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I read a blog post recently that caused me to do some thinking. Katelyn of “My Angels From God” posted "Things a Birth Mother shouldn't say to an adoptive mother." As a birth mother and an adoptive mother, she’s actually experienced her son’s birth mother saying most of the things listed to her.
Some of the things listed on the blog frankly blew me away. I cannot imagine saying most of those things to my daughter’s mother, especially one basically telling her how to parent. Like Katelyn says, we don’t have that ability to parent anymore. We lose that right to make daily parenting choices regarding our kids when we relinquish, though it can also be argued that supporting our child’s parents in their parenting roles is a parenting choice for us as well.
As difficult as it may be to stomach that choice, especially when we see the parents of our kids making decisions with which we disagree, we need to place and respect boundaries. We also need to respect boundaries the adoptive parents set, whether they’re implied or spoken.
Relationships grow and change with time. Sometimes, unfortunately, relationships break. An originally open adoption relationship may become closed. But the opposite may also become true. A semi-open adoption relationship may become more open with time as the adoptive parents become more comfortable with the relationship and with the birth mom and/or dad.
That’s what I’m hoping will happen in my own situation. Currently we don’t have their last name or their address. I have confidence that they will share this information with us someday, partially because we’ve been respectful of the boundaries they’ve set in the relationship. We’ve respected their parenting choices, and when we have visits, we constantly reaffirm them as parents. Maybe I’m a bit too nervous about that, but I’d rather reaffirm their roles over and over rather than have them question that we don’t think of them as her parents. Plus, this also reaffirms them to our daughter. She may not understand it quite yet, but I believe kids understand unspoken boundaries long before they understand verbal ones.
In an open adoption relationship, it can become so easy to step on one another’s toes, so to speak. There are no guidelines, no rule book. What works for one open adoption relationship may not work for another. There are many emotions involved on all sides and the dynamics that come with them can be complicated. Respect for the adoptive parents’ boundaries as well as the birth parents’ boundaries can go a long way toward resolving those dynamics.
What boundaries have you perhaps crossed in your own adoption relationship without intention to do so? Have you crossed any boundaries, spoken or not, with intention? Have you allowed your emotions to control how you respond to those boundaries even if you’ve set them for yourself?