Analogies

Perspectives from the mouths of babes. Today’s story (as often is the case, not my own).

I keep thinking about the analogies the six year old in my care (guardianship) shared with me (a month ago and the other day) about the difference between a birth Mum and a guardian Mum.

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#1 We were driving in the car chatting and she stated randomly that I’m not her ”actual Mum”

I asked her what does she think “actual” means, she said “real”

I asked what does ”real” mean to her (I ask her what these things mean to her, not to question her/doubt her, but to understand where her mind is at and also quite frankly, to keep any potential offence in myself at bay, so I know exactly what she’s saying and not just what I’m reading into things)

She replied “you know how you have real plants and fake plants? Well the real plant is the real Mum”

I replied “so does that make me the fake plant?”

“Uhhhhh” was her reply, we both burst into laughter, “it’s okay babe, I’m okay to be your fake plant”

••••••••••••

#2 “You know how you can have a thick ladder? That’s an actual Mum, one who gave birth to a baby. Then there’s a thin ladder, who didn’t give birth… that’s you”

I could be thinking deeper into deeper than necessary, but this is what I hear.

• A thick ladder – you can climb up each step without hesitation, you trust it to hold your weight, it was created well for the job at hand •

• A thin ladder – you’ll be slower to climb it, making sure it’s sturdy enough to hold you, you’ll be unsure on each step wondering will this hold ?, it will likely need some reinforcements at some point to keep it functioning well and safely •

Oh the mind of this incredible and sore in her bones six year old.

What Is Child Endangerment?

When my children were very young, I used to worry that some rather innocent parental choice might cause us to lose custody of them. There was a memorable episode of The Simpsons – LINK>Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily – the third episode of the seventh season. Homer and Marge lose custody of their children to the state. The kids end up in foster care at Ned and Maude Flanders’ house. Marge and Homer were spending the day at a spa, while the children were in school. Baby Maggie was left in the care of her elderly grandfather, Abe Simpson. This caused the parents to be accused of negligence after Bart was sent home from school with head lice and Lisa was found shoe less. Child Protective Services agents arrived at the Simpson house and judged it to be under incompetent care.

This was much less likely when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I do remember getting in trouble for going too far from home on my bicycle. I also remember wandering in wild and remote spaces and never feeling concern from my parents, though in adulthood I learned they weren’t aware of the extent of my journeys LOL.

We never left our two sons alone and never even employed their grandparents (who lived next door) as overnight babysitters. I suppose we have been overprotective but they are still alive and have not gotten into any serious youthful trouble. They’ve been allowed to develop their own character absent being overly influenced by peers. So often I read in adoption related spaces how easily children have been removed from their natural parents for no more than poverty, which this country does pitifully little to address and probably will do even less in the next 2 years with extremist Republicans in charge of the federal government.

Two recent events have gotten my attention. This country has a serious double standard depending on one’s race and class status. One event is alluded to in the image I chose for today’s blog (more on that below). The other I just read about in The Huffington Post – LINK>What Is Child Endangerment? When Leaving Your Child Alone Becomes A Crime. I remember hearing a similar story from my own mother. She left two of us alone to run to the grocery store, I believe. We were discovered by a neighbor. My mom learned her lesson and the police and/or Child Protective Services were never involved.

The Huffington Post story was about two children, ages 2 years and 5 months, who were left alone in a New York City hotel room, sleeping and under camera surveillance, so that their parents could go out to dinner about a block and a half away. Life is what happens next. The father had a sudden heart attack at the restaurant and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The mother accompanied her husband in the ambulance. In the midst of this crisis, she asked both a close friend and her parents to rush to her children’s hotel room and attend to them (as she continued to monitor them by camera). However, the hotel denied entry to her friend (which actually is policy, I remember being with my dad but in a separate room in a hotel and he asked the front desk what room I was in and they would not tell him). In the case of these children, the hotel called NYPD.

