Last week was an adoption picnic and I went to it, as I go to every adoption event, because I knew Roo was going to be there and I will take any chance I get to admire the fantastic little girl who used to live in my womb.
Roo will be five years old this summer, and frankly I don't know how that happened. I swear she just barely learned to read (before she was three, you guys!) and now she'll be in kindergarten in the fall. Because I don't see her every day, she always seems so much more grown up each time I see her. Taller - although not much; genetics are not on her side as far as height goes - and smarter and more independent.
Gone are the days when Roo was a tiny baby whose decisions were made for her. She has her own mind and she does as she pleases, within the limits set by her parents. Case in point: when Roo's daddy brought her to the picnic - she had been at a birthday party earlier - she didn't want to socialize. She wanted to play on the playground and I could barely get a hello out of her. She was too focused on climbing the jungle gym.
I watched her run off in her princess dress and for a moment I missed the tiny, chubby baby I used to be able to hold captive in my arms. It was easier to feel connected to her then, when I could hold her warm weight and clearly remember her little feet kicking me from the inside.
I missed the darling toddler who would play pretend with me because she was the age when children will play with anyone who sits down with them. I felt less connected then but she was still so small and she was easy to distract in my favor.
I watched Roo climb higher and higher - surprisingly adept at keeping her dress in place as she ascended - and I realized, maybe for the first time, that openness is not a choice that Roo made for herself. It's a choice that was made for her. She knows who I am because her parents thought it would be best for her and for me. She did not ask to meet me. She did not ask to have me in her life.
And I realized that the time may come when she does not want me in her life. It may not come, of course, and I hope it doesn't, but as I watched her climb I thought, I have to prepare myself for that eventuality. If the time comes that Roo would rather not have a relationship with me, I will have to find a way to be okay with that.
I don't know any adults who grew up with an open adoption because it's such a relatively recent phenomenon. I know adults who have reconnected with their birth families, but none who grew up with a birth mom in their lives. What will my presence do to and for Roo as she grows up? Will I be a benefit to her or a burden?
Such heavy thoughts for a picnic. This is what happens when you use caffeine as a substitute for sleep.
Roo grew tired of the jungle gym and came over and we had an Arizona snowball fight with the rest of the picnic attendees. We made play dough shapes together ("Don't make any more seahorses," she told me. "Make something else") and she made me a valentine card and we watched the ducks swim in the pond.
("I wish that I was a duck," said Roo, "so I could swim all day and people would feed me." She looked pensive and then added, "But Mommy would miss me if I were a duck here.")
For now, Roo is happy to play with me when she's not asserting her independence. My hope is that she will always be happy to see me. That she will be able to feel my love for her. That she'll be a happier, healthier person for having an open adoption that includes her birth mother as a sometimes presence in her life.
But my hope is also that she will make the kind of choices that will result in peace and happiness in her life, whatever those end up being. My hope is also that if the time comes when she feels I am a hindrance rather than a help, that she will be strong enough to let me go. I don't want to be an obligation to her. Openness was chosen for her as a benefit, not a burden. I don't ever want to be a burden.
I don't want to not be a part of her life. The thought that someday Roo might not need or want me around scares me. And I don't want it to happen, and I don't anticipate that happening, I really don't. But I want the choice to be hers, when she's old enough to make it.
*Dear Keane: please forgive me for stealing your album title for my blog post. Hopes and Fears is my favorite of your albums, and "This is the Last Time" got me through a rough patch. I love you guys, even though I hated the heck out of your collaboration with K'naan.