back on the bus

I don’t even know how to write what I want to say.

This past weekend was rather intense. Actually there was a lot of tension leading up to this visit with Baby J’s bio-father, so it goes back farther than that. I am exhausted, relieved and still a bit anxious at the same time.

Sunday afternoon, T got back on a bus to continue his travels after his brief visit with us. He was in town overnight and the hours we spent with him (three on Saturday and nearly four on Sunday) were simply intense. I feel drained of energy and yet I also feel lighter with relief that at least we made it through this one.

First I should say that, lest anyone think that I normally feel this way about visits with our daughter’s birth parents, this was absolutely nothing like our visits with K. We look forward to our time with K with great anticipation. K is such a positive force of love and light and we regard her as family. In fact, we enjoy spending time with K more than some of our own biological family members. But that’s another story entirely.

We weren’t exactly sure, even by Saturday morning, if T was really going to make it. It wasn’t until he called from the road that I actually thought this visit might happen. Late Saturday afternoon, we picked him up, checked him into his hotel and went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for an early dinner. Afterwards, we hung out in the lobby for a bit before heading home for Baby J’s bedtime.

It was a long three hours.

Within ten minutes he was already making some inappropriate comments. Maybe he was nervous. Maybe he felt uncomfortable. Maybe he didn’t realize how inappropriate it was. Clearly he had no sense of the invisible boundary that should be there. In any case, I couldn’t find my words. I think M and I both were so put off that we just chose not to engage him at all and instead diverted the conversation and he eventually got the point. Awkward.

On the way home, we talked about it and decided that if anything remotely like that came up again the next day, we knew exactly what we would say. And that would be that.

His head seemed to be in a better place on Sunday morning. We grabbed some coffee and took a scenic ride so Baby J could get her morning nap. I thought we’d show him some famous redwoods but we didn’t have much time nor did we want to hike with the baby in the rain. We had a nice lunch and spent nearly four hours together. This time the conversation was a little easier, at least.

Still, it was exhausting to feel on guard the whole time, as we’re dealing with someone who has a history here. His losses go way back, far beyond Baby J. He has never had support or assistance to work through a lifetime of issues. He has a tendency to just “check out” for extended periods of time. He is unpredictable.

At one point, T explained that sometimes he says things he doesn’t really mean, suggesting that we might have to accept this as just something he does, or disregard what he says. M and I both jumped on that, essentially telling him that he’s going to have to get that under control because he can not be that way around our child. Our job is to protect her, we said, and he needs to take responsibility for his behavior around our daughter. It’s all about Baby J now, we told him. Yes, we’ve said that he is important to have in our life for her sake, but she is the priority, plain and simple.

Near the end of our time together, T noted how “healing” it is to be near Baby J. While I agree that her presence is a healing force — not unlike her birth mom K — I find this statement somewhat disturbing. Maybe that sounds a little harsh. But it is not our daughter’s role to heal him. Hell, it’s not her job to heal me either. As I’ve said before, I knew I had to heal myself before I could be this baby’s mama. It would be unfair to unload that burden on any child. Again, this isn’t about him but about her.

Part of the main problem here is I’m afraid that T will never see that this is not about him. It has never been about him and it will always be about about our daughter.

At the end of our visit, T said he’d like to see Baby J again soon. While we are open to future visits, we will have to continue to establish and maintain boundaries with him, which may include limiting the number of visits we are willing to have right now. This from the family that embraces full openness in our adoption.

I knew adoption would entail its own set of issues. I knew that navigating through complex relationships in open adoption could be challenging. Yet we signed on for this, knowing these challenges came with the territory. In contrast, our relationships with K and her family have been so positive, beneficial and affirming for everyone. When we’ve encountered tough moments, we’ve worked through them with openness, candor and trust.

In all honesty, sometimes I find myself wondering whether this would be easier if T were not in the picture, or if our adoption were not so open with regard to him. But I know why we are doing this, and as hard as it may be, I never lose sight of that. We want to keep that door open so that our child may walk through it some day, if she so chooses. What if one day she learned that we had the chance for her to meet him and we didn’t let it happen? No, we’re doing this because if we didn’t, we believe it would be harder for our daughter later.

But that doesn’t make it any easier now.

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~ by luna on January 26, 2010.

22 Responses to “back on the bus”

  1. I’m sorry that it was so challenging for you. I hope that T will mature and that someday J will benefit from the effort you’re making now.

  2. First, I admire you all SO much for the effort you are making on Baby J’s behalf-its such a selfless act. Im sorry its not easy with T right now–I do hope that he comes around and matures for her, and for YOU–sorry its not easy to deal with right now.

  3. wow glad you all made it thru that sounds very rough to me and it is hard to say ther right thing so maybe in that respect give him a little. I know no history on him though and he sounds very young or just very nervous.

  4. T sounds extremely self-centered, and it sounds as though you know enough to know there’s a reason for that. However, that does not excuse that type of behavior and it’s very hard to see your child being used as someone else’s project or crutch. I know, because I have at least one in-law who I think treats Bella this way to some degree. Like you, I just try and reiterate boundaries and acceptable behavior — not directly really, but in my own words and actions. The thing is, these kids grow up and they’ll get it whether the parents ever do or not.

    You’re lovely to hang in there, Luna. And to be so graceful about it all. I know a post on my family would be much harsher.

