In August, my surrendered daughter Megan asked me not to send her four children birthday presents although I had been sending them for over 10 years.
I let pass Aaron’s 10th birthday in September and Rachael’s 20th birthday in October without even a card. I ignored Megan’s birthday in November.
Now Christmas is coming. I'm thinking Megan’s insistence that I not send her children birthday presents may not include Christmas presents. I realize I’m parsing her words, thinking like the attorney I am.
Lorraine passed on to me a column by Philip Galanes of the NY Times with advice to an aunt who is in a legal dispute with her family. She wanted to send Christmas presents to her nephews. Galanes told her “there’s no reason for the boys to suffer because their parents and favorite auntie are so pigheaded they can’t resolve a simple disagreement. … Mail the presents with a polite note to the parents telling them that you miss the boys and hope they’ll pass your gifts on to them in the spirit of the holidays. Be prepared for the packages to be returned, unopened.”
It’s not that simple. The woman who wrote Galanes was certainly the children’s aunt; Megan made clear from the outset that I was not her children’s grandmother, a status reserved for her adoptive mother and mother-in-law.
I could ask permission to send Christmas presents but I don’t want to appear weak or pleading. I could send presents without permission. Rachael, at least, is an adult and can receive presents without her mother’s permission. (There’s the lawyer in me again.) But that’s putting Rachael and the other children into the middle of whatever it is that has upset Megan.
I wish I had a more relaxed and open relationship with Megan like I have with my three raised daughters. Although we have had some good conversations about movies, religion, politics, communication can be stressful. I strategize on what to write or say, walking the line between being direct and subtle, emotional and cold, familiar and distant.
I’ve read a great many adoptee memoirs and I see myself in the descriptions of their birthmothers. We are supplicants, seeking forgiveness, walking on eggshells trying to appease our children.
The adoptees’ memoirs are filled with unresolved bitterness and anger towards their birthmothers. They seek out faults perhaps to assure themselves that their adoption was “for the best.” It seems that just about anything can be perceived as a slight worthy of cutting off communication.
I dislike this situation which keeps me from performing simple, kind gestures.
I think I’ll go watch television, perhaps a “Law and Order” re-run and try to take my mind off the whole thing. I’ll pretend Megan, Rachael, the whole pack of them don’t exist.
Hi, Lorraine here – Though my daughter and I had a mostly good relationship for a quarter of a century, a few Christmases passed when she had cut off communication, and we did not even exchange the simplest greetings, let along presents. I would have to shrug it off, just like Jane says, and move on. We birthmothers feel sometimes you are damned if you do (send a present to the grandchildren) and damned if you don’t (same thing).
Giving up a child for adoption is the hurt that goes on giving.