We did something incredibly hard this week: we let someone down. Amy, Lilou’s wonderful mom, asked us to try Skype video calls when she placed her daughter with us. But Tess and Remy have had fights over who gets to talk to Amy next, even on non-call weeks. They got mad that Lilou always got to talk to her, and they were not the focus of attention – despite Amy talking with all of them. Lilou was always super tired, because of the time difference and her early bedtime. Dave and I were frantic, trying to feed the kids before the designated time – as well as just trying to be home early enough. We also felt terrible when Lilou’d have an off day from teething or a cold.
We’d been trying to figure out how to make it work, but it didn’t. We didn’t have calls in our original communication plan with any of our first families because we know how tricky our schedules are and how hard it would be to coordinate that for multiple kids. Still, we wanted to try so she could at least see her daughter in this new environment. We hate disappointing birth family members. Sorry Amy, and thank you for taking the time to understand how complicated our life is! You’re amazing.
When Dave and I talked about becoming parents, we had a few years to discuss our family options when the biology failed us. A lot of our plans went up in smoke, as the best are wont to do. One of them stuck, though. Somebody told us to consider our lifelong routines carefully. They gave the example of bedtime, and told us to remember that a two-hour bedtime is fabulous with a newborn, but gets really complicated with a five-year-old and three older siblings! Part of that is the time commitment; part of it is having someone you care about deeply depend on that rhythm with their heart and soul. You can’t change a routine once it’s central to people’s wellbeing.
Building communication plans in an adoption feels a lot like that. We’re trying to build a rhythm that works for everyone, and that will continue to work for everyone as time goes on. We have to consider baby nap schedules now, but those will soon turn into school field trips and soccer games and homework. We also have to consider how each kid and each first family feels, in terms of equal time with the kids. Right now, we’re struggling to find time for friends and family around work and our time with the kids! We love all of these people in a profound way, and want everyone to be as happy as possible.
Face time has a lot of value, which is why we’re adding visits to the mix. Seeing Kat and Micky this past summer was amazing; the kids are still talking about it. We’re going to see Kerna this winter, and can’t wait! Visits are more expensive for us than calls, but are more meaningful as well. We watched Kat transition from a bobbing head in our photo books to a super fun person Tess and Remy are both excited about months later. That’s building a relationship.
We’ve always focused on fostering authentic relationships (easy, because all involved are awesome!) but not making decisions the kids will have trouble with down the road as they digest what being adopted means to them. (And because we consider birth families part of our kids’ lives forever, we do say our kids are adopted. That doesn’t lessen our relationship with them in any way; that fact does impact their identity and their reality. That conversation will be part of their lives forever.)
We want our kids to have relationships with their first families for the rest of their lives! So we’re playing the long game, and consider ourselves the “coaches” in terms of sustaining a healthy relationship all around. After all, that’s what parents and family do. We’re lucky to have an awesome team in our kids and their first families.
Hunh. I hadn’t really ever understood what you were going for with the open adoption until now. By addressing the adoption full on they don’t get “Normal”… but that’s because they aren’t. Further, that is actually true for all children. No childhood is normal.
Instead of Normal, you are going for Normalized.