When our daughter was placed with us ten years ago, my husband and I promised her birth mother that we would keep this adoption as open as she wanted. At the time, we knew it would entail letters, phone calls, and emails, but this was before Skype and Facebook and all of the chats and social medias and apps and interwebs that exist today. We flew her out to visit a few times, but because we lived so far away, quality time with just the two of them was something we didn’t think would ever happen.
Fast forward to 2015, and we find ourselves living less than four hours from our daughter’s birth family. With lots of four-day weekend availability, and a kid who is wanting to know more about the woman who created her (and who created our family!), when our daughter asked if she could spend the fall break from school with her mom up north, I jumped at the chance and threw some luggage in the car.
We were all nervous, I think. My daughter has two half-sisters that live with her birth mother full-time. They are younger than her and are not used to an older (bossier) sibling, and she was worried about creating conflict (read: them not doing what she said). Her birth mom was nervous that there would be homesickness or anger and, frankly, so was I. I wanted this to succeed. I want time with her first mom to be absolutely amazing and to feel normal—and it turns out we needn’t have worried one bit.
Here are the top five reasons I encourage my daughter to take extended visits with her birth mom:
1. She comes back more confident in herself and in her place in the world. When I first held this baby in my arms I will admit I wanted to pretend that she came from me. I thought that if I was perfect or had enough love or bought the right toys or put her in the right activities that she would never need anything or anyone more than me. (You experienced adoptive parents are laughing along with (at) me right now, aren’t you?) Let’s face it and embrace it: Our kids come from different places than our wombs and our backgrounds and our history—AND IT IS JUST FINE. It is normal that they may want to explore and learn and understand their history and their heritage. When my girl visits her first mom she comes back home more confident in the things that set her apart from me. She tells me what features she shares with her sisters, what activities they all like, and she loves to tease me about the things THEY have in common that she knows I HATE. (“We all love spicy food mom! You are just a wimp!!”)
2. It reinforces to her that she was never abandoned or thrown out. Kids at school have teased her with the whole “you don’t have a REAL mom” or “your mom didn’t want you.” (As a side note, can we all just take a minute to pat ourselves on the back for not hunting down those kids and shipping them to Siberia? Go us!) When she spends time with her other family she asks questions and gets answers from her birth mom. She sees how much she is loved over there, and she also sees that she is loved back at home. One of the things I love telling her is “aside from your daddy, there is no one I trust you with more than your birth mom.” And she knows I mean it.
3. She doesn’t have to wonder about where she came from. If you watch any amount of television, you know that all adopted kids are going to become obsessed with “finding my real mom/home/family,” right? I mean, whole story arcs are based on this (flawed, hurtful, lame) plot line. Turns out, though, that my kid already knows who her “real” mom is. Where her “real” home is. Who her “real” family is. And she knows that she has lots of places and spaces from which to choose. I never want my girl to have to feel guilty for wanting to spend time with her birth mom. I never want her to feel like she is hurting my feelings by loving more than one person. (And when she does trot out that tired “You’re not my REAL mom!” line to get her way? She knows my response is always going to be “Phew! The REAL mom is the one who buys Christmas and birthday presents! I just saved a TON of money!!” That generally clams her up pretty quick!)
4. I owe everything to my daughter’s birth mother. I owe her everything. And if it is important and healthy to her to spend time with the soul she created and carried and placed in my arms (spoiler: it is), then I will bend over backwards to make that time happen. We didn’t just get a baby—we got a family and a birth family and all of the relationships that came along with it. And I got a friend along the way—a friend who just happened to give me the gift of motherhood.
5. One less kid whining at me over fall break. (No explanation necessary.)
What do you think? Does your kid spend extended time with her birth family? Are you a birth parent who would love to spend more quality AND quantity time with your child? Let me know in the comments!