It’s Okay to Say “No” to Protect Your Child
I read through a thread in an adoption support group recently that inspired this article. A sweet mama was asking for advice on a seemingly unhealthy relationship with her son’s biological parents. The birthmother was asking to schedule a visit with her child (3 years old) and based on the substance-abuse and how the previous meetups went, the adoptive mother did not think it was in the best interest of the young child to do visits at this time. There was a variety of responses and advice for this mother. The comments included everything from “you get to decide what’s best for your child” to the common “they gave you your child, so you owe them anything they want”. It made me ponder on all the tough decisions that I’ve personally had to make in regard to my children and their biological family.
First, we know that every single adoption situation is so different. What works for one family doesn’t work for another. There is no one “right” way to have an open adoption. I have to believe that all adoptive parents take the oath to love and protect their child as if he/she was born to them and make decisions they feel are always in the best interest of their child. In adoption, we extend so much grace to everyone involved understanding that emotions are heightened, and the situation is born from brokenness. The dynamic between biological and adoptive families is so complex and a relationship that few can truly understand. Like any relationship, it ebbs and flows and changes constantly. Ideally, every adoption would come with a perfectly wrapped relationship between both families who vow to work together to raise their beloved child. But, as we know, it doesn’t always work out that way. For a million reasons, a relationship between the biological and adoptive family may be unpredictable, strained, or non-existent. My perspective is only as an adoptive mother. I’m the very first to admit that navigating the relationship with my children’s biological families is so hard. I don’t know “the right way” to do this to ensure my children will feel I always did right by them and their biological parents. It’s my worst fear that my kids will feel hurt, sad, or confused by a decision my husband and I made regarding their adoption or relationship with biological parents. So, we get up every day and just do the absolute best we can. The only thing guaranteed is that, at some point, we’re going to have to make some really tough decisions and have some difficult conversations. And, someone, somewhere, is probably not going to like some of our parenting choices and we have to learn to be okay with that.
Across social media and adoption forums, the widespread consensus seems to shout something like “biological parents have the rights to anything they want because they gave you a child”. Now, maybe that’s a little unfair or exaggerated. I’ve never read those exact words. Obviously, there are opinions of the opposite, too. But the birthparent advocates somehow seem to voice their opinions louder than others. In threads such as the one I mention above where the adoptive mother asks for advice on an unhealthy relationship with her child’s biological family, there were many comments telling her to give the birthmother what she wanted. Of course, there were several comments on the contrary as well. So, is it okay to set boundaries or say no to the biological parents that gave you the most precious gift of your child? In my opinion, YES, ALWAYS, if and when you feel it becomes necessary.
I’m still learning so much in the journey of adoption as my oldest child is only 3.5 years old. I try to educate myself and be open to different opinions and concepts on the subject while also just trying to be a normal, loving mother to my children and know that I won’t always get everything right. However, it has always been (and always will be) my priority to do what’s best for my child. And that means something different to every single family. Personal boundaries with my children’s birthfamilies work well for all of us. I believe the boundaries we have set are very much in the best interest of my children until they are old enough to begin helping make such decisions for themselves. Here’s how this looks for our family.
We’ve decided to limit visits. My opinion on this has changed a bit since the beginning on our journey when I wanted as many visits as possible. Slowly, I started to recognize that this is not best for my children at this time due to substance abuse and unpredictability and listening to the opinions of adoptees whom I respect and trust.
We’ve had to say no when my child’s birthmother asks to bring someone new each time we visit. I wouldn’t let any other stranger be around my children or come to our home. I don’t feel like it’s an unreasonable request that we ask that strangers don’t come to visits. However, my husband and I have made an effort to get to know this family member/significant other by inviting them to lunch or dinner when our children aren’t present.
We’ve asked that our children’s biological families don’t share information or photos on social media. We send emails and texts with pictures often and I love that they have these nuggets of joy from my kids. However, for safety and privacy reasons, my husband and I are not comfortable with this being shared online. We cannot control or see who they are “friends” with and we certainly don’t want our location or any identifying information shared out in the open online space. We ask the same of our own family members, too.
We aren’t “friends” or associated on social media. This is a topic I’ve seen discussed many times in online adoption forums. Together with our biological families, we’ve decided not to associate or follow each other on social media. Our child’s biological parents mean so much more to us than a distant Facebook acquaintance. We’ve chosen to keep all of our communication intimate through text and email. This way, we each keep our privacy from each other but mostly from other nosey people. Nothing gets portrayed or taken out of context as it can easily online.
Overall, I know that my children’s biological parents handpicked my husband and I to love and care for their child to the absolute best of our ability. This is the biggest vow and promise we’ve ever made. In any circumstances, I owe it to my child to speak up and make decisions for them that they cannot. This journey is messy, hard, and never over so in the meantime, I’ll do the best I can.