Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Petty, and I don't mean Richard or Tom

I've mentioned before that when we went into fostering with the idea of open adoption being the final act, I was amazingly naive about the relationships I'd end up having with the birthparents of my adopted children. I really thought that it would difficult, on some level, to not feel somewhat guilty for denying them the privilege of tucking their biological child into bed at night.

Maybe this happens for some people. For us, it has been a dream ruthlessly crushed time and again.

Faced with the kind of neglect that has nothing to do with the word "benign," and then again with the kind of destructive, almost feral behaviors we've witnessed ... well, I've never regretted knowing that my baby boys are safely swaddled in clean pjs and under my roof when darkness falls.

We have zero contact--by court order--with Manolin's birthmom. And Oli's Bio Mom split before the ink was even dry on her relinquishment papers. We did manage to get a signed Open Adoption Agreement from her, but she defaulted out of its requirements before they even went into effect. So much for long-term contact on that front.

But then, however, we have Oliver's Bio Dad.

A little background: Bio Dad left (as in moved out of the apartment) when Oli was 3 months old. He was present at Oli's birth, and even helped drop him off at the ER a couple of times when his life was measured in days and weeks. But after the three month point, he became something of a nonentity. It was his niece who took relative placement of Oli when he was placed on CPS custody at 7 months old. But still ... not a lot of contact. He has been sporadic with visitation the entire two years that Oliver was in the visitation loop. Sometimes he would show. Sometimes he wouldn't. Sometimes he would return calls. Sometimes he wouldn't.

The one thing that Bio Dad has been good at all along is admitting that he's not a fit parent. And for this, we are grateful. He not only happily signed the termination papers, but entered into the Open Adoption Agreement we wrote with no fuss. We were optimistic that this might be some form of biological tie that Oli might have with the world.

And yet ...

Bio Dad drives me nuts. Not just, "Boy, that guy is a little off" nuts. No. This has gone deeper. See, Bio Dad got my cell number (don't ask) and spends a good third of his life, it seems, texting me. I have asked him to stop repeatedly, to no avail. I block his number most of the year, but when his twice-annual visits come around (and one is due in June) I remove the block and the texts start back like magic.

In one day alone, I received four different texts asking me if I would pay for Oli's entrance to the zoo for our next visit. (Per our legal agreement, the answer is NO.) Then I get texts telling me that he's getting married in five years; can Oli be the "flower boy"? (I said we'd talk about that as the wedding draws near, but that I was doubtful about that happening.) Then there was a text randomly asking me if he could have Oli's new last name. (Uh, no.)

All of this is annoying, but I've got a tough skin and I can handle it. Well, mostly. Some days, I admit, it grates like an itch I can't scratch. But I figure it's all the price I pay for a life of being Oli's Momma, and you know ... he's worth it.

But there's one thing that drives me absolutely, completely ape. I'm going to be a very small, petty human being here and admit it publicly:

I hate it when Bio Dad calls Oliver "my son" or "my boy."

There. See how awful I am? I am driven to nail-biting frustration when I get those texts that refer to Oli as if he is completely and utterly known by this man who abandoned him at a fraction of a year old. "As if I'm a babysitter!" I want to scream. "As if you did the heavy lifting of parenting this kid!"

A sample of the most recent texts that have made me run for my favorite Bible verses before I start shouting rude words:

"how is my big boy is he growing so big tell him dad loves him"

"can't wait to see my son, i am bringing him a toy he will love."

"What is my son doing right now i am missing him tell him i'll see him soon!"

Grrrrrrrr. My blood is boiling just retyping those little gems.

I recognize--academically, of course--that to Bio Dad, Oliver is very much his son. And biologically yes, he is fully entitled to claim that he has sired a child into this world. I guess I should be more accommodating on this. It really ought to fall, spiritually, into that "If he asks you to carry his pack a mile, carry it two," kind of mentality that Jesus encouraged in his followers when He was on earth. But oh, man ... that's so hard. I look at Bio Dad, and I don't see a man that I want in my son's life at all, let alone claiming him as his offspring. I look at him instead and see a beaten, careless guy who has skidded through life on the shirt tails of government aid and his own bad choices. I see a guy who has no problem walking out on an infant, then popping up twice a year to play Daddy Dearest. I see a guy who doesn't deserve to even look into the eyes of this darling little boy whose genes sprang from his own.

