When I was 4, my father promised me a pony. He said it would be white and beautiful and that it could live in a barn next to the enormous house he would buy just as soon as his “ship came in.” I believed him. When I was 6, he promised me a pony. He said I could ride this pony when I came to see the big beautiful house he would buy near the ocean. I believed him. When I was 10 he told me that his “money was going to come in soon,” and that I could have a horse. Despite my misgivings, I believed him.
My parents divorced when I was 4 years old. During my childhood my father would bounce around from apartment to apartment, never staying in one place for too long. He also bounced around from fiancee to fiancee and the occasional marriage. During our bi-weekly visits he would often spon great tales about how fabulous life would be if he married so-and-so and bought the big house with my horse. Then he would leave me in his apartment while he took his newest “lady friend” out dancing on the town.
Needless to say, the fabled pony never appeared. A small part of me believed that someday he might actually pull off one of the many business schemes he was always planning. Sometimes I actually believed he would marry and stay with one of his nicer more stable girlfriends. It wasn’t the empty promises he made that hurt me the most. I wasn’t looking for a pony. I just wanted a relationship with my dad.
During my teen years I questioned why my mother encouraged me to have a relationship with him. She tried to keep her own negative experiences with him to herself. I think my mother wanted him to know me. She wanted him to watch me grow up because, despite his many flaws, he was my father. She wanted me to have visits and phone calls to understand him for what he was. She recognized my right to know my own origins. I only realize now how wise she was in doing so.
My father was a confusing, difficult to explain, part of my family tree. But I had a right to this part of my history. Knowing him allowed me to see him for the man he was; irresponsible, flawed, and caring in his own way.
“He won’t be around forever,” my mother always told me. She didn’t want me to have regrets. She was right. He died this past summer, and I do not have regrets. I know that I was a good daughter to him. The flaws in our relationship, which began in my infancy, were not my fault. In the end, my mother’s early actions were able to provide me with a sense of peace when he died.
It pains me that my own children are growing up so beautifully, and the people who created them don’t see it. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not comparing them to my father. My father wasn’t the greatest but he never hurt me physically, neglected my basic care, or put me in imminent danger. The situation isn’t the same in this way. But I believe it’s the same that despite all the mistakes that were made, these parents loved their children. Despite what our children sometimes believe, they are NOT throwaway kids.
My husband and I tried an open adoption agreement, we tried saving memories and pictures for the biological parents. Our overtures were not received. Not at all. It’s been almost 3 years now. It doesn’t matter how the biological parents of our children feel about us, or about DCF. It doesn’t matter what kind of people they are. Even the things they put our children through cannot negate what matters. All of this pales in comparison to the amazing children we are raising.
“Look at them,” I want to say, “See how beautiful they are? They have your eyes. He looks like you. These kids are beautiful human beings.” I can’t say this to them. We have no contact, at their choice. It’s alright if they won’t hear us. It’s alright if they won’t hear our children. Maybe they can’t.
But I made it possible anyway. I created a closed Facebook group with pictures of the little chickens through all of the years they missed. This isn’t about giving them access to my children, or putting my children in danger. Maybe the biological parents will never pick up the school pictures we ordered them (which are still sitting in the DCF office collecting dust.) But online, it will always be there if they ever want to see.
It took me awhile, but I managed to find and include older biological siblings and both biological parents into the group. At the very least, nothing at all happens. At the very worst, we start a web of contact that may backfire. I don’t want my children to be the ones always waiting for that pony to materialize. Despite everything, my choice has been made. I have just cracked open the door on our closed adoption.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.