Mickey has nearly endless questions about his birth parents. He asks regularly and last night came downstairs after being in bed for 30 minutes because he is trying to make sense of his past. His memories of the birth family are fuzzy…he confuses the maternal grandmother for the birth mother. He was 3.5 when he went into foster care, Minnie was 18 months old, though they would visit with their birth family until they were 5 and 3. Minnie has no real memories of them at all. Mickey’s really only come in snipits, and sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.
We have no contact with the birth family at all. I know who they are, but as far as I know, they have no idea who I am or where the kids end up. Parental rights were terminated 11 months before I took custody. The foster family knows them, and of course, the foster family knows where we are, but they would never share that info. My Facebook page is locked down, my kids are never my profile or cover photo, etc. The birth mother lives 18 miles from us, in a neighboring county and the birth father is about 15 miles from us. The birth grandparents sent a letter right after I got the kids asking for visitation, but I chose not to. Not because I was against an open adoption – I wasn’t. But, because their daughter was an addict that lived with them and she was unstable. The grandparents also had a history of showing up unannounced with the foster family and they travel for the majority of the year, so there is no stability. I offered them updates and pictures at that time, but they declined and started a campaign to harass the social worker and the foster parents with daily phone calls, threatening legal action, emails, etc and attempted to bully them into revealing our location. This confirmed my gut instinct was correct, so we have no contact at all.
Mickey’s issues were so profound then, that I couldn’t take the chance on setting anything off. I didn’t even let them see the foster parents initially – though we both knew that they would eventually and we never broke off communication, but we felt it important for the kids not to be confused by Momma and Momma, which was hard enough of a transition. We needed to form our family before outside forces came to be. They knew I still talked to their foster mother, Jesse, and they would ask me to forward her drawings or share good news. Now Jesse and her family come to recitals and soccer games, birthday parties, etc and I can’t tell you how grateful my kids and I are to be able to maintain that connection.
Mickey wants to meet the birth parents. He wants to know why she made the choices that she did. I refuse to lie to either of the kids, though I am age appropriate with responses, or I have to say “I don’t think you are old enough yet for that information”. They have to be able to trust that what I say about his birth family is true. I have a very love/hate relationship with these people – if they hadn’t made the choices that they did, I wouldn’t get to be a mom to my awesome children. I also know, without a doubt, that their birth mother loved them, but her addiction was more powerful. On the flip side, I hate that her choices during pregnancy likely contributed to Mickey’s issues and made his life so much harder than it had to be, I hate that she allowed a person around her children that attempted to drown Minnie, thus creating a fear of water that would take years to overcome. I never, ever bash the birth family, but it is interesting to be angry and grateful at the same time.
Last night the questions were about the birth mother and the birth father’s relationship. How long were they together, did they love each other? I can’t answer those questions and I have to tell him that. Sometimes the questions are about why she ever started using drugs, or what she did for a living. He is trying to build a picture of this woman who is very fuzzy for him, but an important piece of him. I will support him meeting her, when he is older. I am almost sure he will want to. Minnie shows no interest in either birth parent, but she does know there is a half sibling and has expressed an interest in meeting her.
For the record, since we are geographically so close, there is a very real possibility of us running into them someday. I don’t live in fear of it. To my knowledge the birth father has gotten his act together. The birth mother does have a job and is somewhat stable, so if it happens, we will deal with it. But, our lives are easier without the disruption that they would cause for Mickey. He has crafted a new family that he is very attached to, his memories are all unpleasant and he clings tightly to his new life. He fears that they would come take him away, and no matter how many times we reassure him, he still tells every school and daycare to make sure not to let them ever pick him up or visit. Jesse doesn’t concern him, and he loves his time with her family, but he fears the birth family will destroy the life he has and the progress he has made. He says that he couldn’t laugh or play there, he says he couldn’t talk there and that he was a bad kid there (his developmental delays were so significant, those things were true – he was largely non-verbal when he went into foster care, he screamed, he could barely walk, was not potty trained and would rage for hours, plus he didn’t sleep). He says his former last name gave him nightmares and that he didn’t like having to eat out of trash cans or being locked in closets. I didn’t provide any of that information, nor do I know if that is true but, they are his recollections and they scare him. Yet he remains convinced that he must meet her. Interestingly, neither child really asks much about the birth father nor has either expressed any interest in meeting him.
I doubt that we will ever know the extent of the damage from those early years, but I won’t invalidate how he feels about them. I will tell him that her addictions were too strong, too strong even to overcome the love she had for him and his sister. He knows the grandparents wanted contact and why I chose not to give it. We have talked about why drugs and alcohol are not a good choice for either of them, since both their parents had issues with both, I never want him to look back and think I hated them. I don’t. I hate the choices they made, but not them. My children are part of them. Mickey is the spitting image of his birth mother and Minnie her birth father, so I see these people every day in my children’s faces. This is likely a never ending conversation, and I hope I am handling it right.