It’s Time to Start Talking

It's Time to Start Talking

“Don’t write about writing.”

Except that I need to in order to move myself—and my writing—forward. Over the past two years, my writing frequency declined. I left a beloved, long-time job just over two years ago. After leaving another job almost one year ago, I found myself unable to write.

It’s not that I didn’t have things to write about at the time. Oh, I did.

However, some things simply couldn’t be written about at the time. Some things still don’t lend themselves easily to the page, though I’ve been working on how to write about certain topics solely from my point of view. It’s hard.

We write so much about the early stages of parenting. Of poop and sleep and leaky breasts. Of best parenting practices and how to make mom friends and how to make your baby a genius. And yes, thanks to our generation of writing moms, we even talk about loneliness, fear, and depression, postpartum or otherwise.

We’re allowed to keep up this talk, this back and forth of learning and teaching, through some point in elementary school. We can write about school trials and tribulations. We’re allowed rant about unnecessary testing. We’re still okay to share our kiddos pics.

Until we’re not.

Until the dreaded tweendom takes hold.

Suddenly and silently, we’re on our own, and quite honestly, it sucks.

The sudden lack of anything in Blog Land regarding parenting of tweens feels much like the Blogosphere when I started writing about open adoption as a birth mother. In 2004, no one wrote about birthmotherhood, open adoption, grief, loss, happiness, visit, or anything in between. In 2005, when I started Chronicles, I did so solely out of a need to share my truth.

It grew into so much more, of course. It grew until those who didn’t like my voice worked tirelessly to silence me. I do not regret that I “let” them “win.” Chronicles, as it existed in its then form, outgrew its purpose. My experience at that time could no longer be used to help others. I recognized the approaching tweendom wall with my daughter, and if no one’s writing about parenting tweens, let me tell you this:

No one is talking about birth parenting tweens in open adoption.

That’s not really good for anyone, our children included. While birth parents can muster through their grief and loss without much direction or support when their child is but a wee babe, doing so without support or empathy from others during those tween years (and beyond) seems like a bad choice.

I’ve spent the past year silently wishing for help. My therapist—not a birth mother, not an adoptee—can only offer so much insight. I’ve learned a lot from the vocal, helpful, beautiful adoptee contingent on Twitter over the past year, both publicly and via Direct Message. And still, I felt very alone.

It wasn’t until I reached out to another first mother involved in a fully open adoption earlier this year that I learned some of the things my unique family unit is currently experiencing are not abnormal or unique. I literally felt like the only birth mother on the planet going through what we were going through until that moment.

I felt that way because no one is talking about it.

No one is talking about it out of fear of stepping over boundaries, out of habit of walking on eggshells. Out of being silenced by other birth parents; trolled by adoptive parents; dismissed by a society which wants to believe we’re the bad guys in a good versus evil situation.

It’s time to start talking.

It’s time to start talking about how birth parents involved in open adoption can help their child address the trauma caused by relinquishment. To start talking about mental health and illness and suicidality among adoptees and birth parents. To let other (birth) parents know they’re not alone when a(ny) child becomes a tween and the relationship dynamic shifts drastically.

It’s time, once again, to break the silence. Doing so requires careful attention that we, as first parents, discuss how it feels for and affects us, to avoid projecting our feelings. It requires sharing about our experiences, not our children’s experience.

It means knowing what is our own issue, what is not, and a careful use of language and writing skill.

I plan on being part of this next wave of change in how we share about our experiences in open adoption. (I also plan on sharing more about the tween(s-to-be) who live under my roof.) I share all of this now, in this long post about writing and not writing, so that when I jump in soon, readers have a frame of reference.

I sat silent on topics pertaining to adoption for two years because it hurt too much. For the past two years, I’ve dipped my toe in the waters but stayed out of the surf. I’m ready to share, to ask, to learn, to help once again.

All this to say: Hi. Let’s talk about the realities of parenting and birth parenting again.

It's Time to Start Talking

Somewhere In Between

Somewhere In Between

We’re already a week and a half into our summer break. You know what that means? You know, beyond sibling bickering.

It means that our oldest son left elementary school behind a week and a half ago.

We attended the end-of-year Awards Ceremony and Fifth Grade Graduation. I knew the likelihood of bursting into tears was rather high, so I wore waterproof mascara. I should have gone for no makeup as I kept wiping the continuous leak from my left eye, thus wiping all makeup down to my eye cream off and leaving a giant red mark under my eye.

It’s not that I’m sad the kid is growing up.

But, approximately six blinks ago, he looked like this.

Somewhere In Between: First Day of Kindergarten

And now he looks like this.

Somewhere In Between: Last Day of 5th Grade

And somewhere in between, he looked like these versions of himself.

Somewhere In Between

It’s that somewhere in between that really gets you.

Somewhere in between, when you’re in the thick of constantly signing agendas and reading logs and permission slips, you finally miss the agenda one night. You know, the day after you ran a marathon, or something. And the look on their face lets you know one thing: They now know you can fail them… just in case they didn’t know yet.

Somewhere in between, when you’re making lunches and forgetting to send lunch money and fretting about their nutrition and making healthy after school snacks and letting finally them scavenge for themselves because they’ve got to learn how to eventually, right?

Somewhere in between, when you’re helping them learn to sound out the -ed at the end of words so it doesn’t sound like ghost-Ed, a ghost named Ed; going over spelling and vocabulary words; helping them choose right verb tenses—and then suddenly they’re correcting your grammar and you’re all, “Wait. What?”

Somewhere in between, when you start out explaining that two plus two equals four BECAUSE IT DOES and holding them when they cry because they weren’t first to finished a timed math fact test and reassuring them that their worth is not defined by a state test and receiving a letter that your child is gifted in math and you cry a little because he worked so hard to get to that point and you had nothing to do with it other than making him believe in himself.

Somewhere in between, when they think the sun rises and sets on the heads of their first teacher to listening to a rant about why such-and-such teacher is so unfair to standing up for them when they need it to teaching them to stand up for themselves in the academic environment because you can’t fight all their battles to having a teacher tell you that they’re going to miss your kid the most.

Somewhere in between, when every kid is their friend to no one is their friend to situations that aren’t bullying but just kids being jerks because kids can be jerks to an incident that makes you want to punch another child in the face for hurting your baby to reassuring your kid that they’re cool and/or that cool is overrated to losing control over who they’re actually friends with to taking pictures of them with their best friends on that last day and realizing you knew these kiddos when they were that little too and it makes you want to cry again.

So you do.

Somewhere in between, when your kid loved school more than anything to when they hated it and didn’t want to go to the nervousness that accompanies leaving behind elementary school and heading to middle school which you know won’t be fully felt until the first day of school next year—for either of you.

Somewhere in between, he turned from a little boy into a tween. Somewhere in between, he learned a bunch of important lessons in everything from academics to life skills to relationships.

Somewhere in between, he stopped holding my hand in public. He recently refused to kiss me at bedtime. His attitude rivals that of my own at that age. He’s starting to play the trombone. His feet are bigger than mine.

Additionally, I have the honor of watching him play Little League this year in the Majors, comprised with 11- and 12-year-old boys. The difference between the end-of-fifth-graders and the end-of-sixth-graders is painfully visible, and so I am aware that even at the end, we remain somewhere in between as big things are about to happen.

I feel incredibly thankful for the experience he had in elementary school. I feel unprepared for what comes next, just like every other time he’s started in on something new.

On to the next somewhere in between which we got a preview of the day after fifth grade graduation at my cousin Hannah’s graduation party.

Somewhere In Between: A Preview

Well then. Okay.