Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let me tell you a little story about....

a beautiful baby girl named Madison.  She was born on a Spring day in Portland, Oregon to a woman named Angela.  Marc and I were right there as Madison made her first appearance in this world.  She was so fresh from God and the angels.  Her beautiful black, curly hair, her perfect mocha-colored skin, her incredibly loud, demanding voice.  Yes, from her first breath, Madison made it clear to the world she was a force to be reckoned with.

We feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have been given the privilege to parent this soul.  Without her birth parents, Angela and Darryl, we would never have heard the sweet words fall from Madison's lips calling us mom and dad.  We also count our blessings that Angela and Darryl have remained an integral part of our lives.  The beauty of open adoptions is evidenced in our ability to raise a healthy, happy daughter who knows her genetic roots and is able to see the reflection of her face and personality in her birthmother's eyes.  All is well and wonderful in our adoption story with Madison; a fact we revel in.

We have also been fortunate enough to meet extended family members suchas grandparents, aunts and uncles.  We have been able to vacation with Darryl's family including his mom and step-dad and they have visited us here in North Dakota and stayed with us for a week or so.  And this is where my story and quandry begins.

When her paternal grandparents visited us in North Dakota in 2007 all went well until Madison had a melt-down.  She yelled at us, stomped up and down the stairs, slammed her bedroom door and was, in general, a snotty 'tween.  It was a difficult time at our home since my mother was in Oregon, dying of Alzheimers and had just entered Hospice care.  But even taking that into account, Madison was just being Madison.  She has been strong-willed since her first breath, head-strong, determined and too bright for her own good.  R and E, her visiting grandparents had been annoyed by the fact that Madison and Thomas had friends over all the time and I allowed them to go in and out of the house all day.  I also allowed them to have ice pops at their desire and this seemed to annoy R and E also.  Another annoyance seemed to be that Marc and I were in the process of adopting Richnigthder and Jerome.  R seemed concerned about this and questioned us and our reasons for doing so.  She also questioned Madison on a long trail ride about her thoughts, concerns, fears of having new brothers.  Ok, I let this go as I didn't see it as anything of great bother and it certainly wasn't great enough to rock the boat.  We were just happy to have a relationship with Madison's birth grand mother and step grand father.

One night as I washing dishes, R and E came to the kitchen counter and asked if they could talk to me about something.  Sure, what the hell; my life is an open book.  WHAM!  What came out of R's mouth actually made me feel light-headed.  I don't know if I felt that way due to anger or saddness.  What she said was that she needed to talk to me about something and she wanted to know if Madison was mentally ill.  Yep, you heard me correctly, she said she thought Madison was mentally ill!  Her basis for this thinking was Madison's rude behavior to Marc and me, her obstinance when asked to do a chore and her apparant feeling of empowerment to have ice pops without asking.  I too politely explained to her that Madison has been of this temperment since birth and I acknowledged that she indeed can get mouthy at home with us, but has NEVER, EVER been disrespectful to an adult outside of this home.  She is giving of her time, generous of nature and kind to others.  I also expressed that I thought she was very well-behaved and polite for the most part and I saw no mental illness.  Quite honestly I felt so hurt, I wanted to burst into tears and run to my room like a baby.  How can Madison's flesh-and-blood grandmother think such awful things about her grandchild, let alone utter them outloud to me. 

I admit my mistake in this was not sharing my true feelings with R and E that very moment.  I tried to be polite and act as though nothing had occurred, but it was palpable.  The tension in the house grew from then on until their departure.  Since then, I have not spoken to R.  I miss her, but realize that if those are her beliefs about my child, I guess there is no way to change her mind.  I also know that thru the grapevine, she is aware of her offending comment to me, and has never called, written or emailed to discuss/apologize for offending us and Madison in such a painful way.

Now fast forward to this morning when an envelope arrived from R and E addressed to the Laurie Family.  What has taken us by suprise is that there was an envelope inside addressed plainly to 'the grandkids' and contained 2 gift cards for $50 each.  The financial amount is generous, but what I find disagreeable is that it neither acknowledges the FOUR kids by name, nor acknowledges that there are in fact now FOUR grandchildren as compared to the 'original' two.  Thomas is not their biological grandson, but fortunately, they had always treated him as though he were.  Now it seems as though they are failing to acknowledge the little boys.  Am I being thin-skinned about this?  I had always felt lucky that Madison's birth family was so involved, but their slights, rude, hurtful comments have obviously led us to this uncomfortable place.

