I read a lot of adoptee blogs and tweets. I also listen to several adoptee podcasts, especially Adoptees On. I know that being in reunion with one’s family of birth can be complicated. There are lots of emotions. Sometimes there are secrets. Sometimes you want desperately what you simply can’t have.
Sometimes it’s easy; it’s almost seamless.
Being in reunion can be amazing; it can also be really hard.
Hope is in reunion with her extended family. It’s always been complicated. I thought it was really me; that I complicated things. Now, I’m not so sure. I have tried to provide numerous opportunities for my daughter to see and connect to her biological family. I’ve driven many miles for visits, arranged for phone calls and gifts, and just tried to keep the lines of communication open. This year, I made spring break about our whole family—hers, mine and ours.
It was hard; it was emotionally draining. There were so many big emotions on both sides, but it seemed that no one had the words to adequately verbally communicate what they were feeling and what they wanted from the other. There were tears, lots of them. I stood by with handkerchiefs and hugs.
I found myself still trying to be the bridge trying to span the distance within this family of people who love one another so very much. At moments, I felt stretched beyond my own capacity, but I tried.
Since our big trip six months ago, I’ve still tried to help this family stay connected. Calls, flowers, cards. I’ve nudged Hope to stay connected.
One day recently she just blurted out that it was all so awkward, that it was too awkward and that she kind of just didn’t want to right now.
I tiptoed through a conversation about why it was awkward and what she wanted to happen next. It’s still unclear what the outcome should be in terms of my daughter’s family reunion. I know what I want for her, but it’s not about me. It’s about what she wants and what is best for her, and only she can figure that out.
I see Hope with our family after nearly 4 years. I watch her with her aunts. I watch her with her cousins and how those relationships have evolved during the last few years. I’m so excited about that, but my joy is tempered by my own comparisons across our extended family. I was hopeful that over time things would smooth out, that we really would be this big happy family on all sides. That simply hasn’t happened yet.
I’m still hopeful that awkwardness in these relationships will fade away. I’m eager to figure out what I can do, but my sense is that they will have to figure this out themselves.
The selfish part of me worries that Hope’s family will come to believe I kept her from them, that I somehow soured Hope against her biological family. I worry that I will be perceived as threatened by them. There was a time when I did kind of feel threatened, but it was brief and unwarranted. Families are big and complicated; I decided early on to make it work.
I feel like I failed in that endeavor. I really have tried to make a big tent. I feel like I did all the things I was supposed to do to help my daughter have a positive reunion. But, right now at least, it isn’t the happy reunion we had all prayed for, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.
My natural role in life is to be a fixer, but I can’t fix this. That’s a hard reality check for me. Not only can’t I fix it, it’s not my role to beyond what I’ve done to this point. My role was to facilitate that ability for these folks to work it out. I did that, but I guess I have to take a step back and really hope that they do, that Hope wants to figure it all out. Really, I hope she does whatever she needs to in order to be as close to whole as she can.
I feel like I should still reach out, just as me, but I don’t know if that’s appropriate. Hope is 16, and I’m loathe to get on her bad side in a perceived family *thing.* Despite my own efforts to blend the families, I’m not sure that is what Hope wants, at least right now. I try to follow her lead on adoption related stuff, but this…I’m not sure how to read this; is the lead to just let it alone and let it breathe for a while?
I’m guessing I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing—cards, pictures, letters and flowers on holidays—and get out of the way for them to figure it out.
September 17th, 2017 at 4:38 pm
Hey – loved your post. I am gonna role up my sleeves here and just say the first thing that came to my mind – no offense intended in anything, but your blog often just makes a lot of emotion come into my head and I know you have been reading my responses for a long time and hopefully by now you know that I have good intentions or am just working something out with my responses.
If Hopes bio family wanted her to be a part of their lives she would be. You talk about healing but they have already healed. The hole left behind by the drama that resulted in Hope leaving their family has already been patched by denial and illusion. It might be a totally crap patch, all crumbly or stuffed with old rags or whatever, but it suits them.
I have worked with kids in the court system now for a long time and I know that it doesn’t seem like it but a lot of effort is put into trying to find anyone that is remotely a family member or friend that will take a kid prior to the kid being put up for adoption. CASA volunteers and court volunteers pour over records looking for a grandparent, friend of the family, or piano teacher or anyone that will foster or adopt a kiddo.
