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Adoption / Children / Teens/Tweens

Open Adoption: Does It Get Easier?

does open adoption get easier?

Last fall I led workshops about raising children in an open adoption in Seattle, Portland and Eugene (OR) for an agency with values that closely align with my own.

easy button for parentingIn one of the workshops, a question arose from  a woman who was preparing to adopt. She was contemplating the homestudy process, the matching stage, the birth and placement of the baby and finalization of the adoption — all of which are merely the beginning of a life-long journey through open adoption parenting. She asked with a sense of overwhelm in her voice:

Does open adoption get easier?

It was another participant who gave an insightful answer in the form of another question:

Does marriage get any easier?

“Little people, little problems. Big People, big problems.”

Within long-term relationships, things change and get different. Comparing something at the beginning of a journey to something seemingly similar later down the line is like comparing apples and oranges.

And as someone told me when my kids were little and I was exhausted, wondering if parenting gets any easier, “little people little problems; big people big problems.”

I didn’t really get that notion back then. It had been years since I’d slept through the night. I was with the kids, not yet in school, all day, every day. There was crying, frustration, and boredom (not to mention what the kids were experiencing!). When my husband came home from work each evening I often felt like hiding in a closet for awhile just to be alone and regain sanity.

The problems from this earlier parenting era did not seem small. They seemed huge and unrelenting.

Sleeping Through the Night (and I Don’t Mean the Kids!)

Now I sometimes sleep through the night. The kids are in school much of the day, much of the year. We still have issues and angst. Bigger issues and bigger angst with higher stakes. We are constantly negotiating household rules. We are helping the kids navigate school and friendships and relationships with teachers and coaches and each other. We have health concerns, treatment plans with the orthodontist, disagreements about fashion and makeup and high fructose corn syrup, negotiations about shower time, bed time, screen time. We mediate between our kids and with neighbor kids. We teach, we model, we teach more and model more. Are we teaching and modeling all the right things? Will we have covered all the important lessons before they are ready to leave home — in less than a decade?

Hence why I don’t always sleep through the night.

So I can’t say that parenting has gotten easier. I can say that it’s gotten different.

Maybe our open adoptions have gotten not easier but better. When we started we had just one birth parent around — Crystal. Since then we have connected with Tessa’s birth father, Joe. After talking with AJ on the phone for a few years, we finally got to meet Reed’s birth father for the first time when he came to town last summer and again this spring when we visited him. We have hopes of reconnecting with Reed’s first mom when she’s ready.

From Caretaker to Consultant

The relationships with the people who created our children are gradually shifting from me as caretaker to Tessa and Reed as the owner-operators. So my role is also changing. Whereas my prime responsibility was at first to maintain a wide-open conduit between our family and our children’s birth parents and make sure there was no corrosion, I am now moving into more of a consultant role. As Tessa and Reed begin to helm their own relationships with Crystal and Joe, with Michele and AJ, I will be on hand to assist as requested, to comfort if needed, and to abide, always to abide.

As John F Kennedy advised, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger people” (gender neutralization mine).

License plate image: mixed by Lori Holden, Creative Commons 3.0
Easy button image: Wang Shein, Creative Commons 2.0

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Lori Holden's book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open AdoptionLori Holden blogs from metro-Denver at LavenderLuz.com and can also be found on Twitter @LavLuz. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, written with Crystal, her daughter’s birth mom, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful Father’s Day gift.

Lori is available to deliver her open adoption workshop to adoption agencies and support groups.

Lori Holden
Author: Lori Holden

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2 Comments

  1. I love this idea of transitioning from caretake to consultant. It was being the caretaker that motivated me in the beginning to cultivate the relationship we have today. I didn’t want the possibility of relationships to fall through the cracks because my husband and I weren’t willing to put ourselves out there.

    It’s easier right now in the sense that we’ve established relationships, and our kids have connections and are comfortable around their birth families. As they get older and understand more, I imagine it will get more complicated. But I hope as they journey through adolescence to adulthood, they come out the other side feeling whole and wholly loved by everyone involved.

  2. Michelle, your last sentence? Spot. On.

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