Sunday, April 27, 2014

Visiting Hours

I just want to take a moment to express my stunned semi-disbelief at the fact that Roo will be five years old this summer. Five! You guys, seriously. I swear, she just barely learned to walk. 

I got to see her a few weeks ago, which was fantastic. I mentioned this to one of my friends and she seemed unclear on what happens when I do see Roo, and I got to thinking how many times people misunderstand openness as it pertains to me and my relationship with Roo. So let's clarify at least the visiting part of that, and let's use a lot more words than are necessary because that's what we do here at The Happiest Sad. Well, that and the occasional meme.

First of all, let's clarify the word "visit." I'm not sure when or where I settled on that word to describe spending time with Roo. The word "visit" conjures up images from my childhood of spending time with my maternal grandparents. "We're going to visit Grandma and Grandpa DeWitt," my mom would say, and there was always this element of formality where you had to sit in a chair and make polite conversation and you weren't allowed to ask why everything in the curio cabinet smelled like an improbable cross between dust and aspergillis. Those visits certainly weren't much fun. The only good thing was that my grandfather - eleven years older and three times more patient than his wife - would eventually take pity on Little Jill and give her one of those miniature ice cream cups with the wooden spoon that fitted into the lid.

I am thirty years old but when I see those little ice cream cups I swear I can still feel my grandmother's disappointment looming over me like a rogue weather system. Bless her heart.

I digress.

What I really do, I think, is hang out with Roo and her family, but it sounds weird to say you're hanging out with a four-year-old, because if I'm honest she and I probably have different taste in movies and the last deep conversation we had was about gummy bears. So let's go with the word "visit" and pretend we grew up with the kind of grandmother who baked cookies and showed love. Bless her heart.*

Visits with Roo and her family are my favorite and they are awesome. There is no formality to them. It's just time spent with my friends. I use the word "visit" to describe any time I spend with Roo's family. I have been to dance recitals, we have all gone out for breakfast (and often lunch, and once dinner), and we have spent many happy hours at parks and playgrounds. The latter is where we hang out the most because it's the most fun for the kids

Roo always says hello to me. She says, "Hi, Jill!" and she smiles and it is awesome. Her big sister says hi to me, too, and I usually get a smile from their baby brother. M and I will talk and catch up for a bit until Roo insists that I play with her. "Jill, I want you to come play with me," she has said, and how do I say no to that? I can't. At that point I basically just let her boss me around for an hour or two. I have gotten so, so much sand in my shoes. You wouldn't believe it.

She has a very good if imagination when it comes to play, but she also has favorite things. Every playground we have been on has been a pirate ship. Roo seems to like the idea of a pirate ship. Once we made sand angels - maybe that's an Arizona thing, but it's like a snow angel only you're in the sand - and Roo's big sister said, "Hurry, get on the pirate ship, you're getting covered in water!"

Roo was feeling stubborn. She did not want to stop making sand angels. "I'll be fine," she told her sister. "I'm a mermaid." She's a problem solver, isn't she?

We are very often mermaids, or pirates, or mermaid pirates or pirate princesses. A few weeks ago when we were pirate princesses we used our rainbow power to subdue a particularly mean eel.

Roo likes to swing and climb and I have held her little shoes many, many times so she could climb better with bare feet. I always tell her how proud I am of her and I try to compliment her on that sort of thing more than on her general adorableness. When she climbed high even though she was scared, I told her she was very brave and that I was proud.

She knows that I love her but she is still a little kid, so when it’s time to leave she gives me a cheerful, “Bye, Jill!” and runs off, and I usually have to stop her for a hug. I always ask first if I can get a hug and if I can give a kiss. She always obliges. I tell her I love her and she will usually reciprocate.

I dearly love her siblings as well and so I will give them hugs and tell them I love them, too, because it's true and because I don’t think any child can ever hear enough that they are loved. After my last visit – a few hours at a park, I told Roo and her sister that I had fun and that I always have fun with them. “We have fun with you, too,” Roo's sister said. So many warm fuzzies, you guys.

You might have noticed that at no point do I attempt to parent Roo or offer parenting advice to her parents. This is where a lot of people get confused. I think there's this misconception that openness is a shared custody agreement. So I want to be very clear: P and M are Roo's parents, one trillion percent. That's what I wanted for her. I'm just a friend of the family who happens to have birthed one of the family's kids for them. P and M are doing an awesome job at the whole parenting thing. It's not my place to interfere.

I have been asked, along the custody line of thinking, if I get Roo all to myself at visits. I don't. There have never been any just-Roo-and-Jill visits and I'm totally okay with that. I love her whole family so, so much. I would be sad if I didn't get to see and spend time with them too.

I end up seeing Roo and her family every couple of months or so. This works out well for all of us. M and I text pretty frequently and keep up with each other on social media. We've worked together on adoption-related events in the valley so I see her often, which I love.

The other question I want to answer is whether visits are emotionally difficult for me. They are not. When I first placed I was worried that visits would be like placing Roo all over again - I'd get a few hours with her and then have to let her go. But visits have always been good for me, from the very first one. They allow me to see the good that came from the choice I made to place. I get to see firsthand that Roo is happy and loved and has an awesome life. I get to know her and be part of her life. I do cry when I drive home from a visit, but they're happy tears because I feel like I don't deserve the blessing of this amazing open adoption and yet I have them anyway.

Let's be honest - I do a lot of stupid things. I struggle to be a kind and compassionate person and I'm more narcissistic than anyone has a right to be in their thirties. If life were about fairness I would never see or hear from Roo again. Every single day I thank God for these blessings I don't deserve. I thank Him for letting me have her for a little while, and I thank Him for letting P and M have her forever. I am so glad she's theirs.

Every time I see Roo with her family, I remember why I chose adoption, and why if I had to do things over, I would choose it again without hesitation. As badly as it hurt at first, it doesn't hurt anymore. And Roo's happiness is worth it.

*My grandmother loved me in her own way. She was just stubborn and set in her ways and didn't care much for my father, and I am like a short girl clone of my dad so I probably never stood a chance. She was a good mother to my mother and that's what matters at the end of the day, right?

Bless her heart.


Alysa . . . . and Reed said...

I love knowing more about what a visit is like for you and Roo. I think it's awesome that you see each other every few months! And you keep up with each other on social media! I am green with envy when I hear such amazing stories from other birthmoms. I wish I too could have that kind of openness in my open adoption. But hearing that others enjoy that much interaction does give me hope that my sons parents might see the light and change things up.
I'm sure your Grandma loved you in her own way. I love that in spite of such memories you still show love to her through your words.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I always love your posts :)