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Sharing around this week

fallpumpkin-insideHere are some things that caught my eye and that I shared on my Twitter or Google Plus or on my Building Family Counseling Facebook page this week:

  • Catie, my co-facilitator for the All Adoption group has decided to create a casual, peer support Central Ohio Adoptee only group! If you or anyone you know might be interested in meeting up monthly, please join the Facebook page to get more info. This is SO SO NEEDED and I’m really thrilled she’s doing it!
  • I loved these pictures from the Humans of New York book review over at Brain Pickings. I don’t think I’d be happy living someplace so crowded but I sure do like knowing that it’s there to visit.
  • My friend Janine’s father died last week and she shared this post of her memories of being a little girl and spending time with him. Janine is a terrific, terrific writer and ought to be in your feed readers.
  • Spilt Milk wrote about having her children nearly removed from her care when she was struggling with a crisis in her mental health. Mentally ill mothers can be good mothers, too.

Finally, please click the last link for a quick pick-me up!


Father’s Day, Birth Fathers and Adoption

jumpThis week at this month’s All Adoption Meeting we talked about fathers and there were fathers there (there aren’t always) of both the birth and adoptive variety and we talked about birth fathers in particular. I am thinking about that as I read the prompt from the Open Adoption Bloggers:

Father’s Day is this weekend in many places and–as we did in 2009 and 2012–I thought we spend a roundtable focusing on dads. As always,  feel free to adapt the prompt to fit your personal situation, whether that means interpreting “your father” as one of your fathers, a father figure, or something else altogether.

Write about adoption and your father.

I can’t write about adoption and my father because 1) I’m no longer writing a personal blog; and 2) if I was writing a personal blog, my ideas about what I’m willing to say about family members has changed a lot since I first started writing into the void in 2001. So I can’t write about my father or my children’s fathers (because one of my children has two fathers seeing as how she’s adopted) therefore I am just sitting here and thinking about fathers and thinking about how many of them are missing from the adoption stories.

Because they are often missing we end up building a narrative about why they are missing. Some of these narratives are based on fact and some are based on less fact than others and some aren’t based on any facts at all. We have these stereotypes about fathers — that they don’t matter as much as mothers; that they don’t love their babies as much as moms do; that they’re always trying to get out of the hard work of parenting — but they’re just stereotypes.

OK, I will tell a personal story that is not my personal story only I will leave out lots of details to keep it private.

Many many years ago when I was a young dating girl there was a boy I dated who thought maybe — just maybe — he had a son. What he knew was this: There was a girl he briefly dated who showed up at school pregnant and nobody knew what happened next but the rumor was that she placed her baby boy for adoption. At least she came back to school not pregnant and there wasn’t a baby living at her house and this is how everyone assumed that happened. And this young man (who was very young when I knew him so even younger when this happened) didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how to approach this young woman about the pregnancy way back then and he didn’t know how to talk to her about the adoption after.

It’s no wonder because he was, as I said, very young. He was at the age where he was just learning how to navigate relationships and he got in over his head. She was in over her head, too. I’m sure that their parents felt in over their heads, too, because raising teenagers is hard.

Basically his story is the story of feeling overwhelmed and not having a guidebook. And worse yet, not knowing that he is important (that fathers are important) because we have this cultural message that fathers are important but mostly in the financial sense. As a teenage boy without a job being raised by a single mom who had her own struggles, he didn’t think he had any business involving himself in his ex-girlfriend’s decision. After all, what did he have to offer but his own self? Which was not, he felt, much to offer. He decided it was best if he just leave her be especially since the break up wasn’t a particularly good one.

During our All Adoption Meeting when we were talking about fathers  I was thinking about this boy I knew more than 25 years ago, and I was thinking that if he was the father and if the mom did choose adoption that the adoptive parents (and perhaps the social workers or lawyers) probably have this idea about who he is and this idea would be based on fact (that he didn’t step up or even talk to her, which is a pretty jerky thing to do) but not entirely on fact (because he’s not a jerk even if his behavior was jerky; he was just a kid in over his head).

Not that he stands for every birth father anymore than any particular birth mother stands for every birth mother, mind you, but I thought about this story and thought about the adoption situations I know and that I live and thought about birth fathers and I missed their voices in the discussion. I miss their stories.

Ann Fessler, who wrote The Girls Who Went Away and directed A Girl Like Her (based on the book) has been talking about a project about the birth dads of the baby scoop era. I think it’s a project that’s sorely needed.


Making Open Adoption Work

This month’s Open Adoption Blogger roundtable prompt:

Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?

If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?

via Roundtable #48: Why Has or Hasn’t Openness Worked for You? | Open Adoption Bloggers

This is such a great exploration. And the original post encourages readers to check out the comments on Kat’s conference discussion here. They’re really good.

We know that in this day and age (thanks to the internet),  closed adoptions are swiftly becoming endangered species. If an adoption is closed now, it certainly does not mean it will remain closed. In fact it’s likely that it won’t. This means that regardless of how any individual attempts to live out his or her experience of adoption, it’s probable that someone else involved in that adoption will have some say in that experience.

In the All Adoption Groups we often talk about searching for the other parties in our adoptions on Facebook and other social networking sites. What’s clear is that we’re all searching. Adoptive family members search, birth family members search and adoptees themselves search. Perhaps every closed adoption is only temporarily closed nowadays.

At least we can hope.

The changing face of adoption is important to consider when we’re talking about success in open adoption. Because adoption is not a static experience and relationships can and do change, particularly around the level of contact.

All of this to say that it’s important to know that there are many, many, many ways to have a healthy, functional open adoption and sometimes one of the ways is to accept the long-term approach (as one person says in those comments, it’s a marathon). That means not putting expectations of success or failure on the living, breathing, growing thing that is the open adoption relationship. That means understanding that a closed door may not remain closed; that understanding and respecting boundaries takes ongoing effort; and that there is always the potential for healing.

Families and individuals may need help understanding how to manage clashing expectations since it’s easy to take our own points of view for granted, not understanding how different the world can look to someone else. Whether it’s in counseling, through support groups or by talking to other constellation members online, exploring other adoption experiences goes a long way in building understanding and creating new avenues for openness.

That’s what makes these roundtables so great. Talking — or at least reading — across blogs is a terrific way to gain understanding, which is central to making openness work. Having a chance to challenge our perspective without threatening our open adoption relationships can make it easier for us to work through problems and challenges.

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