Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gifts in the Balance

This weekend, between a bout of the nasty stomach flu that hit the boys, I wrapped, assembled and packaged gifts.

I have always sent gifts back to Missouri to our sons' first family, in particular L and their siblings. Not every single birthday has been remembered, but every Christmas certainly. Gifts signed from the boys, chosen carefully and sent so in some small way we let them know we were thinking of them.

Not once has a gift or a card or an acknowledgement been sent or spoken in return. It doesn't matter to me, but now it does matter to the boys. The boys are loudly resistant to send anything at all and Greg in particular has been vocal about it since our visit this summer.

I can imagine all sorts of reasons why gifts or a card has never been sent. Maybe the financial pressure is too much? Maybe they don't even think of it? Maybe they don't know what to send or how to send it? Are our seasonal expectations so vastly different? All possibilities I suppose, although I would love to hear your opinions.

If only they knew how little is expected. A Christmas Card would suffice. A note. A letter. An unsolicited phone call. Anything to agknowledge the value of the boys to them during the season.

I do know that the culture of our relationship is now establised. Clearly the expectation when we visited was that Greg would give and they would receive. Yet they bought a gift for me, the purse. Still nothing given was to Greg, and nothing sent home for Eric.

So this year, for the first time, I signed the gifts with love from ME. Gifts for the girls, gifts for big brother, gifts for cousin, gifts for L and her husband all from me. Eric chose to sign a card for his brother, but all other cards and gifts were ignored by the boys. They saw me buy them, wrap them and know I intend to send them, they just don't want anything to do with it.

I don't know if its the right decision to take this on, but it is also our truth. The gifts are from me to them with love and concern because I care about them. Right now, they are not from the boys. So do I think that the family will even notice the difference? No, not for a second but it still feels to me like the right thing to do.

I want and need to empower the boys to take ownership of their relationship and give them back a voice. At almost 13 and 14 I suppose it is time. I hope so anyways.

What do you think?


Vanessa said...

You know sadly I have this same battle in my mind right now as I journey back to Guatemala this Wednesday. I have always given to my child's first family and they seem to take and offer nothing to her in return. The birthmom makes jewelry and asked if she could make something for her to keep and nothing! This time I decided not to go all out and buy them food and one small gift per child and that's it!!
I would also let your boys family know how much it bothers them and maybe it never occured to them because i know once Arianna is old enough to decide I will do as she wishes!!
It's so hard when you care about them, but sometimes I think it may be better to walk away, but for now I grin and bare it!

Anonymous said...

I would have probably just sent a card without any gifts and signed the card from you.

Anonymous said...

I think it's kind of idiotic for anyone to think that we, mothers of our children, wouldn't have relationships with our children's other mothers and fathers independent of our children, yanno. Yes, my son has a relationship with *all* his family. I do, too.

So, you know what, we've been in the same boat for years - sending gifts, never receiving anything back except a thank you maybe. At first I was kind of hurt but then I got over it. This is not about reciprocation. It's about loving these people and sending an expression of MY love for them as well as my sons'.

Should he get to where your sons are, then his name isn't going on the gift. That will be his choice and Jen I'm proud that you're doing the same. If he's angry down the line that he is not acknowledged gift wise then, well, that's his issue to address. For me there will always be a gift because they are now my family too. How could they not be? I see them every day in his eyes, the shape of his chin, the sense of humor and the quiet assessments.



Andy said...

Jen, I definetely think you are doing the right thing and letting the boys have some control over the situation. It's hard no matter what though, isn't it? I'm in the same boat, and about to have that conversation with Liam.

Anonymous said...

I think that is such a sweet thing to do. I also think its good that you give your sons a choice as to whether they wish to sign their name on a card or gift. That choice alone will allow them to continue to trust you and believe that you are loyal to them.

As a flawed human being, I recognize that most people do not go out of their way to send gifts to their own family members they are estranged from...and I admit it blows my mind that an adoptive parent would go out of their way for parents who have hurt their child.

My child expressing his hurt or indicating that he did not feel loved by his first mother would actually make me question why I was sending them gifts if it hurt my child to see me befriending the people who hurt him by ignoring him.

I consider it a blessing that babe's mother is just as enamored by him as I am, and loves to hear how he is doing and even my comments on how sweet, funny, intelligent of a boy he is. I love that she has an ease in interacting with him when we visit.

To describe my child, think of the Toni Morrison quote that a child wants to know if the adults in his life's faces light up when he walks in the room.

I know my child enough to know how deeply it would hurt him if his mother didn't acknowledge him and I was sending her gifts to tell her how much I love her, and telling my child that she loves him, yet my child was feeling unloved and rejected by her, and possibly betrayed by me as well.

I would have sent a card signed from myself, so they get the same honor that my family gets every year where everyone gets a Christmas card from us.


Unknown said...

I think ** to me personally ** I owe her the updates and photos I promised her when I found her and she sent me two precious baby pictures of Greg that without her sending we wouldnt have had any. I think I owe her that until the kids are adults, then it will be there responsibility.

The gifts I send the adults are almost ALWAYS photo oriented - usually nice frames, or some sort of gift like that. This year, a nice matted 5X7 on one side with six smaller holes for photos from the year on the other - I gave two, one for each kiddo. They are nice, but not extravagant or overly personal - and they are child focused.

For the kids however, I have a problem with simply sending a card. When I was there, particularly Oldest Sister (now 6) remembered the fact I sent gifts, and she liked them. I feel a responsibility, at least while those kids are young, to foster some sort of positive feelings between the siblings. And what else can I do other than send small gifts that hopefully pass on the message that we are thinking of them? For big bro, I sent a hoody and a book. For the sisters, princess dress up dresses and matching sweaters. Nothing big, but stuff I know they will appreciate.

Adrienne (and Crick elsewhere) brings up a good point though. At some point I owe it to the boys to be honest and express what maybe they can't because I have always been so uber-positive about the relationships.

Its strange, I feel less torn about the other side of the family and I don't send them any gifts :) just cards and our family christmas letter. UGH the conflict and really, I know at the heart of it for me is the kids, particularly the little girls who are so precious and so vulnerable and I want them to know when I told them I loved them and wouldn't forget them, I meant it.