Perhaps some of you caught the gem of a question and answer session on Slate’s Dear Prudence column this past Thursday. My husband is actually the one who caught it for me and forwarded the link to me. We then had a lengthy discussion on the letter itself, the answer and our opinions on the subject in general. What? You didn’t read it? Go read it first.
Basically, the shortened version: mother relinquishes her firstborn daughter for adoption twenty-three years ago. Birth mother initiated the reunion. Through email and phone call conversations, birth mother decides that she doesn’t like the daughter in question because she is “immature and bratty.” (Note: the girl in question is twenty-three, a known selfish phase of life for a large number.) After a physical meeting with the whole group (adoptive mom, child the relinquished daughter is raising, 18 year old daughter the birth mother is raising), she decides that she really doesn’t like her. The birth mother later goes on to ask Prudence what to do, especially since the child in question is “entering the field” that the birth mother is in and the birth mother thinks she will “suck at it.” (Seriously. Her words.)
My blood pressure raised when reading the letter. I have hopes that this is some sort of spoof letter sent by someone wanting to perpetuate the stereotypes of birth parents and reunion. What we have is a nasty birth mother who dared to sign her letter as “What Should I Do About the Daughter I Never Wanted?” What we have is a relinquished daughter who seemingly was “raised” poorly (birth mother’s words, not mine) and seems to possess a disinterest in emotionally bobby-trapped presents. What we have here is a letter that got the answer it deserved.
Prudence didn’t sugar-coat it. She called the birth mother immature as well (not ignoring that the adoptee in question had some maturity issues as well). She chastised her for not stepping up to be a support for the career in question. She called her out on suddenly appearing in the woman’s life only to be a judgmental presence in her life. She reminded her that the daughter likely has issues with her anyway. Prudence then advises her that a “marginal” relationship is likely best.
And, gosh, I agree.
I know that horrid reunions like this occur. Two parties who just do not mesh together suddenly are thrown into the same room, told that they’re mother and daughter and are expected to “perform” as such. Sometimes the results are great. Sometimes they are not so awesome. More often than not they are a mixture of the two like any other relationship, complete with highs and lows. To be honest, I’d be very interested to see if this particular birth mother sought out any form of counseling before searching for her relinquished daughter. It surely doesn’t sound like it. It also doesn’t sound like she has sought it out in the aftermath of their reunion.
And that’s what I’m here to suggest: get thee to counseling.
Whether you are a birth mother considering search and reunion or one in a fully open adoption, counseling can either help you avoid making yourself look like a fool on an internet advice column or avoid the issues all together. Don’t misread me: a therapist isn’t going to magically make your reunion all rainbows, butterflies and unicorns. A counselor won’t remove the issues that accompany open adoption relationships. However, bouncing your emotions off of a therapist might help you avoid projecting them onto the child in question, whether adult or child. A counselor might better help you decide how to approach a difficult subject or why your expectations are somewhat out of line.
In the end, you are responsible for acting like an adult when it comes to the relationship with your child. If they aren’t acting nicely, unfortunately you can’t reprimand them like you would the child you raised. Instead, you need to find a way to deal with it in an appropriate manner. Hopefully that doesn’t involve making all birth parents look like nasty, judgmental schmucks on the internet.
(By the way, if you think I’m being to harsh, you should read some of the comments to the letter. While some are judgmental of birth mothers in general (and, therefore, I ignored them), others addressed this letter specifically and really let their words fly. Not exactly family safe with their language either. Heads up.)