Sure, raising a kid is challenging. I joke that my new reason/excuse for things is "because toddler." I definitely have many moments in the drudgery of changing diapers, cleaning up hairballs, figuring out meals, wrangling clothes onto a toddler, suffering through screeching fits, where I can't focus on anything else. Honestly, it's kind of a shitty way to live. Being in the moment is one thing, I think that is important, especially with a kid. And kids are really great in helping adults be in the moment because they don't know any other way to be. But it's getting caught up in all the mundane stuff without being in the moment and enjoying it, or being able to see the whole picture, that I think is dangerous.
I also think this way of being was something that wasn't serving us well in our dealings with Gus's birthmom. We were right up against that painting, looking at one brushstroke - one moment, one set of interactions - and forgetting there was more to the picture. Sure, we knew intellectually there was more, there had to be. But emotionally we were having a hard time letting go of the small piece we were seeing.
We were able to step back and change that about a month ago when we travelled to Oregon for a visit. There was fear and dread and all kinds of feelings that we aren't very proud of that were keeping us stuck, but we pushed through them and you know what? It was incredible. From the moment we arrived, it was like we just sighed deeply and everything was okay.
As soon as he got out of the car, Gus walked right over and started picking up rocks and handing them to D (Gus's birthfather, whom we'd never met, who was there.) I always say he's never met a stranger, so there's that, but the kid is also pretty intuitive so I wonder if he realized he was the ice-breaker in an awkward situation. Then, we went to a park and Gus had a great time just hanging out and playing with D and K. It was a pretty short visit, but it was what we all needed to move forward. We talked a little bit about our regrets for how things had gone previously. It was nice to finally meet D. Gus looks like him! Gus and K got to bond over their mutual love of sweet potato fries at lunch. We got to share a lot of the awesome things Gus says and does with them and they got to recognize themselves in him. It was really cool. In a way, we share this amazing little guy!
It took us a while to get here, but I think - I hope - things will go more smoothly from now on. I'm sure there will still be hitches - we're all humans in a strange type of relationship - but I think being able to see Gus with them (and for them being able to see him with us) - really re-iterated the reasons we all chose open adoption. On an emotional level, not just an intellectual one. We still can't see the edges of the canvas yet, but at least we have a much better view of how the painting is shaping up.
Obviously Gus is still so little he doesn't really understand who D & K are and all the complicated nuances of this relationship (though he knows they are his birthparents and he knows he is adopted, whatever that means to him in his near 2 yr old brain). I do think he has an unconscious awareness/memory of K and his separation from her. He had a hard time the night after the visit. We had to get him out of his crib for extra snuggles and read an adoption book to him, then sit with him as he fell asleep (none of which is normal routine for him). He also seemed to have a harder time with separations from us in the week or so following our visit. Maybe I'm overthinking things and reading too much into it, but I'd much prefer to err on the side of acknowledging the possibility of him having some strong, confusing, unconscious feelings than to just ignore it all. He has suffered a loss. It is something that he will always live with. Open adoption is great - being able to see and know his birthparents is a good thing - but it won't ever completely erase that loss.
|Gus with K & D in Ashland, OR|
He continues to amaze me. When I can pull back from my overwhelm with his fighting diaper changes and "no no nos" I see this really cool dude. (He says "dude" now, too! and "guy") Most of the time, I really dig hanging out with him. He's a toddler, so he developmentally does toddler-y things like refusing to share and running from me when I'm trying to dress him and yes, even peeing on the floor sometimes, but overall he's still a pretty laid-back, adaptable, happy and sweet kid.
We play at "taking turns". Gus and his babydoll, or Pooh bear, take turns with a ball, or blocks or something. He thinks it's really funny to offer something and then psych you out. He laughs and laughs, but I'm trying to help him learn that even though it can be funny, especially with adults, it's not really that nice. He's super cute because when he's successful at our "taking turns" game, not only is he happy and proud, but then he goes over and gives whoever he's taking turns with a hug and a kiss. It's so sweet. Sometimes, he randomly climbs out of the sandbox at the playground and gives another kid a hug! Just because.
The other thing he's getting into now - which makes this Mama super happy - is drawing and painting. He calls writing and drawing "G", we think because whenever we draw with him, we write his name, saying the letters out loud. It's funny. We joke about needing a Gus to English dictionary. He calls painting "Bu" because all colors are currently blue. (it's the only one he can say). In front of the art store they have a little easel and paints and Gus loves to "paint" there. We both usually end up completely covered because I've had to struggle with him to leave, but I am looking forward to us making art together.
Stepping back and looking at the whole picture, the fun with the challenging, is what's going to help me survive the toddler years, I'm sure of it. It will probably serve me well in life, too.