But if we get into the "deserving" game, we're already folding our cards, aren't we? Because I know the answer, plain and simple. I get what I don't deserve thanks to new life in Christ. Who am I to decide what Bio Dad deserves?

Do I keep Oli safe? Absolutely. Do I draw firm lines in my boy's best interest? Without a doubt. Do I police their relationship until such time as Oliver can navigate those rocky waters on his own? You betcha.

But I will not--cannot--assert my semantic "rights" into this relationship. To do so would simply counter everything that I have made sure Bio Dad sees of us. We are Christians, I have said. We want to be defined by how well we love in Jesus' name. How can I possibly have those words come out of my mouth, then snap and shoot a text message retort at the man asking him to get his grubby paws off "MY boy"?

I can't. I just can't.

So I need to just pull on my big girl pants and get over this. Yes, I have decided that it's acceptable to block Bio Dad's texts 10 months out of the year. He has other ways of contacting me (email and a PO box) that are less invasive. Yes, I think it's o.k. to duck questions that reveal personal info or might endanger our family. And yes, I think giving the man any money would be inappropriate.

But calling Oli "my son" isn't on that same level. It's a fly circling my ear, a whisper of my own insecurities, a thing that stings my pride.

And for that, the only answer I know is dying to self. Smacking down the greedy little beast that whispers, "Where does he get off?" and instead finding a way to love in words. Maybe my heart will eventually align with those words. Maybe some day, I will look back and see my pettiness for all that I already know it is.

But even if I don't, I need to find a way to smile and move on. Because God chose this man to be the biological start of my beloved Oli. And Oli deserves a mom who puts herself aside and only acts on what keeps him first and foremost in mind.


Tara B. said...

Oh boy! Have you hit on a sensitive subject for me! I am struggling with this very sort of thing at the moment with my precious Austin. My situation is even more complicated in that Austin's "mom" is also my daughter!

Oh how I hate feeling this way. But, she has only seen him once in the over three years I've had him, and only because I drove him from CA to AZ because I thought she was dying. Where is she several mornings each week as I clean up his vomit from his health issues? Where has she been when we held him down for his blood to be drawn every few months to check on the Hep C SHE passed on to him? UGH!

Then, this is my daughter, whom I still love no matter what. It is only because of her I have been given this precious gift of a child, and what a blessing he has been to our whole family!

But, If I am to be brutally honest, it is hard and I cringe when she refers to him as HER son. Harder now that she found me on Facebook, befriended me and is swiping my photos to publish on her page!

You show much more grace than I certainly feel! I think I handle it well appearance wise, but what is in my heart isn't quite as graceful. But reading this post of yours, helps me knowing I am not alone in these types of feelings and reminds me to keep God first and react in a way which would be pleasing to HIM, so thank you for a truthful, heartfelt post!

Lisa said...

Thanks for your great writing, your honesty and your humor! Love reading your blog. We have 2 bio boys, 2 daughters from China and are researching a domestic African-American adoption. So, I am eager to learn from others in the adoption world.


EllaJac said...

You bless me.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

The kind of strength and reserve you have on this one can only come from God. Only He knows what wonderful things will likely come of it. You really are an inspiration:-).

Rachel said...

Oh man. That chafes. I'm glad you are Oli's REAL mom.

Luke said...

Brittany told me that when she dropped off the girls one of the older siblings said, "Now you're back at your real house."

One of "ours" replied, "No, I'm back to my first house."

Sometimes having proper language helps. Sometimes, though, the terms just hurt. Hang in there!


Anonymous said...

Having never adopted, it is hard for me to relate to what you're feeling, but I can imagine how it would sting. On the plus side, it's amazing how often this "dad" thinks of Oli...maybe what you hoped for by signing up for open adoption will come to fruition. Sounds like you are doing a fabulous job!