Saturday, April 2, 2011

Drawing the line

We managed a very short visit with Olivia's birthmother last week. She's been through some stuff lately. And that was followed by more stuff, which I didn't mention here. Medically, physically, emotionally...she's had a lot of hard knocks in recent months. We like to drop in when we can since Olivia is a bright spot in her life.

She's healing and starting to make some positive changes in her life. Or at least talking about positive changes. Unfortunately, given recent history, I can't trust yet that all of that talk will lead to something real and lasting.

After our short visit (as in, later that day), I got a text from her saying something to this effect: "I am planning to get an apartment of my own soon and would love to keep Olivia by myself once in awhile. Maybe overnight. We can start slowly for Olivia's comfort."

I know her motivation. She doesn't see her other girls much. She just wants to spend time with Olivia and feel like a Mom once in awhile. I get that.

But my first thought was, "Holy crap. You can't be serious."

Quick history. We reconnected with Olivia's birthmother by phone last Spring. Olivia met her for the first time (since birth) on Mother's Day weekend last year. Since that time, birthmom's contact information has changed three times and her address has changed four times. We can't keep up with the drama happening in her life. But I know that while she is trying to change her own behavior, she hasn't been able to control the behavior of those with whom she lives/associates. And that has put her in harm's way more than a few times.

The text came while I was driving, and I didn't really feel the need or desire to answer it anytime soon. Apparently she got impatient, because she called that night and wanted to talk about it.

I told her we needed boundaries. She told me that she respected the fact that Joe and I are her parents, now and forever, and she would never want to change that. I told her we needed to think of Olivia's safety first and foremost. She said she would never do anything to put her in harm's way. I said I wasn't sure she could promise that when she had found herself in harm's way more often than I cared to remember in the last several months. She said, "But he's not really like that. I can't blame him for those times he got angry because I set him off by going a little crazy then. I'm better now."

As I'm writing this out, I'm recognizing it for what it is. She's a battered woman. And she allows it to go on.

She wants us (me and Joe) to go to dinner with them...her and time we are in town. She wants us to spend some time with him and see what he's really like so we'll be comfortable leaving Olivia with her in the presence of him. Because he's in her life. But here's the problem. We've met him before. We've talked to him and he was always cordial and polite. He would be cordial and polite again. But that's not how is really is. We can't trust that he'd be that way in Olivia's presence. We can't even trust how SHE would act in Olivia's presence, away from us. And we can't trust that our daughter would be safe.

I know what we will/must do. I know that Olivia can have NO visits with her birthmother that aren't supervised by us. I am happy to pick birthmom up for visits, invite her to events, maybe even have her spend a night at our house someday. But she can't babysit. She can't have slumber parties or take her to the park by herself. I know she loves Olivia, but I just don't think I can trust her or her judgment. Not yet. Not by a long shot.

Now, how do I explain that to her?


Lizzie said...

Oh man, that's hard. Not a good idea and no way to be too gentle about it... Ugh.

ms. marginalia said...

I just found your blog, and have been catching up on your story. First, your daughter is beautiful and clearly brilliant. Of course. ;-)

Second, I cannot imagine how hard it is to have to walk a tightrope like this with your daughter's first mom. I understand completely about having to keep your daughter safe from abuse, while trying to preserve a relationship with her fmom. It's desperately sad that her fmom is in an abusive relationship, and you're right: abusers don't change.

I wish you all kinds of luck and fortitude as you negotiate this difficult path.