The issue of a double standard comes up in this case, though the mother does face two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday. One commenter noted – “If she was a poor woman in an inner city she would’ve been arrested.” In fact, some children are left alone in inadequate circumstances by single mothers due to a lack of affordable child care options, while that mother must work to feed, house and clothe her children. Any individual can make a call to the police or to Child Protective Services, triggering a process leading to state involvement, which can include the parent’s loss of custody. New York’s juvenile court has defined such neglect with this example – “A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.”

This case gets attention because the parents are wealthy and well-known. As I have already noted – most other cases involve disproportionately poor and working-class parents who leave children alone when faced with a need to go to work or on a job interview, when they don’t have accessible, affordable child care. Families living in poverty or near poverty are judged far more harshly than wealthy parents. Parents who are taken to family court are at very high risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care. More often than you may think possible, this leads to the permanent termination of their parental rights.

The Guardian had an update this morning, LINK>No fight or warning before six-year-old boy shot teacher, say Virginia police, regarding the case of the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6 year old who brought a loaded handgun to school. The 9mm handgun used by the boy was bought legally by his mother and kept in the family’s home. It remains unclear whether the mother will face any legal charges. Virginia does not have a law that requires unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law that requires gun owners to affirmatively lock their weapons. The issue will be whether it can be proven that the mother’s actions violated a Virginia law that prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14. It could be argued by gun advocates that the child was never in danger – but certainly his teacher was.

Turning 18

I have sons that are 18 and 21. The 21 year old is more of an adult now than the 18 year old but maturity is making changes in the younger boy’s perspectives. My daughter grew up away from me. At 3 years old, she ended up with her dad and a step-mother because I simply could not earn enough to support the 2 of us with child care necessary to even to to work – added to that rent, food, pediatrician bills, clothes, etc. During her childhood, communication was always difficult. I didn’t live in the same town and felt the disapproval of her parenting adults when I tried to visit. I even gave her a prepaid calling card so she call me when it was the least disruptive in her family life. I do remember seriously looking forward to when she was mature and no longer lived with them. Thankfully, we do have a good relationship – maybe not perfect and I blame myself for the feelings of abandonment she has experienced.

Anyway, I do understand the perspectives in this birth mother’s story.

My younger child’s 18th birthday is coming up this month. We haven’t had any contact since last year, when his adoptive mother got upset that I had posted something about 17 years gone, one to go. Somehow she assumed that this meant that I wanted the kid to come live with me when they turned 18, but I just meant that the control freak adoptive mother would have less power over him then.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who adopted kids from Russia with his ex-wife has been completely alienated from them, and posted that he regrets ever adopting them in the first place. I guess his ex won whatever game she was playing. (This blogger’s note – a lot of people who adopted from Russia experienced huge challenges with those children.)

I’ve been tempted to just post publicly that the adoptive mother wins, that I regret ever having kids at all. When I saw “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” I thought about how there is no universe where I would have chosen to have kids and have her adopt them. Even if I’d been dying of cancer, I would have picked someone else to raise my kids. She’s been horrible to me so many times over the last 18 1/2 years, and still every few years, she’ll initiate contact with me and just pretend like all the past awfulness didn’t happen, or maybe that we’re equally at fault. She’s never apologized for anything, I don’t think she understands the concept. She’s said that she wants me to respect her as a “mother”, but I can’t even pretend to.

If on their 18th birthday, I posted that I regret that I had kids, would that make the adoptive mother happy? Is that what she wants? If I was really a horrible mother, then wouldn’t it make sense that I regret attempting to raise children? What does she want from me in order to at least not guilt trip them about any attempt to contact me? If I groveled before the Queen (the adoptive mother) and apologized for trying to raise my kids instead of being a docile handmaid, would that improve my chances of ever having a relationship with either child as adults? How am I supposed to feel? I guess if neither kid wants anything to do with me, they wouldn’t be checking my Facebook to see what I post.

This blogger’s perspective – There are no win situations in life and we simply can only do the best we can do.

Baby M

Mary Beth Whitehead with Melissa Stern

I may have been vaguely aware of this case back in 1985 when it hit the news but it was not really of all that much interest to me at that time, I had not even met the man who is now my husband of 34 years. Mary Beth was both the egg donor and the gestational surrogate, who was artificially inseminated with William Stern’s sperm. She was paid $10,000 to carry the pregnancy to term and she waved her parental rights in exchange. Her did request occasional photos and letters to provide her with updates on the baby. Upon seeing the baby, Mary Beth started having doubts about giving her away. Mary Beth demanded the baby back and wanted to renege on the contract.