You are a great mom and you have succeeded. You have succeeded in giving Hope the choice that she never had before. From the experience that I have had with working with kids and my own twins whose ‘awkward’ bio family is never far away, I think that ‘awkward’ is code for Hope telling you that these people are fu*^ing crazy and she is making the choice not to be associated with them anymore – its just that ‘awkward’ is a politically correct synonym for reality. I think Hope telling you that means that she is patching her hole – but its not with old rags and Elmer’s glue – its with solid skills and coping mechanisms and as she stands there patching you are the solid decking under her feet so that she doesn’t keep slipping and sinking as she patches.
If I were you I would continue to send a Christmas card – you are sending out all of those other ones anyway right? What’s the cost of one more stamp? And its a nice gesture. And someday maybe Hope and a cousin or aunt or someone will reconnect and share a cup of coffee and stories about their travels and kids. And maybe not.
BUT YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE AND ITS NOT YOUR JOB TO SAVE ALL OF HOPES BIO FAMILY – YOU HAVE ALREADY SAVED HOPE!!!!! and you did a good job of that.
September 17th, 2017 at 4:55 pm
Thank you for this. Its been weighing on me a lot the last few weeks as a significant family member’s birthday passed without Hope acknowledging it. The comment came when we were talking about a phone call or a card acknowledgement.
She was in the custody of a family member we avoid for a short proud of time. There are definite land mines and yes, the family is what us good southern folks would call “special” but overall well meaning and good hearted.
It is hard to read the tea leaves sometimes. You are very likely right; she’s over it. I’ll just do what I’ve been doing. Thank you.
September 17th, 2017 at 10:50 pm
I’m taking the same approach with my girl’s pre-me family. Cards over the holidays, but otherwise they will have to figure it out themselves. For a while I tried to encourage more connection, but it broke my heart to see the push-pull dynamics. So at this point I stay out of it and just listen and support if/when my girl comes to me about it.
September 18th, 2017 at 9:58 am
I don’t have any experience, but period cards and pictures feels like a great approach, even if Hope doesn’t want to be involved right now. It lets them know you’re keeping the door open, without exposing too much of Hope’s privacy. Someday she may want to join in on the card with just a signature or a little note from herself. Good work being the big person here and doing what is best for your daughter!!
September 18th, 2017 at 9:59 am
that should say “periodic” cards… 😛
September 18th, 2017 at 10:06 am
LOL, I was like, they have cards now? LOL. 🙂 ❤
September 18th, 2017 at 12:58 pm
I agree with the others you are doing this right and when Hope is ready, if she is ready she will have contact. Yep occasional cards, texts, Facebook messages to the ones you enjoy talking to keeps them in the loop. If they question just say what I do “she is a teenager, who knows why she didn’t…..”
September 18th, 2017 at 6:32 pm
I don’t know if this is helpful (I’m not adopted), but… My extended family is big, complicated, and southern. Generations of abuse within a ‘tight knit’ family, particularly for girls. My parents kept my relationship with everyone shallow to keep me safe, so now as an adult deciding if I want to build relationships with different family members, I’m not navigating things like, “Do I want to be close to the daughter of my uncle who raped me” or “Can I have a healthy relationship with my cousin who beat me because that’s the only way he learned to handle normal kid behavior”.
Despite that, I still don’t have much interest in having a relationship with that side of the family. Which hurts my parent, because despite everything they love their family. And I guess I do. But even as I understand how complicated everything was (and that I have a lot of feelings considering I was one of the only kids not abused, sexually or otherwise) I still resent a lot of people for their role in perpetuating that pain because it was easier than doing what needed to be done. I don’t trust them to be family, because to me their definition of family is destructive. They bring more pain than joy to my life, especially compared to the lovely extended (non-biological) family my parents built.
I can see why you want Hope to have ties to her biological family, but if she has a complicated history with them, letting her reach adulthood and then pursue those ties on her own might be a good idea. Even if (as with my parents) the family faults you for the lack of connection, I don’t think that burden is on you. It seems like as her mom, you’ve done a lot to leave the path clear, but repairing that relationship is on them and it has to be worth it to her. She might be too young or too close to that history to decide that now.
September 19th, 2017 at 10:10 pm
I think just watching the stories of our kids play out is the hardest part of adoptive (or any) parenting. I think the little touches matter, but you’re right…in the end it will have to play out.
September 26th, 2017 at 3:58 am
An additional idea would be for Hope to write a letter to her family stating the boundaries she would like to have in place for right now if that wouldn’t be placing too much of a burden on her shoulders.