Road trip! (Open-adoption style)

Over Easter/Passover weekend back in April, we went on a road trip to visit Gus' birthparents. As hard as I try to understand what it must be like for Gus to be adopted, I will never truly know. We chose open adoption, as we've discussed on this blog in the past, because we wanted to be able to provide Gus with biological ties. We are his parents, but so are they. And so, we are in contact with both of his birthparents. As of our visit, they were living together in Oregon. Gus had a great time playing with them in the park, sharing his food with them at lunch and then hanging out with them at the Hands-On Science Museum the next day. He is such a social kid and so comfortable with everyone, but it is touching to see him walk up and grab the hand of one of his birthparents.

Feeding lorikeets at Turtle Bay in Redding, CA

We do not talk about adoption everyday, but we do discuss it often. When reading a book that talks about babies, we talk about his birth story - about how he came out of birthmom K's tummy, about how Mommom was there to cut the cord and how I was in the waiting room and I KNEW the moment he entered the world. We talk about Gus' birthparents. He has a picture of them in his room. Now that he is getting older, we let him take the lead more in the discussions. Sometimes, he says he doesn't want to talk about it. Sometimes he just incorporates talking and thinking about them into his play. (After our trip, Gus was playing with magnet blocks on the floor. He was fitting them together and then pointed to different parts, telling me,  "This is Gussie, this is Mommom. Here's Mama, and here's K." So adorable, and lovely to see him working it out for himself.) I try to just sit back and let it happen. I think our job is to be available to answer his questions, provide him with access to his birthparents, and give him space to feel whatever he feels in any given moment.

It's not always easy though. This being mindful and aware of my kid's feelings. Let's face it, I'm not always aware of my own feelings. And on top of that, toddlers have lots of BIG feels. Their amygdala is pretty much running the show.  But if I can be quiet and still enough and not jump in when he's working to process, or ask, or tell me something, then it is really amazing. On the second day of our visit, as we drove from the hotel to meet up with his birthparents, he said, unprompted, "I'm feeling frazzled today." After we picked our jaws up off the floor, Shelley said, "It's okay to feel frazzled. There is a lot going on." I do not know exactly what his experience was during that trip, but frazzled seems like a pretty appropriate descriptor.


 I try particularly hard when he is processing through imaginative play not to contradict what he has to say. For example: a week or so after our trip, Gus and I were walking to daycare. He had decided to take a little stuffed monster friend with him. He'd been carrying it, but decided to stick it in the pocket of my hoodie. He grabbed my hand and said, "You are K and I am D and this is baby Gus." There are probably a million ways to respond to that. I think because I have tried so hard the whole time I've been parenting Gus to reflect things back to him, without even thinking I just repeated what he said. "I am K and you are D and this is Gus." And we just continued walking to daycare. I have no idea what was actually going on in his head at that moment. I just know that it was a way he was working things out, and I hope what I was able to offer is what he needed. Sometimes it will be and sometimes it won't, I suppose.

I really don't know how we got so lucky. Gus is the world's sweetest kid. And funny. And just so high on life. All kids' believe they are the center of the universe. That's just how it is. But Gus has this way of seeming to appreciate it. He does this thing where if friends or family are around and hanging out with him, he gathers us all into a giant hug. "These are my people" is what it seems to say. He did the same with K & D on the first day as we left the park. He was past nap time and needed a little help following directions, so I was carrying him. K was walking behind me and he reached out to her. She took him and then he looked around and said, "Where's D?" and then pulled them both in for big bear hug.

Because he's two and haggling with us is kind of his job, he will often brush off our attempts at affection. "No kisses! No kisses!" I try not to be intrusive, so I back off when he says this. The fact that I know he will come around and instigate a very sweet moment of snuggles and kisses helps me to give him that space, I guess. We talk about body autonomy with him - if you say stop to tickles or kisses, that's your prerogative and we will respect it. You get to say what happens to your body. Because our kiddo is so freakin' smart, he decided to use it against us when we were washing and combing his hair. "That's my hair. I don't want you to do that. It's my body." Nice try, Kid! I think we are going to have our work cut out for us when he's a teenager!

Birthparent hugs