Ultimately, the court granted custody to the Sterns and upheld the contract after a chilling conversation between Whitehead and William Stern was revealed in which Mary Beth threatened to physically harm Baby M. Upon hearing this, Whitehead was granted no parental rights. Mary Beth appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The appellate courts decided that it was in Baby M’s best interests to remain with the Sterns. However, they also completely voided the surrogacy contract and restored parental and visitation rights to Whitehead. In terms of paid surrogacy, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that it was “illegal, perhaps, criminal and potentially degrading to women.”

This story is back in the news because in 2021, New York’s Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA) went into effect. It is the most robust surrogacy law of its kind in the United States. The law legalized paid surrogacy in New York and also created a number of provisions meant to protect gestational carriers and intended parents (IPs) alike. A Surrogates’ Bill of Rights endows surrogates with a host of protections, including the right to choose their own doctors, consent to all medical procedures, and the right to health and life insurance all paid by the IPs. And the CPSA requires that New York’s Department of Health monitor and license surrogacy agencies — which act as middlemen screening candidates, matching IPs with surrogates, and facilitating compensation — something no other state in the US does. It also allows for nonbiological parents to be listed on a baby’s birth certificate in the hospital. The CPSA requires that a surrogate in New York state be at least 21 and a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, and she cannot use her own egg for the pregnancy. Under the CPSA, surrogates have the right to make all decisions regarding their bodies, including whether or not to terminate a pregnancy

Surrogacy is a polarizing issue. On the left are feminist critiques and concerns about commodifying a woman’s body. On the right, it triggers a panic over queer families and reproductive freedom. Some feminists, including Gloria Steinem who wrote in an open letter to former governor Andrew Cuomo, worry that women would be even more vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, and further subordinated as second-class citizens in the United States for the sake of making a sale.

There is more to this story in these links – [1] LINK> The Cut, a story about three women who have carried pregnancies after the New York legalized paid surrogacy law passed last year and [2] LINK> Family Source Consultants, The First Contested Surrogacy Case: The Story of Baby M.

One Reason We Never Trusted Others With Our Sons

I won’t publish her name as she has not been tried and found guilty, only charged with child abuse so far.

We have always kept our sons close and protected. We have wanted them to grow up and develop their character free from trauma and abuse. Certainly, we are not perfect parents but we do love them. They never spent a day in child care, they didn’t even go to local public school (where we were once told by a local parent that they practiced corporal punishment without parental consent) and they have never even had a babysitter. Never even spent the night with my in-laws who lived 5 mins away. Whether we did right by them or not is a subjective judgement, at least they are alive (yet another local youth appears to have met a bad end and we are sparsely populated here).

The woman shown in the picture here has been charged with child abuse. Video surveillance in the local day care is damning. She is accused of breaking the leg of a young male child and it was caught on camera. The poor little boy is also under the custody of a legal guardian. My heart breaks for him.

The child was dropped off at the daycare at 7:10am on July 14th. It is said that he was visibly upset and repeatedly attempted to go out the front door. I remember an incident with my daughter in day care. At first she seemed to love going to the family style home based day care while I had to go to work. But she became very upset and it troubled my heart so much, I left work. They had a half door and when I arrived I could see my daughter inside and a larger, older child bullying her with no adults present in the room to protect her. I removed her that instance. I found a woman with a child who wanted a companion for her daughter. In that arrangement, my daughter was always clean, well fed and rested when I picked her up at the end of my work day.

The woman shown in the photo above is said to have been a childcare worker for 12 years. She stated that when other workers have a problem child they bring that child to her. On the video, she is shown holding this child by the wrist with his arm extended above his head. Then she is alleged to have lifted the boy off the ground and dropped him – twice. No wonder the child was trying to get away from her. While he was on the floor, she was seen to lift her foot off the ground and come down hard on his right shin. The child began screaming in pain. He received no medical attention and no loving concern at the child care location.

