18 can be a magical, mythical number for some women, like me, who chose adoption for their children. In closed, semi-closed, or unsatisfying open adoptions it’s a thread of hope that contact can be made someday, a relationship with our kids possible in the future, legally free & clear. A carrot to keep us on the path.
I know it was for me. When the Kid was a primary schooler, 18 was a beacon to get me through the long nights, an idea to clutch when I felt like I had little else. Now that I’m standing on the threshold of the Kid’s birthday (give or take a few days), I know differently.
Eighteen years was how long it took for me to come to terms with the consequences of my actions, to mourn a lost motherhood, to set free the person I was “before”, to grieve the loss of my son.
I hear my friend Paul in my head regularly “But Barbara, what did you learn? What’s the lesson here?” And for the past six months or so, I’ve been answering it honestly, consistently. It’s neither a startling revelation nor a heart-warming conclusion tied with a pretty ribbon.
False hope is worse than no hope, which is not the same as hopeless. What has served me best is an almost unrelenting pragmatism on any possible future relationship with the Kid. I say “almost” because I am a human being, after all. I expect nothing from him. This is not to say that I don’t care, as I care more than I let on, but I no longer wait on scraps of information from the Kid or his parents. It’s an exercise in continual disappointment, which is exhausting & demoralizing. It will probably never be a satisfying relationship for me, and I’ve come to accept it. My life is littered with unsatisfying relationships – it’s familiar territory.
I chose adoption for my son because I convinced myself he deserved better than me. While I haven’t viewed his adoptive parents as “better than me” in quite a number of years, I know he has had many opportunities that I could never have financially afforded. I suspect he’s an overall good kid. So I guess I did my job as far as picking parents for the Kid, despite my relationship with them, which has bordered on adversarial at times.
There’s no Certificate of Completion for this class, no finish line, no closing ceremony. But I don’t follow the carrot. There are far more interesting paths to travel. That was the lesson.