Why Openness?

Guest Blogger Jennifer Nickel considers why open adoption is important even under trying and difficult circumstances.

Jennifer Nickel

Why do I believe in open contact even when families are dysfunctional, addicted or even actively participating in criminal acts?

Because I believe it’s best for my kids. I took my son to meet his biological father in a Federal Prison. Was that easy? Of course not. It was scary and overwhelming and slightly nauseating, and that was just for ME, I cannot fathom what he was feeling, but it was still totally the right thing to do.

Why? Because my son wanted to. Because it’s his truth and his reality. Because he has a right to love his parent even if I would rather my kids never talked to anyone who has ever used drugs in their entire lives.

Because he needed to know with his own ears that he was loved BY THEM.

My love, my overabundant, over whelming, huge amount of pure love for my kids cannot erase their need and desire to be loved by their original parents.

And he needed to know it and hear it at five and six and eight and thirteen, not at 18 or 21 or whatever random age the state told him he was allowed to know. Because he needed to know, for real, that I respected his needs more than I worried about my own insecurities. Because he needed to see that I LIKED his biological parents good parts in order to truly believe deep down that I loved all of him too.

How could I deny him that? How could I deny my child ANYTHING he needed even if that means I get really, really uncomfortable.

Is it easy dealing with things that I have absolutely ZERO life experience dealing with? No. Honestly, I never thought I would be traipsing to prisons to visit people important to my kids. I never, ever fathomed that I would EVER have a police officer drop by to retrieve stolen property during a visit with anyone in my life EVER. I didn’t fathom a life where I had to explain to children why the person we are visiting once hurt them, and why it’s OK to be angry at someone and then still be ok to love them. I didn’t expect to be comfortable explaining mental illness to a six year old or the effects of sexual promiscuity to a ten year old.

I have never so much as smoked a cigarette in my life so I never really thought I would have to understand intimately the power of addiction and its affect on my children.

But you know I really, really love my kids. And they are really, really amazing kids and they are really, really worth it.

I understand that some would use any of the ample excuses at my disposal as a reason to close an adoption. Run-ins with the police, active addiction, inappropriate gifts, uncomfortable situations, angry family members, criminal activities are all reasons we hear for closing up relationships. My kids first parents live complicated, confusing, difficult lives. That I do not deny. And I love them.

I love them because I see in their eyes the beauty that is my children. I see that with a different life and different choices and different supports they could have and would have and most importantly SHOULD HAVE been safe parents to our children. I see pain and broken hearts and hurting people. And I see parents. Parents who have little to give other than love, and that’s ok with me.

These complicated, difficult people who make horrible choices in many areas of their lives treat me, and our family, with respect. I don’t know why they do, but they do. So I trust them to love their children, our children, my children within the boundaries that are safe. And they do. And if ever we are not treated in a why I wish we were, I forget easily, forgive quickly and explain endlessly our boundaries.

Yesterday, after all the craziness of puppies and police, I watched my two year old be snuggled by her other mother. The woman from whom she inherited her beautiful smile and striking eyes. The woman from whom she inherited a curiosity that cannot be stated. The woman who created her. And that woman, that mother, said over and over again “I love you! I love you! I love you”.

My two year old who can’t sit still longer than 40 seconds may not value those words today, but I know she would one day feel their absence intimately. She may never know what it costs both of the mothers sitting in that room to forge a relationship together, but she will know she was loved deeply by both of us.

And that is a good enough reason for me.

Jennifer Nickel’s blog A Nickel’s Worth of Common Sense explores adoption, fostering, race and family in a small northern town.

Read More about Open Adoption: Talking to Lori Holden on the Topic of Open Adoption, A Clear Definition of Open Adoption, isn’t it a spectrum?, When What I Knew about Adoption was Wrong, Open Adoption, Learn about Open, Semi-Open and Closed Adoption, One Family; Two Different Adoption Plans, 4 Keys to Getting Started with your Open Adoption Arrangement