The boy’s guardian was called to come and retrieve him. The guardian was not informed of the full situation until a Missouri Children’s Division investigator informed her of the events and that the woman involved would be charged. The guardian had taken the boy immediately to our local hospital ER, where it was discovered that he had a spiral facture of his right tibia. He was put into a cast which he will have to wear for 4 weeks.

Maybe we are overprotective but as my husband once said to me, our boys are too precious to allow them to be physically hurt by people who don’t love them the same way we do. I don’t regret it.

An Alternative to Adoption

Even before I knew so much about adoption, when secondary infertility became an obstacle to my husband’s desire to be a father, my OB-GYN said, “there is another way.” Now that I know more about the trauma that adoption causes, than I knew at that time, I will always consider this the best way. Even before we knew about that, my husband and I rejected the idea of adopting children. I do feel that sperm donors are more worrisome because the history of that kind of donation may include many, many half siblings. I have a biological, genetically related, grown daughter and two grandchildren, so having been there and done made accepting the “other” way easier for me personally.

Distance prevents us from having a closer relationship with our donor but my children have met her on more than one occasion. They are aware of her and that she has children, two sons and a daughter, which she has raised. Occasionally, I show them pictures of her and those children, when she shares them at Facebook. She has always been interested in the boys, while being non-intrusive but totally open to any relationship they may want to create with her. They have a private method of contact with her, if they wish to use that, through 23 and Me.

The Guardian today has another family’s story. “They used her eggs to have a baby. Now they’re one big family.” by Ellie Houghtaling, with photographs by Bridget Bennett. The subtitle notes – “Anonymity is meant to protect donors, but taking another path can afford a different sort of security – and new ways to think about how to raise a kid.” We took a similar path, our donor was a stranger we “met” on the internet and had what is called a “known donation”. We have not had exactly the same style of parenting as in this article. We have always been open and transparent with our sons about how they were conceived because they were wanted and not some kind of accident.

It is rare for families to meet the stranger donating eggs to them. In the US, egg and sperm donation is usually a closed process. It is more common for a family to hear about the donor through an agency. With anonymous donation, the couple may receive only basic, non-identifying features about their potential donor – such as their university or their eye color – without ever learning their name or hearing their voice. Most donors go through some testing. In the case of egg donation, hormone injections are utilized over a period of time to procure whatever number of eggs the donor produces. With agency facilitated anonymous donation methods, the donor is never told whether their donation was successful, who the family is, or what any offspring that result look like.

Before our first procedure (she donated again for our second son), we spent time with our donor and her youngest son. We were respectful of what she was doing for us. Both times, we provided her with whatever comforts she suggested would be helpful after her eggs were retrieved and have stayed in contact with her over the years. Our sons are genetically the same – the sperm and egg sources were the same for both. I see our donor and her children reflected in the appearance of our sons. It makes me happy – which might seem strange to some people – but I think it is a reflection of my fondness and appreciation for her. As far as being their mother – the donor has shown a total understanding of the differences in her and my roles. My sons treat me 100% as their mother, which seems natural and understandable regardless.

Becoming a family thanks to that “other way” has proven to be a good choice for my own family. Our sons seem to understand they would not even exist under any other circumstance.

The Brave New World

It is a reproductive fact – the egg contributes 50% of a person’s DNA, the sperm contributes 50% of a person’s DNA. For donor conceived children, the mother and/or father who is raising them may or may not be genetically related to them. Often, at least one parent is but in the brave new world of creating human beings utilizing reproductive technology – a child may be raised by a single mother who is not related at all to her child – though she may have carried the child and even breastfed her baby. The truth is that one’s marriage to their child is life-long, though as in the case of divorce, a genetically related parent may not be in their child’s life 24/7 or even throughout the childhood.

