Letterbox

And just as we start to realise we have reached “normal” we have a reminder that things aren’t and never ever can be.

What am I talking about? Letterbox of course. The piece of A4 paper that drops on the doormat once a year that seems to slice through the freshly formed scab on the wound of the adoption process for all involved, parent and child, and reminds you that your child or children aren’t actually yours.

Let me clarify what I mean quickly before anyone gets offended. Of course your child or children are yours. Of course you are their mummy and/or Daddy. Of course we will be bringing Pickle up knowing she is adopted, being fully aware who her birth family are and having the choice to want to meet them later in life. Even more so I personally am gutted that her siblings still live with the birth family, for several reasons. But two of the most important are that Pickle may feel that she was rejected when the others weren’t. And secondly that we can’t have contact with them, for Pickle to get to know as she grows up. That upsets me more than anything. If her siblings were adopted as well I know for a fact that we’d be attempting to meet up with them a couple of times a year so they can form a relationship.

But instead we are left with writing them a letter once a year which, in fact, has to be written to her birth grandmother and birth aunt who has them. So the letters don’t even go directly to the people we feel deserve contact with Pickle. For good reason, of course, as they’re all under 18. But it still leaves me feeling bereft for Pickle and wondering, probably correctly, if you letters are being dealt with in the right manner.

Another thing that baffles me is that, as adopters, we have to pick a month to send a letter and stick to it. We get reminders and, I fear, if we don’t do it we will get reprimanded like naughty children who’ve forgotten to hand in an essay by the deadline and threatened with several detentions with no thought of the possible reasons behind the lack of written work. The birth family, on the other hand, can send a reply back whenever they want, if at all. They get the choice. It really is a great example of one rule for one and another rule for someone else. We get to watch the letterbox in nervous anticipation all year. That’s such a great way to live our lives.

I simply feel that Letterbox is the local authorities way of appeasing birth families and has nothing to do with the children at all. Very recently someone (a fellow adopter) said to me “if you don’t do it your child may end up resenting you”. The brainwashed statement was shockingly clear. I feel that letterbox is used as a kind of emotional blackmail towards adopters with the intention of making us feel we’ll be adding to the trauma and damage to our children by not doing it. Screw the fact that you, as the child’s parent, feel they don’t deserve it.

To put it more bluntly it makes me feel like a glorified, long term childminder. I’m keeping Pickle’s family informed of her progress through life before she finally goes back to them. Well, I’m sorrynotsorry but I feel birth mum lost that right the moment she decided to take drugs throughout her pregnancy with my beautiful daughter. And yes, she’s my daughter. In our first “practice” letter I was made to change the sentence “proud to call her our daughter” to “proud to call ourselves her parents”. So we can’t even be proud that she is our daughter because it’ll apparently “upset the birth family”.

From another angle, my own mum is adopted and she doesn’t see any positive value in Letterbox either. In her words “my mother would have just written the same lies in the letters as she told me when I met her later on”. To that end it would have made no difference. And to know that her adoptive parents were writing to her (awful) birth mother would have felt like a betrayal.

There’s another example of this brainwashing that seems to occur. The number of adopters with older children who I hear saying they actively encourage their children to allow them to continue to write to birth family even when a child has told them they no longer want them to scares me. If Pickle says to me she doesn’t want us to write to them I won’t be trying to convince her these people deserve to know about her life. It’s her choice. Why would anyone want to actively encourage a child to continue to inform their abusers of their lives when they’ve made it clear they don’t want to. It’s bad enough doing it behind the child’s back when they’re too young to understand. But to continue afterwards is a betrayal. And the number of adopters who tell me that when that letter arrives their children go in to full meltdown mode for a good period of time. It unsettles them. Upsets them. Disturbs them. How can children feel settled when a letter arrives once, twice and sometimes three times a year reminding them that they’re not with their birth family. How do we know that it doesn’t make the children feel that their family isn’t permanent?

Of course, for some children and adopters it will work. But I feel it’s a minority that it will truly work for. One size definitely does not fit all but in this case the adoption authorities seem to have the warped sense that it does.

As I have said before, Pickle will know she’s adopted. We have talked to her about it from the moment she moved in at 15 months old. And we use the language of adoption all the time. Her life story book is out for her to access at any time she likes. And we talk to her about it. But to have to write to people who’ve let her down in a way nobody who isn’t adopted will understand is ¬†heart wrenching and I hate it.

We will do it. Every year. Until Pickle tells us otherwise. But I categorically say right here and now I don’t agree with it at all.

Letterbox for everyone is a flaw in adoption that needs to be addressed.

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