I have been trying for a week to formulate an entry that separates what I think we did right in this journey, and what I think I would change if we were to go through it again. My mistakes and blunders as compared to what I feel I did accomplish.
Its just not coming.
So instead, I am going to take a few days to ramble about my feelings, my experiences and how those feelings and experiences affected both my son and myself.
My feelings and personal insights aren't meant to offend, or to dictate how someone else should or would feel in a similar circumstance. But based on the emails I am getting, I do believe that an honest assessment of this process, from an adoptive parent perspective, is needed. If it helps one other family, one other child, one other parent then its worth it.
1. Trip Preparation: Pride and Regret
I feel proud because as much as I could, I helped to prepare Greg for the trip. We talked about feelings, boundaries, possibilities, eventualities and possible difficulties endlessly. We talked with the help of a counsellor, and we talked on our own. We forced him to think about the trip when he would have rather just taken it on a wing and a prayer.
I honestly believe that my preparation with Greg was the key to him not being completely overwhelmed by the experience and by his willingness to share with me what he was thinking and feeling DURING the trip. No topic, no feeling, no discussion was off limits between us. Because of our communication I was able to know exactly where he was at, and help him get what HE wanted out of the experience.
With L, however, I completely failed in my preparation of her and her family for THEIR reunion experience with Greg. Yes, I know that they are adults and should take responsibility for their own relationship but the reality of foster care adoption is that I am their only source of information on Greg. I am ALSO their only source of information on adoption and what that means to both the child, adoptive family and sadly, inevitably to the birth/first family as well.
When L's rights were terminated, she wasn't counselled on what that would mean long term in regards to the kids. The focus was on HER behavior, her parenting and the consequences to HER. When it was determined that she would not or could not be a safe parent to the two boys, her involvement in their care and future ended from the point of view of the state. Her behavior chose adoption for her children but it was not her own seemingly educated or conscious choice. And so today, she deals with the consequences of her actions without any foundation of knowledge or understanding.
I did try. But I tried to be gentle. Soft. Blunt the edges of the kids' truth a bit. I wanted her to like me. I didn't want to be the one to hurt them. Instead, I left that to the reality of a 13 year old very much different than the baby they remembered, or the son they wanted back, do it for me. Greg's outward emotional indifference to them and fear of them spoke louder than any words I could have shared but if I had been honest before hand, it might have been less of a shock and made the experience easier on them. They might have been more prepared.
I wish I would have said, "Greg will not call you mom, aunt or grandma on this trip. There is no chance he will because he has told me emphatically he will not. Respecting that will make things easier on him."
Instead I said "I don't know what Greg will call you. We have told him he could call you anything he wants so the option is up to him."
I wish I would have said, "Greg has asked that I stay with him for the entire trip. Unless his comfort level significantly changes while we are down there, he does not want to be left alone at anytime. I will always be available and accessible to him to help him through the visit."
Instead I said, "I am sure we will have lots of fun together. Maybe Greg would like to do that with you, but I am not sure. We will have to wait and see."
I don't know what they expected I just know the reality of Greg was not it. Greg HAS a family. Greg HAS a life. And even harder for them, Greg HAS a mom he is close to. I do not know if L and her family have the capacity to understand his truth due to a variety of issues, but in my attempts to be "liked" by them and not be seen as the possessive adoptive mother I didn't do a good enough job of stating that before we arrived. And they didn't try to understand that while we were there.
I am proud that my experience with Sr. was completely different. Sr. has written us hundreds of letters over the years. Those letters, and our replies, took the time and effort for him to get to know who we are as a family, and how his sons fit into that picture. He has read any and all adoption books we have sent him. He took the time to learn about what GREG might be feeling going through this, and his entire focus was on GREG. It makes our relationship with him so much easier. It makes GREG'S relationship with him so much more comfortable.
Nothing about our interactions with Sr. made Greg feel like it was an "either / or" proposition. Sr's role was in addition to Greg's place in our family. A positive, loving addition. Nothing is taken away by his place in our family, nothing is taken away by his place in Sr.'s family. We can come together to surround who counts the most in this, Greg and Eric. I am proud of that.
I wish L could have understood that by holding on to what she dreamed about with Greg, she lost what was possible with Greg. Because she so wanted one type of relationship with him that he wasn't willing to have at this time, she lost out on what could have been. Maybe forever.