I have had email contact with several of the kids bio family members over the last 6 months, some of which are local and others not. We were invited to meet with their family at a reunion which was taking place at one of their homes and again to participate in the kids bio Mom's memorial service. I declined those invites as I felt they would both be overwhelming and highly emotional. It just wasn't what I wanted for a first meeting. I planned a picnic at a park near our adoption agency with the agency itself as our fall back if the weather was bad.
I set clear expectations before we met. I would not be telling the kids we were going there to meet them and the best way for them to interact would just to be to start playing. The kids get shy when they are introduced and know a bunch of people are looking at them. They don't like to be center of attention. I also wanted to remind them while they have a clear understanding of their connection and a large emotional attachment, the kids do not. I never got a response to that email so I was nervous about how it was perceived and if our boundaries would be respected.
We made a quick stop at a cupcake and coffee shop across the street from the park to pick up treats to share. I was so distracted and anxious about our meeting I didn't even blink when I was charged $44 for my coffee and mini cupcakes (I got that resolved later). We headed out pushing our loaded up stroller looking for a level entry into the park. As I glimpsed up the stairs I saw their family setting up their chairs and tried to settle my nerves as we pushed further up the block. As we entered the small park there was the awkward moment of us seeing each other for the first time. It meant everything to all the adults there and nothing to the kids. I'm so thankful for that because in a second they were off to play. I quickly said hello and followed my kids onto the playground. I then had casual conversation with their Great Aunt as she stood next to me. It was comfortable as we could both have our eyes trained on the kids digging in the sand box. Kind of like you'd make small talk with another parent.
We met with the kids Great Aunt who is significant because she had custody of the kids bio Mom off and on throughout her childhood. Along with her partner and their 17 year old son who looked up to the kids bio Mom as a big sister. They also brought the kids Maternal Great Grandparents. I had exchanged many email with their Great Aunt so it was nice to talk with her in person and attach a voice to the words.
Our visit lasted just over two hours which seemed to fly by. The kids had an awesome time playing. They were able play catch with everyone and share a meal. We did a lot of talking at a very high level of our families. It was a respectful dance on both sides in an attempt to not cross any boundaries. We remained very vague on where we lived with it being obvious some of them thought the park was near our home and a place we visit often (not true). I was asked near the end to please share our address when we feel comfortable so they can send card even though that can already be done through our agency.
Another emotionally charged moment was the bio family asking about how D was doing since they knew he was born drug exposed. There was fear and shame in the tone when the question was uttered and relief when I assured them he is amazing. I did go into details on the first difficult months so they would not have any illusion that the drug exposure had no impact on him. I also talked about Zoe's insatiable appetite when she came to live with us and they confirmed my suspicions about her lack of nutrition were true. They also talked about how she was a "rigid" baby at about 6 months and wouldn't cuddle or interact with you much. It's funny because now she LOVES to snuggle and is known as a little cuddle bug. This just shows what love and nurturing can do for a child.
There was difficulty in them understanding the kids have no concept of who they are yet. The bio family asked several times if the kids know who their bio mom is and if they ask about her. I explained we talk about her and show them pictures often but they are just not interested. Anyone besides us as their parents just isn't a thought they have because as far as they know at this moment, the kids have all they need. This will of course change and that is why I'm so glad we're meeting them now. That side of their family won't be a mystery. My only regret was not capturing photos.
They gave us a treasure of photos from their family and the back of the album includes a photo of our family and one of the kids alone together. Is is symbolic and touching, something we all will treasure. I'm so glad the initial meeting is over and I hope they left feeling good about the kids well being. Zoe told me as she laid down for her nap "I want to go back to that park and see my family sometime." I couldn't agree with her more and I resolve to make that happen.