-being first.
Based on the birth family’s reaction to Scotty’s backyard performance at that stressful and sweet visit, I think I made the right call.
Enjoy Jody’s book The Eye of Adoption and her other works of hope and humor. Visit www.jodydyer.com
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