open adoption roundtable: grandparents

It’s been a while since I participated in the Open Adoption Roundtable, though not because I don’t have anything to share.  The OAR is “a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption.” For the 35th OAR, the prompt is this:

“Write about grandparents in open adoption.”

For us, open adoption means extending our family to include our child’s family of origin, which means, more grandparents!

Jaye has five sets of grandparents with varying levels of involvement and contact, plus a great grandmother.  She could have even more, if my father were still alive, or if we had access to her birth father’s father (he’s the only birth grandparent we may never meet).

While our parents love and adore their granddaughter, the grandparent who lives closest to us and who sees her most often is Kaye’s mom.  She was there when Jaye was born, and we visit with her at least every few months.  Now that Kaye lives hours away, this relationship exists independent of her.  There is a very strong maternal line through Kaye’s family, especially through the first-born girls, so Jaye has a very significant place in her family of origin.  (In my family too, my mother was the only girl and so was I, so Jaye assumes a prominent role as our daughter.  I can only imagine if my own Nana was still alive, how she’d want to spoil her so…)

We have been so fortunate to have such a close relationship with Jaye’s birth grandmother.  When we initially shared our philosophy about openness, she was so grateful that she would be able to see her first grand child.  We explained how contact benefits everyone, and that has borne out in practice.  Before Jaye was born, we met Kaye’s grandmother who was reluctant about the adoption plan and already grieving her first (yet unborn) great grandchild. To her, adoption meant only loss. It was partly a generational thing – i.e., she came from an era where adoptions were closed and a matter of secrecy and shame; openness was a foreign concept.  Over dinner, we talked about how we absolutely wanted to maintain a relationship, how we believed the more love the better.  We said that we could offer this child so much, but this was something so fundamental we could not imagine a child’s life without it.  By the end of the evening, we were sharing tears and hugs and exchanging phone numbers and addresses.

To this day, these women (Kaye’s mom and grandma) have treated both of our girls as their own kin.  When our second daughter was born, they embraced her not just as our child or as Jaye’s little sister, but as another granddaughter and great granddaughter.  For this, I am so very grateful. They sent generous and thoughtful gifts, and Kaye’s mom stocked our fridge. But it’s more than that. They hold us out as their own; they’ve embraced us (and our second child) as family, as kin. That’s not just wonderful for us, but for Jaye too — i.e., that she won’t have to feel divided, or better yet, that she may feel whole, in whatever sense possible. Of course, the dynamic may change as Jaye gets older and they want to spend time alone with her. We’ll have to see how to handle that in the future.  For now, we are a package deal.

Jaye also has a relationship with her birth grandfather and his wife (Kaye’s dad and step-mom).  Though we don’t see them as often, they seem open to maintaining a relationship.  While it takes effort and persistence to organize those visits, it is so worth it when we see them and listen to stories and when Jaye can feel their love and affection.

Finally, while Jaye does not remember meeting her biological father as a baby, she has twice met her grandmother on that side. I wrote about those visits at the time as initially tense. Because they live further away, we maintain the relationship primarily by email, with summer visits when possible. Ultimately I am grateful for that relationship, however tenuous, because it may be the only connection we have to her birth father.

Then there are our parents.  Although my mom has been sick, she visits every chance she gets and we speak to her several times a week. She is still trying to figure out Skype and Facetime to “see” us more often.  Unfortunately Mac’s parents are too elderly and unwell to travel, but we connect with them through Skype and regular phone calls. Because of the age and health of our own parents – plus their physical distance – we are all the more grateful to have involvement from Jaye’s birth grandparents.

Grandparents are pretty special people.  This girl has five grandmothers, three grandfathers and a great grandmother in her life. Does she think that’s unusual? She knows no different. All she knows is how many special people love her so much. And that is a pretty cool thing.

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~ by luna on March 15, 2012.

4 Responses to “open adoption roundtable: grandparents”

  1. LOVE it. I especially love the last paragraph where you list them off….and then you ask if Jaye thinks it’s unusual. Nope. Of course not. She just knows it’s more people to love her and that’s the very cool part!

  2. You can never have too many grandparents. ; ) When my sister & I were growing up, we had several elderly people we called “Grandma” & “Grandpa” besides our own grandparents (whom we loved). We lived pretty far away from our grandparents growing up, yet there always seemed to be a kindly elderly spinster or widower in the neighbourhood who enjoyed spoiling us. The more the merrier, right? ; )

  3. Quite a similar situation here. Today, ironically, is my daughter’s birth granmother’s birthday…the day after my own mother’s birthday. B-gramma is the closest to us geographically. I love having her in our family life. I was raised with a step-grandma who joined our family the year I was born. my Dad called her “mom” out of respect for her role in our family. It took me years to figure out we weren’t blood relatives. I call my daughter’s b-gramma “mom” because we experienced the birth together and she treats and supports me Iike a daughter. I realize we’re darn lucky. I better go call my other mom and wish her happy birthday.

  4. I think this is such a fabulous thing. As someone who has very little actual family in my life and the people in my life that I consider family are all chosen family members it was always a fear that I wouldn’t be able to provide grandparents etc for any children I may have had. That you have such a wonderful extended family is fantastic.

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