  5. I feel very uneasy about your interaction with T. Yes, the message has to be drummed in that it is not about him at all. I’m not surprised K isn’t with him anymore.

  6. I think it’s perfectly okay to have different levels of openness with the bio-people in Baby J’s life. You already know first and foremost that your duty is to keep her safe, physically and emotionally. If T doesn’t meet that criteria, then there I hope you will not feel guilty (on Baby J’s behalf) to take a step back, and communicate via photos and letters only for the foreseeable future, or until he matures a bit (or a lot, hopefully).

    We have a closed adoption (being international and all), and there are plenty of people I don’t want from my own bio-family around my kid, outta fear of what inappropriate things they have or will say, so this issue is not confined to the parameters of an open adoption, and bio vs. adoptive family-building.

    It’s not like you are shutting the door on Baby J and T forever – you need to make the most healthy of choices for her. Is this something you can bring up at your next support group meeting as a discussion point? I know that K and her mother sometimes attend, so if that is too uncomfrtable perhaps the group facilitator could put you in touch privately with other adoptive parents from the group who may have or are encountering this same issue, and you could have an outlet to vent and brainstorm via that route, too? Just a thought, and I suspect one you already have thought of anyway ;o)

  7. You are amazing. Have I mentioned that? You are going right by baby J so many times over. As a parent, you are what I want so many of us to be – someone who puts the child first, even if it is uncomfortable for us, the parents. Big hugs for getting through it.

  8. It occurs to me that just because someone fathers a child, that doesn’t necessarily give them carte blanche in the child’s life. As you’ve stated, it’s about Baby J, not T. It T has proven to be more effort than he is worth, sometimes the kindest act is to let them know that being in your lives is a privilege and not a right. Then the onus is on them.

  9. You have an incredible perspective, Luna. I love how you are able to set boundaries and how you never falter for one second at keeping Baby J your first priority. Thanks for setting such a good example for not only Baby J and T, but for all of us too.

  10. It’s true……. you are amazing.

    And you walk through some of the most complex shite with grace, respect and dignity which is a miracle of sorts. Stay true to yourself in this (and although there aren’t that many people I would say this to, I know I can say it to you) and you won’t go wrong.

    Best wishes

  11. I think it’s so great that you’re willing to give T the chance to build a relationship with Baby J. I hope he’s able to build some boundaries as time goes on so he’s able to be a safe person in Baby J’s life.

  12. I’m sorry that it was a stressful visit for you and hope that any future visits might be a little less stressful. I think you both are doing a fabulous job at this.

  13. Luna, I salute you. I have not yet braved the visit with HM’s bio-father. I imagine the scenario would be a lot like what you have described. You are a very strong woman.

  14. I am always so impressed with the way you bring it back to the child, placing the child in the center. Which isn’t to say that the grown-ups aren’t allowed to have feelings, but that the focus needs to be clear.

  15. It sounds like you and M handled the visit just right.

    I’m reminded of one of my best friends who divorced from her really dreadful ex-husband yet continued to share custody of their beautiful daughter because she believed it was important for the child to know her father, warts and all. If he had been dreadful enough to be an actual harm to the child, she would have whisked her away in a flash, but he was actually just obnoxious and self-centered (still is). Fast-forward a few decades: the daughter and father share a relationship that is important and grounding for both of them. At the same time, daughter has learned all about her father’s challenging personality traits and has learned how to draw her own boundaries with him. I have always thought that my friend performed the ultimate act of love by allowing him to stay in the child’s life. It’s a tricky balancing act with any difficult relative (bio or otherwise), and the best you can do is keep your eye focused on your child, just as you’re doing now. Hugs.

  16. YES! Sometimes it would be easier if adoptions were not so open. Fully disclosed adoptions carry a unique set of issues. I can relate to the exhaustion after a visit with bio dad. I too felt a quiet rage when the bio dad shared, “how healing it was to be around his daughter”. I had to dig deep, very deep to find empathy and to be kind. My hubby and I agree, we are not doing this to heal the bio parents, but if in the process it happens, AMEN. The beauty is the sense of completeness our 12 yr. old feels when she does connect with the bio family. They brought her into this world, but she is OURS to mold. We are mindful that while dysfunctional, they gave us an amazing gift. Filled with gratefullness and humility we respond with compassion and
    s-t-r-i-v-e to stay open for her sake.

  17. Wow. What an experience. Once again, thanks for sharing your journey.

  18. […] biological father T is another story, one that I won’t go into in great detail. I’ve written about him before without revealing much about his personal situation. He too lives a rather rustic life, often […]

  19. […] (We did later meet Baby J’s birth father when she was nearly five months old, and saw him again in January when she was nearly eight months old.) While that first meeting with Grandma Lea last summer went […]

  20. […] got a call from T, Baby J’s birth father, who we haven’t seen since January. He tends to disappear for a while and then re-emerge, sometimes calling out of the blue and asking […]

  21. […] Baby J’s birth father T (now known as Vic) this Sunday. Vic hasn’t seen Baby J since January, when she was 7.5 months old. He has tried to schedule a few totally unrealistic last minute […]

  22. […] we went to see Kaye and they lived in the same town. The second time was during a pit stop on a bus ride he took from one end of the state to the other. We haven’t seen him in nearly a […]

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