I do know of families with donor conceived children for whom the donor was anonymous – this can apply to egg donors as well as sperm donors. Fact is – Anonymity — as a pragmatic matter — can no longer be guaranteed to the donors who contribute to the existence of any donor conceived person. Donor-conceived people have interests all their own. Not all donor-conceived people know about their origin, and many express an interest in knowing more about their donors, including medical and identifying information. In a group of adult donor-conceived offspring from the 256 families that were eligible to receive identifying information, 85 (35%) contacted the clinic for this purpose. Many of those who contacted the clinic did so within the first three years after they turned 18, with the most common motivation to obtain information about their donors, including who they are as a person, their reasons for donation and their medical and health information. Third, recipients have a strong interest in knowing about the health risks their future children may experience based on the medical history of the donor.

Today, a woman writes – I’ve decided to conceive through a known local donor and my own egg. The child will know this man is their biological father. We are planning on meet up at least every 2 weeks from birth and he will receive plenty of pictures. He has also agreed to donate a second time in about 2 years so that my children will be biological siblings. (my note – that is certainly what my husband and I have as sons.) My question is, is there anything I’m overlooking in my excitement that I can do differently for the well-being of the child with this set up?

There are some details that sound like they haven’t been worked out yet. Is this an informal sperm donation or is it being arranged through a bank? Will he be listed on the birth certificate as the child’s father? Have you asked for perspectives from donor conceived people? Do you have a support system to help you raise the baby if he is not planning to be involved financially or practically? Has anything been drawn up legally? If he is not on the birth certificate as the father then he has no responsibility to help, participate or abide by your wishes. Sperm donors are not treated as the father of the child by law. No matter how much you may like and trust him today, things can change. To be clear, I am not against you creating a donor conceived a child. I encourage you to work out the legal details and to really think about the what if‘s no matter how unlikely they may seem now.

One response and some additional questions was this – The most ethical way to do this would be to list him on the birth certificate as the father and actually co-parent with him, not just let the child meet up with him every two weeks. Do you really think that would work out long term ? How would you handle it if the child tells you they want more time with their dad, overnights or to live with their dad or anything at all ?

Then there was this – What about when dad develops a new relationship with a woman who wants him all to herself?? To be with her and their “real” kids? Followed by an example – I actually know someone who was in this exact situation. She did what you are hoping to do, with a man who she thought would be in her child’s life forever. He moved across the country, married a woman who was/is extremely uncomfortable with the situation, they had kids together, and now he hasn’t seen his oldest child in over 2 years.

The woman in the question doesn’t want a romantic relationship and so that brings up another issue – You can forgo a romantic relationship, while also not procreating with a stranger. I do not understand why anyone would have a child with a man you do not know and then give that man access to your child. It takes a level of intimacy to trust someone to father your kid, doesn’t have to be romantic.

Again, more questions – what happens if you do meet somebody and fall in love, and your partner wants to take on the role of “dad” and feels threatened by the child’s relationship with its father ? And mentioned before – What happens if the father meets somebody and falls in love and she feels threatened by it, and tells him she doesn’t want him involved with you and your child ? What happens if he gets a job opportunity that moves him across the country, or even across the world ?

A woman choosing to donor conceive really needs to seriously think through the situation and there are situations where it does make sense and can be handled well. So just some final thoughts –

Both need to be absolutely certain on how that would work. Couples that intimately know each other can struggle to communicate well enough to co-parent, even within a marriage, and even more so when they live apart. You mentioned the specific of every two weeks having visits but what do you expect the visit to entail? How will you communicate changes in schedule? Are there financial obligations? Would your expectations change if his financial situation changed? What influence would he have on life decisions such as education, religion, place of residence, activities etc. What if someone needs or wants to move? Will you be able to control who else is included in the visits? How will his family be included or excluded? How will you handle inevitable disagreements on important issues? Do you have it legally planned out if something should happen to you and you are unable to parent or pass away? Planning to have full legal custody doesn’t guarantee you will make every decision on your own for the child. Are you financially prepared to confront additional legal barriers? You also mentioned having a sibling in two years which opens a new can of worms so to speak. I have watched so many of my friends struggle to work with someone they once loved navigating these issues. Some no longer recognize the person they chose (it happened) to father their child. Parenthood fundamentally changes people and it does seem you could set you and your child up for tremendous conflict. I think I would have multiple friends and family members write down every potential question they can think of and discuss how you can legally address these questions. I would also set up a prescribed procedure that should be followed when conflict does arise. I hope that is something attorneys can legally require. I’m sure you have thought a lot about what you expect, just be certain all of the potential legal issues are addressed to the best of your ability. In my opinion it would be a mistake to cross bridges when you come to them or rely on the donor to be a benevolent actor.

