Thanksgiving this year was...interesting. Thursday was a normal Thanksgiving gathering with my side of the family. Then things got frustrating.
We had made plans with Olivia's birthmother, and she was supposed to spend the night on Thursday. Then the plan changed...on her end. She ended up spending the night on Friday instead, which turned out OK, although the last minute changes did throw off our weekend a bit. We had a lovely time, made a traditional Thanksgiving meal, enjoyed some time together. And I found myself with conflicting emotions, as always happens when she is with us.
My first instinct is to think of more ways to invite her into our celebrations. Her life has never been "traditional". Thanksgiving was barely noticed in her family, as it is. It seems she and those around her have struggled just to "get through" whatever the day presents them. So when she spends time with us, she relaxes. She sees Olivia in her regular environment and rejoices in her happiness and stability. She seems to wish such a life for herself. And some of the recent choices she has made seem to indicate that she's on her way to achieving more stability in her life. But, seeing her joy at being a part of our little family celebrations makes me want to involve her more often.
And then...she allows Olivia to see parts of her life that are foreign to Olivia. The smoking, the language, the mannerisms...things we don't want Olivia to pick up on. And so far, Olivia hasn't...much. In fact, she corrects Samantha (and others) on certain things. "We don't say that word." "Ain't is NOT a word!"
But, as much as she tried to conceal it from Olivia during our visit, Olivia picked up on the fact that Miss Samantha would sneak outside for a cigarette. There's this dissonance in her mind...she prays nightly for Miss Samantha to stop smoking. She knows that it is bad for your lungs. Her little 4-year-old mind can't comprehend why someone would do something that is bad for them.
And, she ADORES Miss Samantha. She doesn't see her often, but when she does, she wants to hold her hand and walk by her and have her watch EVERYTHING she does. So after we got home from dropping Miss Samantha off on Saturday, it didn't surprise me much to find Olivia playing "smoking" in the backyard. Which, of course, prompted a Mommy-Daughter heart-to-heart about people we love and how some of their choices aren't the best and we don't want to encourage such choices or be like them in that way because it can be harmful to ourselves, etc.
Now that Olivia's old enough to observe these things, watching the "play smoking" makes me want to place some distance between us and her birthmother. I know that is not helpful either, as I'm sure it will just make Olivia focus MORE on her when we do get together. But I feel the need to protect my child from certain things while she is still very, very impressionable.
I feel there are great benefits to open adoption, especially for Olivia and her future self-identity. I just hope she can separate who she is from who her birthmother has been based on her birthmother's individual choices. Samantha is a product of her environment and her own upbringing, which was turbulent, to say the least. But she and Olivia exhibit similar personality characteristics, and I pray every day that Olivia's upbringing can help her channel those traits and tendencies in good, productive ways.