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Birthday cards from birth parents - good idea?

(13 Posts)
Devora Mon 24-Sep-12 22:38:34

Over two years after our daughter joined us, it seems that we are finally getting an agreement about letterbox contact. Now the birth mother has asked to send birthday cards. Does anybody have any experience of or advice on this?

My immediate impulse is to say yes: surely our child will like to feel that her birth mother thinks of her at this time of year? But it also occurs to me that the arrival of cards on or around her birthday may overshadow the event in years to come (which is why adoption agencies often recommend not having letterbox contact at that time). I suppose it would be an option to keep the cards from her till she is older, but is it ethical to agree to this if we may not them honour the request to pass them on? The birth mother's life is very chaotic - how will it feel for our child if birthday cards DON'T arrive?

Any advice gratefully received.

Viviennemary Mon 24-Sep-12 22:41:27

Well I have no experience of this so I will give my personal opinion. Firstly, I would see what the adoption agency advised. But personally I think the best solution is to let the cards be sent and keep them till your daughter is older. That's what I would probably do in your situation.

Italiangreyhound Mon 24-Sep-12 23:52:18

Devora as you know I have no experience yet of this so can only go on my 'gut' feeling. I did want to reply because you have always been so kind in replying to me.

I do agree with viviennemary, I would probably agree to the birth mother sending the cards, having taken advice from the adoption agency or Local authority (or a suitable adoption charity if they can provide some advice).

I think the issues might be what she says in the cards, are they appropriate, if they aren't you may feel you need to keep them back until DD is really old enough to understand what the contents mean. This isn't an issue now of course when she can't read but in future will be a factor.

I would almost be tempted to keep the cards and at some other time, not on the actual birthday, look at the cards (and anything else you have) and in that way think about your DD's birthday mother (if this feels appropriate to you). If a year comes when she does not send a card or she stops sending them you would at least have some to show her and talk about with her.

I am just not sure how beneficial these things are, and how you will feel or what you will want to do, but if you feel you want the cards, for your DD, at least by saying yes now, with the proviso that you will only show them if they are appropriate and it may not be on the actual day, then you will retain the control. BUT I am a total newbie and may not know what I am talking about!

DameKewcumber Mon 24-Sep-12 23:58:52

I would start letterbox contact and keep birthday cards initally (as she won't be aware yet what cards she does or doesn't get) then you can see how well vetted your letterbox contact is, how reliable it is and how your DD handles it. I'm guessing you'll have a little while yet before it becomes a pressing problem so you have the luxury of a little time on yoru side.

"is it ethical to agree to this if we may not them honour the request to pass them on?" Yes. Your responibility is to your DD - birthday cards may help her, they may not but if you don't get them, you can't back fill them later (IYSWIM) and you can give your DD's birth mother the chance to do what she can now.

DameKewcumber Mon 24-Sep-12 23:59:11

sorry thats a bit incoherent.

calmlychaotic Tue 25-Sep-12 00:32:21

I had no contact with my own mum from when I was about 14, her decision. On my 21st she sent me a birthday card and it overshadowed the whole day, I was sad she had rejected me through difficult teenage years, and had made very little effort before then, and I was angry too that she felt she had any right to any involvement in my day, I got nothing good from receiving the card. I have very little contact with her still but even now if I get a birthday or Christmas card, and I don't always get one, I feel a little sick. The emotions are complicated, I'm struggling to explain my own! For me the card is a reminder of what could have been, what I have lost and a reminder of a rejection, ruins the party mood! I'm not adopted so I'm sure its not the same.

However if you get the cards but don't give them on the actual birthday would you be faced the question as to why not in later years and could that cause more upset. I think I would be inclined to say no to cards and stick with yearly contact. I can't imagine there is any right or wrong here though.

MeDented Tue 25-Sep-12 00:45:53

Not sure how old your little one is but... We had / have letterbox contact in place but birth mum only sent something a couple of times then it stopped and we have had nothing since. Dd was too young to understand anything about the cards she received at the time but she has seen them since as they are in her memory box. I keep that in the loft so she doesn't have easy access to it but knows it is there as I think it would be too upsetting for her to be looking at these things too often while she is still so young. It's been so long since she has looked at them and she was so young when she last did, that I don't think she has ever stopped to wonder why birth mum stopped sending things and these are the thoughts I would rather she didn't dwell on just now. She is now 11 and I think next time she asks to look in the box there may well be more difficult questions but I guess they are all stepping stones to her working things out. On the whole I think I am glad I do have those couple of cards for her, I 'think' it's better than having nothing. I wouldn't worry about the timing, they will probably arrive late by the time they go through social work anyway, just avoid giving them to her on the actual day. Good luck x

AngelsWithSilverWings Tue 25-Sep-12 07:38:20

My DS receives birthday cards from his birth family.He will be 7 in a months and we have just received his card from BM.

As the card usually arrives more than a month before I show it to him and then put it away in his treasure box immediately.

I'm really open with our contact arrangement but I do try to pick the right moment to give him his card to stop it becoming a big deal ( especially as there is no guarantee that the cards will arrive every year due to BM health issues)

The card is always in a plain brown envelope addressed to me and the card itself is always open as the post adoption team check to make sure there is nothing inappropriate written inside.

Lilka Tue 25-Sep-12 08:31:22

I think you should either say yes but keep the cards back a couple of years at least (to see if they are actually sent every year) or what I would probably do is to start letterbox without cards for a few years, and if all the contact is on time and appropriate then add cards to the arrangement. It's much easier (less painful) to start with little contact and build on it than for you and your child to have disappointments and be forced to close it down further. My two younger children get cards, but although I think they benefit from it, they have mixed emotions about it. Their mother is reliable and always sends letters and cards on time

Moomoomie Tue 25-Sep-12 18:27:17

I would say no to birthday cards, and did. We have twice yearly letterbox contact which BM was very sporadic with. Also some of the letters she sent were not suitable for the girls to read.
We do not give or receive birthday cards from their birth grandparents, but it is with them we have continued letterbox.
Birthdays for adopted children are often difficult times and for them to be given a card from BM every year often makes the day unhappy, rather than a happy day for them.

Lilka Tue 25-Sep-12 18:41:46

sorry, correction to my post didn't see it earlier...should say "I think if you say yes, you should either keep".... etc

FamiliesShareGerms Tue 25-Sep-12 19:01:35

We are supposed to get birthday cards from birth parents and sibling, but it's still early days for us and we have only received one card in total and that was five months late... We are still deciding how to handle the cards - they are supposed to arrive well in advance of DD's birthday, partly to allow for delays and decisions on what to do with the card.

One thing we have been clear about from the start is that any card addressed to "my daughter" or "from your mummy" will not be passed on until she is 18

Devora Tue 25-Sep-12 21:51:42

Thank you all for your wise views. Quite a range of opinions, and all of them very valid. I'm still not quite sure to do, but am leaning towards saying yes and then deciding when and how to let dd see them. I am rather tempted by the option of starting with no cards, and seeing how letterbox contact goes, but I also think it is likely that contact will be sporadic or non-existent, and one or two cards may be all we ever get.

calmlychaotic, I was really touched by your post. What a traumatic experience for you. I think what you are describing is exactly what I am afraid of.

Thank you all, again. It's really helped my thinking.

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