Crossing Boundaries

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler

When my brother was nine, my Uncle Ted got him an erector set for Christmas. Uncle Ted was a bit of a geek. He was really into computers, electronics and well, geeky stuff. He had thick glasses, plaid shirts and I think even a pocket protector.

But we loved him.

His goofy sense of humor, his outgoing personality and his little kid attitude made him a favorite relative. It was no surprise to us that Uncle Ted would purchase an erector set for my brother.

My brother, the only boy in our family, had his own room. While my two sisters and I squished into a small room with bunk beds and a trundle bed, the male of the family got his own large room.  Not that I wanted to share with him, but I do recall being insanely jealous of the fact that he had more room for himself than my sisters and I did. Not only did he have his own room but he had TWO large walk in closets. We had one.

In recollecting my brother’s room I recall two things – the color blue and his erector set made room alarm.

He made the door alarm out of wires and bells and whatever other stuff comes in an erector set. My mother was the first to set it off. He had rigged it to his door and went to bed. My mother, on her nightly rounds of forehead kissing and bed tucking, opened his door and off it went. Of course, the nine year old hellion that he was had been staying awake for the very thing to happen. He giggled up a storm when mom entered the room.

For weeks that door alarm was his pride and joy.  He loved knowing when his sisters or anyone at all entered his room.  It was his early warning signal that someone was violating his space.

I thought of that alarm today and how handy such a thing would be for adoption reunion.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get some sort of signal or signal that you had just crossed some unknown boundary in reunion?

I make a lot of assumptions regarding my daughter’s boundaries. She rarely tells me what they are, if they exist, I just assume they do. I gather this information for my assumptions from other adoptees, from my reading, from my own internal “feelings” and even from how I would like to be treated.

But I always worry that I am making wrong assumptions. If she doesn’t tell me, how can I truly know?

Like I have not suggested meeting in over a year. Am I wrong? Is she waiting for me to ask again? Or is my assumption that she will tell me when she is ready (if ever) a correct one?

What about my emails? My one message every three months or my ecards on holidays. Lacking feedback I assume they are okay. Are they? Are they too much? Too little? Too goofy?

What about when I share pictures? Does she want to see that stuff or does she curse and cringe every time she sees a shutterfly share in her email? How am I to know if she doesn’t tell me?

An adoption friend of mine recently experienced her own boundary violation. She discovered that the other party to her reunion had come upon her blog and was reading it without announcing themselves. (Note the same thing has happened to me when a party believed to be related to my daughters adoptive family did the same. I still don’t know who they were for sure but she and I are pretty convinced it was them.)

Now, many would argue that it’s the internet, its public, if you have a blog you should expect that MAYBE your natural family will stumble upon it.

My friend and I agree.   However, we make the assumption about that somewhat implied unwritten rule — if you stumble upon someone’s personal blog that they did not share with you that you announce yourself, no? That you let them know you found it and are reading it?

Not doing so, seems, well, nefarious, sneaky.  It causes concern on the part of the blog owner and leaves us to worry what they intent of the visitor is. Why be sneaky?

If you are my child or my natural mother in reunion (or even an adoptive parent), why not say “Hey, it’s me.” or something like that.

Many of us torched by adoption have had lies, deceit and dishonesty shoved down our throats till we were blue.  Most of us don’t respond too kindly to that kind of stuff or even the slightest whiff of it. The hint that someone is doing something sneaky to us is sure to send us into massive convulsions. My head can spin around, I will spit saliva and my lovely green eyes turn this devilish red color. Seriously.

My friend wrote me privately and asked me if I thought she was over reacting. She felt violated. I am inclined to agree however like with so many things adoption reunion related, I may understand why the violator did what they did.

As a mother of loss, I lost not only my child but my voice, my feelings, my right to stand up and say “HEY, that pisses me off.”  I learned the hard way that my feelings did not matter. As such, I struggle greatly with voicing them. Its taking me years to learn that it’s okay to say “You hurt my feelings” or “I am uncomfortable with that” or “I would rather you not do that” to someone. I always just swallowed my discomfort and let others do what they wish.  I feared I did not matter or even worse, that if I did say what I felt, some horrible wrath would be unleashed upon me. (Recall last time I said something as simple as “I want to keep my child” I was told I would be sued, I did not have the right, keep it to myself, no on cares, and so on.) Furthermore, on those rare occasions that I did say what I felt, I said it with so much force and gusto and candor, that I was deemed rude and inconsiderate.

I am going to guess that many adoptees and mothers of loss feel the same way. Our voices have been silenced by our parents, the system or even ourselves. We don’t know how to express our boundaries nor do we know how to inquire about the needed boundaries of others. We may not know a boundary exists until they have been crossed.

When faced with an adoptee who gives you no feedback, or a mother who refuses to meet or converse with you, we find creative ways to get our needs met and sometimes, we cross boundaries in doing that. Sometimes we stumble upon blogs. Sometimes we google earth the persons address so we can see how and where they live. Other times we even call people and hang up on them just so we can hear their voices.

Criminal acts? No. Not by far but certainly crossing of possible boundaries. And why? For what? Simply because we want to know our loved one? To be part of their life and to have them part of ours? That is a crime? (Apparently so, since closed records continue to exist)

Another adoption friend told me she did not like the idea of a stranger searching the internet for picture of her. The stranger made her feel creepy and sick. The “stranger’ she referred to was her natural mother. Sick and creepy that your mother searches for pictures of you? Would it be better if it were an unknown? A pedophile? Porno site owner?


What are we supposed to do? Do we mean harm? Of course not. We want to love our children and our mothers. But what if they are not ready to love us? How do we manage that? How do we get our needs met without crossing boundaries?

Same friend asked me if I would read my daughters blog if I came upon it. I said I wouldn’t. She could not believe me. (See honesty, above).  I wouldn’t want it done to me so I wouldn’t do it to her. If I did find it, I would tell her I did and I wouldn’t go back unless she told me I could.

My days of searching for every crumb of her life have passed.  During our early reunion, I stumbled upon her youtube video. I told her immediately I found it, I liked it, etc. I am just that way. She did not like that I had found it and subsequently made it private. Hurt me? Yes. But that is her right. It is a boundary she needed to set. I don’t understand it. I don’t have to. But I do have to respect it.

If I could give one thing, one valuable gift, to all my friends in reunion it would be the strength of voice. I would wish that we would all find the ability to say what we feel and mean what we say. For I have always agreed with Dr. Seuss in that regard:

Be who you are and say what you feel because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.

What is the worst that could happen, really, if we spoke our truths to our loved ones (or those we want to love?). What if we told them not to read our blogs? Not to search for pictures of us? Not to treat us so poorly? Would we lose them?

We have already survived that.

4 Thoughts.

  1. Is it understandable? Completely. Thing is, very up front, I told her that whatever she wanted to know, whatever she wanted to ask me, to please do so, and I would share with her. And it’s not just her, it’s anyone. If my parents found my blog I’d be livid. I also have the feeling like ‘I’ve wondered about you for so long, now it’s your turn’, and yes, she’s wondered about me just as long as I’ve wondered about her, but she gave me up.
    It’s hard. For all of us. It’s all hard, all the time.

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