And just this advice – for your own protection, talk with a lawyer first. I got a free consult with a lawyer with expertise in this area, and decided a sperm bank was a better choice. There are a lot of cases, especially in certain states, where your donor could be considered a father, and could take custody, even with a legal agreement in place. Or could prevent you from moving out of state, etc. Took me awhile to let that dream go, but it was the right choice for me.

And though there aren’t many yet (I have read an essay from one myself who recognized she would not exist otherwise, which I thought a very healthy perspective) here are some Thoughts From A IVF Donor Conceived Person (if you want to read some more from such a person’s perspective). With this one, I thought this was also a healthy perspective – “I have never doubted that I was wanted, I’ve always known I was meant to be here on this earth. My conception wasn’t down to mystical chance, I had purpose and meaning to both sets of my parents from the moment I was conceived in my little Petri dish.”

Personally, as a last word, I can relate to this as I experienced secondary infertility, I was simply too old to conceive naturally any longer, even though I did give birth to a genetically, biologically related child – “Finding that you need assistance in conceiving does not mean you have failed, and it doesn’t mean any child you conceive through assisted reproduction is in any way ‘artificial’ or different from naturally conceived children. I’m proud of both my biological mother and my mother. IVF doesn’t make them any different to other parents, and raising a child that was not her own biological material doesn’t make my mother less of a parent.”

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A Complicated Relationship with Love

“No one has a more complicated relationship with love than a child who was adopted.” from an article in Psychology Today titled The Complicated Calibration of Love by Carrie Goldman. Children are the only ones who simultaneously crave, reject, embrace, need, challenge, inhale, absorb, return, share, fight, accept, and question your love on a daily basis.

How does the world convince an adoptee they are loved and valued ? The same world that thrust a great injustice upon this child by separating them from their first mother and possibly siblings, the world that passed them along to a doting foster mom to whom they became attached and then separated them again, the world that dropped this child into the outstretched, naïve, and eager arms of adoptive parents, their greatest joy intricately tied to the child’s greatest sadness, the world that views this child’s story as a happily-ever-after and now expects them to be grateful, happy, well adjusted, and perfect at all times—how does such a child learn to trust the love of that world?

Carrie notes – To match the giving of love with the exact need of any recipient is a moving calibration. There is no reliable unit of measurement for something so imprecise as human affection. We try. We offer up our love in words and actions, hoping to meet the ever-changing needs of our lovers, our children, our friends, and our families – every relationship that matters takes some work.

When one person in the relationship inhales the sour breath of the beast that is insecurity, a beast whose presence twists the very air between two humans and makes greater the flaws that beckoned it in the door. Insecurity, also known as fear, feeds on the dark and scary parts of the mind, growing in strength and power as it distorts what is real and what is imagined.

Sometimes insecurity grows too large until there is almost no space left for the relationship. But the antidote to such despair is hope, and hope, fortunately, needs less fuel to stay alive. These dynamics occur in any relationship, and the intensity can be magnified by a thousand when one of the partners is an adoptee.

The choice to be an adoptive parent is built on mountains of hope, oceans of hope, forests filled with the hope that a thousand seeds planted might one day yield a mighty tree. What combination of internal resilience, good parenting, genetics, access to birth history, love, acceptance of grief, and endless empathy is needed to raise an adoptee to wholeness ?

An adoptee did not choose to be adopted at a very young age; it was foisted upon them and packaged as “you’re so lucky” by the world. An adoptive parent must allow and validate all the feelings and viewpoints, even the ones that don’t fit the happily-ever-after narrative. 

An adoptee is unlucky. They are not growing up with their first family. If biological children for their adoptive parents are also in the picture, they cannot help but wonder if the adoptive parents love their biological children more. Many adoptees worry they will never be good enough. Most adoptee do battle with legitimate fears of abandonment in every relationship they enter into throughout life. Often an adoptee rages against the unfairness of being adopted and basically hates being adopted.

