I had a very difficult question to answer this time. Do we show Katie the letters we receive? The answer is almost guaranteed to be painful for the reader but I can't lie. No, we don't read your letters to her...yet....but we will....in time, when she is older. As much as I would love to simplify ours and Katie's lives and be her Birth Mother, the reality is that I'm not. How I would love to spare her having to wrap her thoughts and emotions around this whole other family of people whose lives and histories are so very intertwined with her. But that's like me being protected from some of the harsher realities of my own life. Those events and experiences have shaped who I am. They've shaped my choices and the life I have carved out for myself. I can no more wish away part of Katie's life and heritage than I can my own so I want to ensure that the letters I send are informative but that they are also sent with warmth and kindness and generosity of spirit and responsibility. What I write now may influence her future relationships with her birth family. It may influence how the recipients are feeling when they read the letter and afterwards. I feel responsible for ensuring they know that we are taking care of her and that we love her and that we are not busy bitching about them all the time. I can't obviously pitch it to them like that as that feels a tad........ direct. I want to reassure them that we are not dismissing their very existence; that we know they have feelings. I want to do all that without actually saying all that, if you know what I mean?
Those who know me well will know that I try and take far too much responsibility for everything going on around me. It's a part of my personality that was developed in my own, quite difficult, childhood. I do try and control things so that I know what's coming and what to prepare for. Of course my life has not been like that at all and I've had to learn (albeit reluctantly) to relax a bit on the reigns and let life just happen. It's inevitable though that I feel responsible for these letters. The written word is very powerful. It stays around long after the writer has moved on to other projects.
Those who know me well also know that when I'm trying to be subtle it will take me about 1000 more words to say what I would like to say in one word! I'm a real bull in a china-shop Taurean at times! Writing the reply to that question was no exception. I couldn't just say "No". It is more of a softer "not yet...." but then I needed to explain why it's a "not yet" so that the reader can understand that there are solid foundations that my reasoning sits upon. "No we haven't read your letters to Katie but we have shown her the photos you've sent and explained who's in them. We don't feel that she is ready to face the reality that she is adopted, rather than merely the concept as she currently does. We are concerned that bringing too much to her at the current time, on top of leaving her pre-school; starting school; and preparing for us to adopt a sibling, might be emotionally too much for her. Eventually it would be good if she could participate in the letter writing." I explained that this was our hope. Of course, she may not want to but she might. I also have to try and explain this in an ordinary, non psychological, non adoptive-parent kind of way. I'm sure my A'Level English Lit exam was easier to craft!
I don't want to upset the person reading the letter any more than they've already been upset by the circumstances that they are a part of. I don't want to be smug "look what I have and you don't parent". I am a proud parent. I am a delighted parent. I am all the things that parents are supposed to be but I can't rub their noses in it. I can't be cruel. Writing the letters makes me feel like the cruelest person on earth at times. There you go....here's a bag of salt to rub into your open wound!
But Katie is my priority in all this. What's best for Katie? Of course I don't actually know the answer to that. I don't know how she'll feel about all this when she is older. Will she embrace it or reject it? Will she hate me for sharing all this information and anecdotes and stories about her and her life? Can you see why I put off writing these letters? I am trying to get it right whilst knowing that I am writing as the person who is bringing up the child that they wanted in their family. A child I am sure they love but, for a variety of reasons, weren't able to be the parents that she needed and deserved. Feelings about birth parents aren't always clear cut for an adopter. We can feel angry about the background of our child and want to protect our children from the harsh realities of that. We are usually parenting the damage caused by that initial parenting, or lack of. It would be easy to villify them. In our case I can see the wider issues around their circumstances and why things happened the way they did. It doesn't change the fact that Katie was at risk but it does make me understanding of why she was at risk.
Once I've done all that I then have to pick the photograph to accompany the letter. I have several letters to write. One family member writes back and I feel we actually have a lovely letter writing relationship. I am hoping that we might even be able to meet up sometime soon so that I can actually meet a member of Katie's birth family. I want to reward all that effort and bravery with a lovely picture, but then I start to worry about what might happen to that picture. I worry even more about the picture that is sent to a recipient who is on Facebook. I would love to send beautiful and clear pictures but I daren't because I am concerned that they may appear on Facebook and Katie's anonymity be at risk.
Am I overthinking all this or do other adopters have this anxiety around this issue?
All I do know is this is why I'm going on an adoption workshop next week on the subject of.....
Who knows...I might even have some answers at the end of it!
Be My Parent: What is direct and indirect letter box contact?
BAAF: What is Contact?