Richnightder and Jerome don't understand that the two gift cards excluded them, and Madison and Thomas have agreed that the only correct thing is to use the money to buy something for all 4 of them.  Wow, for a girl that is 'mentally ill' she sure seems to understand the difference between right and wrong.

So that's my little bitchy Christmas story.  I suppose  it's not really bitchy, but more painful than anything.  I tend to keep slights and insults to myself, at least for a good long time, but I had expected that R would contact me in some fashion to apologize or discuss the fact that she over-stepped her boundaries in my home, regarding MY daughter.  I operate on the system that if I believe I have even possibly offended someone, I contact them to offer my apologies and my sincerest hope of extracting my foot from my mouth.

My kids are my everything.  They might be a pain in the butt, but those little butt's are all mine.  All of my kids have strengths and weaknesses just like every other human being.  I am accutely aware of their qualities and when someone comes at me from any point of view that doesn't aim to make their lives better, you better watch out.  Hmmmm, I guess when it comes to standing up to R, I took the easy way out; the path of peace on to be shown that that was probably not in our family's best interest.  Today I hurt for my daughter and the relationship with R that seems lost, and the knowledge that they are losing out on 4 great kids.

Oh, and Angela, Madison would like to stay with you for a week or so in June when we are in Seattle for her confirmation trip.  I just thought you might like to make some waterpark plans for a hot day and see what trouble you two girls can get into!!!  HAHAHAHA...P.s.  I'll send lots of Solarcaine!  Love you oodles, Angela!


Kristi said...

Not thin skinned just sensitive, like a mother should be. My initial thought was that it would be ok for a child to be mentally ill and a parent to acknowledge that - it's a challenge that is real. However, a tween being a tween, stomping their feet, talking back, slamming far as I know those symptoms alone do not signal a mental illness. It just was not her place to make that comment at all. If Madison was mentally ill I guess it should not matter to her. Nor be any of her business. As for the helping herself to an ice pop. Since when is it not ok for kids to get themselves a little snack to eat? Is it because it was an ice pop - therefore considered a "treat"? I mean in 2007 wasn't she old enough to know if she wanted to eat and ice pop now or later? That seems incredibly odd to me.

Then there is the two gift cards - regardless of dollar amount - that is just...well I don't even know. I can't decide if it is a hurtful move that was made on purpose or if it is just some sort of misunderstanding. I'm leaning toward the purposefully hurtful. If I were you I would march to the store and split those babies into 4 equal amounts and tuck them in the stockings and then I would have each of YOUR FOUR children write up thank you notes to be sent to the generous giver. In Madison and Thomas' note I would ask them to include that it was very thoughtful of them to send such a lovely gift card but that they felt it was unfair to the TWO other BROTHERS so they chose to split them up.

I don't understand some people's logic. It certainly is not "logical" to me!

geralyn said...

Oh Kristi thank you for pointing out that there is nothing shameful about mental illness unless someone is saying it to be malicious and to point out snotty behavior and our inability to parent better. I feel R used mental illness as a catch all to put us down as though we weren't being responsible parents, since good parents would never have a child that was rude or snotty.

And if my child was suffering from a mental illness, I would do everything under the sun and moon to help them have the best life possible. Thanks for helping me rephrase that mental illness is not shameful, but a reality of life. :)

Corey said...

Hmm. Families are tough, aren't they? And extended family is even tougher. I wonder if there is a dynamic that you don't know about.. like that there is mental illness somewhere in the family that they are afraid will resurface in Madison (but don't want to disclose).

As for the gift cards, maybe they intended the $100 to be split among "the grandkids" (all 4 of them) all along. (Ok, not likely, but will you feel better if you give them the benefit of the doubt?)

