Saturday, June 16, 2012

Open Adoption Roundtable #39: Fathers' Day

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write to someone else in the adoption constellation (someone specific or a general group). What do you want to say to them on Father’s Day?

To my Father,

I have much to be thankful to you for. But this Fathers' Day my thoughts on our relationship are melancholy. I wish you could see me as the man I am today. There is little I want more than for our relationship to be vital and current, both in the events of our lives and in our development as men. I wish you could respect me as a father.

The choice I made with Athena to place our son with another family was difficult for you. I know that to be true because it was difficult for everyone. All adoptions are difficult. But that's the only reason I know it was hard for you. You never told me how you felt, never shared your experience. It felt like you withdrew because of our decision and the way we went about it. I know we placed you in a precarious position. I'm sorry for that. But I also know how I felt. I was angry, sad, and felt very alone. Through out the course of the adoption process my family was not my ally. Still, nearly three years later, we don't talk about it.

I wish you would ask how your first grandson is. He's talking, running, developing a mile a minute, and he doesn't know you. I wish I could show you all the pictures I take of him and all the pictures Ms Scarlet sends me. But either it is too uncomfortable to look at, or you truly don't care. I wish my son could have you as a grandfather. When you play and coo over my nephew, just months younger than my son, I see what a great grandfather you are. I want that for Festus. I want that for myself. I want to feel that I'm still your son. I want to feel that either of us is important enough to seek, to call after, to pursue a real relationship with.

I wish you could see that I am a father. I wish you didn't pretend my son died. Though I'm not a father to him the way you were to me, he is my son.

Happy Fathers' Day dad.

I hope next year, we can both celebrate.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shameless Plug

I have written a guest post for America Adopts. It's a relatively (for me) short piece ruminating on Fathers' Day and fatherhood generally.

Lawrence, my contact there, has also put together a forum. It's still in it's infancy as it literally just launched. Still, if you're interested in a more direct conversation about adoption it's worth heading over. Introduce yourself, get the ball rolling. Similarly the birthfathers' forum has moved, so change your bookmarks. The new forum is off to a bit of a slow start. Personally I'm really invested in making this one work, so don't be shy about heading over and participating. Remember, it isn't just for birthfathers. It's also for anyone looking to talk with/learn about birthfathers and our experiences.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Living with it

In the near future Prof Plum, Ms Scarlet, and Festus will be moving. At least that's the plan. Last I knew they hadn't yet found a new house yet, but the hunt is on and the motivation is strong. Believe it or not this is actually very welcome news. They're moving closer to us! I'm really glad for this, as it not only simplifies their lives (Prof Plum will  have a drastically shorter commute to work) but it also makes it even more convenient for us to visit. It feels a little funny to talk about our visits being easier, as even now we're only 35 minutes away by car. Unfortunately, this underscores a slow dawning realization for me that I'm less comfortable with.

Our visits have become a bit less frequent. The same is true of chatter back and forth in terms of e-mails and such. I wish we were meeting more frequently, that more pictures were being sent back and forth, but they aren't. Unfortunately I tend to be a worrier anyway, so this isn't playing out particularly well in my mind. Worse is knowing exactly who is responsible:

It's me.

I'm entering a major transition period, and I'm not handling it very well. I've never been particularly graceful with significant change, and I'm definitely bungling this one. The major change going on is primarily financial. As such it's pretty stressful, and as mentioned above, I'm a worrier by nature anyway. Given that mine is the sole income for the household this transition feels very high stakes. But this feels like a big problem because it's interfering with my relationships.

My preoccupation with my finances is keeping me from reaching out and continuing the conversation with my adoption family. Flatly put, that isn't okay. It's taken some time for me to recognize that was going on in the first place. Now that I have the only thing I know to do is, simply, live with it. It isn't comfortable, and I certainly don't like it. But the best I can do is try to quiet my mind, let it be uncomfortable, and try not to ruminate. This is another significant change for me, as my previous answer to such difficulties was to try harder. For a long time that worked. Unfortunately my work for the last five years has taken advantage of that attitude. As a result, I've compromised my health.

Balancing the need to work more against the need for self-care is a common struggle. It often plays a major role in adoption plans. Fiscal poverty and physical poverty often work in tandem. When an adoption takes place with a primary goal of placing the child in better circumstances, it is common to applaud the first family, then dote on the child. Sometimes triumphant stories are shared about first parents who overcome their difficulties and persevere, entering the middle class or overcoming drug addiction. Unfortunately, for many people, this never happens.

Many first parents place their children because of a their realistic understanding of socioeconomic mobility. For many their circumstances of necessity do not begin with an inopportune pregnancy. Nor do they end there. It's rather common to hear first mothers described as being "brave" and "strong" by their counterparts in the adoption world. It's true that going through an inopportune pregnancy results in a huge amount of personal growth and development. But most of these women didn't become brave by facing down doctors. Defending themselves against judgmental peers and family wasn't their first call to strength. Many of these women had been tested well before their pregnancy. And their mettle will continually be tested after it as well. But the cheerleading usually stops there.

Almost no one cheers the woman buying her groceries with an EBT card. I've yet to see anyone high five a man picking soda bottles out of trash cans on his lunch break. As a society we deplore poverty. In adoption we recognize its powerful impact. Yet we aren't being honest about it, or our attitudes toward it. We can't hope to change it if we aren't willing to recognize what it is, and how common it is.