~ Carrie Goldman writes a parenting blog called Portrait of an Adoption.

They Grow Up

Image Created by Irene Liebler

We currently have baby birds in a nest at the end of our back porch getting ready to fledge. We have witnessed many such events. When I first married my husband, my mother in law said “We are nest builders.” She had a lifelong love of birds and of her family. So today, an adoptive mother lamented. She adopted a 12 year old from foster care. The child is now 21 years old. I have a 21 year old myself who sometimes gives the impression of getting restless though he has not yet flown the nest. This woman’s son has joined the army reserves and is on his way out of the country on assignment.

She was trying to say goodbye to him, when he replied – “I don’t want to talk. I’m trying to get away from you guys (ie her husband and herself). I’m an adult now and you can’t force me to live with you. I was trying to leave on a good note.”

Much like the advice – “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” – attributed to Kahlil Gibran, I thought these were very good insights –

The best thing a former foster parent and adoptive parent ever said to me was that you spend the short time you have with kids teaching them right from wrong and hope they take that with them into adulthood.

When they turn 18, they will leave to find their biological families. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. If their first families are doing well, then great! If they are not, you pray that what you taught them sticks and that they navigate their relationships in a way that keeps them mentally/physically safe.

If kids come back to you/stay in your life is dependent on your relationship with them before they became adults. It’s also dependent on how you spoke about their first families and if you encouraged a relationship.

Kids are people that grow up and become their own people. They have the RIGHT to leave the nest for a reason, a season, or forever.

It’s Called Being A Parent

In my household, we have always had a family bed. Actually, it is two king-size platform beds placed side by side. We have a rather unconventional lifestyle. Our sons are self-educated with massive support from us at home. Our internet is satellite and the best speed and availability is during the “bonus” time overnight. So, sometimes and not every night, the boys are awake while the parents sleep. Things seem to be “normalizing” a bit more for us as they mature but they are often asleep in the daytime. BTW we had them evaluated and both perform educationally at a level higher than their peers – so we’ve not ruined them.

The youngest sleeps to my right at the outside edge of the sleeping space. I sleep towards the middle. My oldest son to my left and my husband on the far left edge. Though I absolutely am terrorized when I hear the sound of throw-up coming and do not relish our bed, my pjs and everything else being covered in it – I am still grateful that our sons have never suffered illness out of our awareness or even nightmares for that matter. I fully realize we are a bit unusual in that regard but it is how we live in a one-room cabin of an old farmhouse where the upstairs space is neither heated nor cooled and therefore not really livable anyway. I also admit that if I am very ill, I become entirely dependent on care from my husband as though I were a helpless child. I am unable to care properly for my own self, lack the motivation to do so. This is the way families ought to be for one another.

I readily recognize that being a foster parent is a choice and for some – a means of adding revenue in the form of stipends – which are meant to be used for the expenses related to their foster care youth but are not always used for such. Therefore, I also recognize that many lack the commitment to these children that a parent usually (and I realize not always) has for their own biological children.

Therefore, I appreciated this response from someone, after seeing the image at the top of this blog –

So, my kids have all contracted the stomach bug twice in the last month and have all vomited on my couch, bed, clothes, bathroom, in my car and in between the stomach bugs have had a new virus or infection every week. Then on top of that my 6 year old has nightmares and anxiety. I’m 20 weeks pregnant and have not slept in a month. But am I thinking of dumping them somewhere else because of their audacity to get sick every week, vomit and pee anywhere other than the toilet, or interrupt my sleep? NO. It’s called being a PARENT. It fu*king sucks sometimes, yes, but life goes on!! If someone can’t handle another kid living in their home and being part of their family, and experiencing kid/life stuff on top of their trauma (that they have ZERO control over), then they should NOT foster. PERIOD. Makes me so angry. Also the husband “not being able to help” – get outta here. I’m a severe emetophobe but even I step up when someone needs help and it involves puke. I want to die in the moment, but there’s just no excuse, it’s called being an adult.