My guess is, there is some strange fear in there that there will not be enough love to go around (with 4 kids instead of 2), or maybe some shade-ism.. or who knows. (
Things went south with my father-in-law after we brought home kid #2, and started adoption for kid #3, as I was clearly "trapping" his son with all these kids.) And maybe now they know they have screwed things up and they just don't have the ability to know how to make it right.

Maybe what you do is write them a totally positive letter.. NOT addressing any of what has happened, but only addressing what you want for the future.. how you feel that open adoption is a gift, how important you feel their role can be in Madison's life, that you welcome them to be a supportive presence in all of your children's lives. And see where that goes.

(Or tell them to get bent. Whichever makes you feel better in the long run.) ;-)

Angela :-) said...

Wow, tough situation. I agree with Kristi re: the mental illness, but respectfully disagree re: this comment:"If Madison was mentally ill I guess it should not matter to her. Nor be any of her business" Just because Madison's biological parents chose adoption for her, doesn't mean any of her first family members quit caring about her.

Not having heard the tone of voice or knowing the situation, I won't offer advice on how to handle your sticky situation...

Angela :-)
(Call or email sometime... I'm getting a complex. LOL)

Sarah said...

When in June are you going to be in Seattle?!? We are going to be in the Puget Sound area of Washington nearly the entire month of June!

This is tough. We have similar situations with grandparents here (they have the "blood" grandkids and the "other" grandkids, although the crazy thing is that "Grandpa" is the step-dad, so he isn't related "by blood" to a single kid. Go figure."

I'm saying this only from my experience with difficult grandparents. But if these are the sort of folks who try to passive-aggressively pass off what they feel to be your inadequate parenting as possibly a mental illness of your daughter's, then they probably aren't enlightened enough to truly get anything that you might say to them.

Honestly, hon, even if you had called R&E on the painful statements they made at the time, they may have not apologized. Maybe they would have gotten mad, or maybe they would have twisted it to make it look like you were somehow the inappropriate one by confronting them. But please don't put this on yourself that you have somehow worsened the relationship by not being open. They may be difficult people who are difficult to have healthy relationships under any circumstances.

I'd have the kids all write thank-you's. Maybe have R&J draw a picture of the four kids playing with whatever the gift cards bought. Have your kids act gracious and take the high road.

Who knows, maybe receiving something from the boys with a personal touch will change their hearts. Or maybe not. But at least it sends the message that "these are ALL of our kids."

((Hugs)) to you.

Momma Too Many said...

Just visiting, and I thought I'd give you my sympathy. We have several relatives who treat our kids differently, and it is soo very hard to deal with. Both from the kids point of view and ours. Looking forward to seeing you in March if we both survive the Christams Season that is! LOL

Natalie said...

Tough situation! We've carefully tried to maintain a relationship with our kids' bio grandparents, but it has been difficult. They don't agree with our religion, for starters.

It took me a long time and much reassurance from many other adoptive parents as well as bio family members to realize that my first priority is MY kids. The bio grandparents are ONLY a good thing if it is emotionally positive for Madison. Perhaps the effort isn't made anymore unless Madison requests it?

As for the gift cards...VERY tacky. I don't care what the intent was, the delivery was inappropriate. To send only two cards to a family that has just grown and to not even put names on them is insensitive. It doesn't mean this was their intention, but it doesn't take away from the fact that it was hurtful and not very sensitive.

I feel for you. We've dealt with similar issues and I've finally gotten to the point where we will just choose not to be around people who don't build our kids up. :) They have a whole adult lifetime to deal with dysfunctional relationships. They shouldn't have to as kids.

Kristi said...'re right Angela. Once I re-read what I wrote it didn't come off quite how I meant that. I meant more like they shouldn't care like it shouldn't affect their love but it sounded like - well what I typed. :-) Good point. :-) My brother's "open" adoption is a total different situation but my family chose not to disclose his true mental illnesses to his biological family and he is thankful for that now that he is an adult (I use the term "adult" loosely - LOL) - but as with all things each situation should be handled in whatever way is best for the family.

PS: Each and every one of my children has stomped off to their room, talked back, and done all those crazy behaviors in the last 24 hours. And my kids are far from the tween stages - lord have mercy on me.