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We are often asked by birth parents and adoptive families alike, “What if we run into one another in public?” The prospect of running into your child’s adoptive family at a time and place where you weren’t expecting to see them can seem scary, but if you think in advance about what to do, you’ll be less likely to freeze up if it happens (you know, like you did that time you ran into your ex at the grocery store). You could even talk to your child’s adoptive family about what would be most comfortable for you both in that situation. This is an especially good idea if you live in the same community and know that there is a strong likelihood you’ll see each other around at some point.
So what do you do if you’re waiting in line at Starbucks for your expensive milkshake-like drink and your child and his mom walk through the door? Well, think about what you normally do when you run into an acquaintance or a friend. You probably smile, say hi, chat for a moment, and continue with your errands, right? You can do the same thing if you see your child’s family. Be your normal self, talk for a few minutes about how everyone’s doing, and, since chances are you’ll both have somewhere else to get to, pick up your yummy drink and say a friendly goodbye.
Birth parents and adoptive families do fine in these situations; the difficult part sometimes comes afterward, when the birth parent starts replaying their reaction over and over in their head. “Was the way I said ‘hi’ weird? What did they really mean when they asked me how things were going?” That sort of thinking can drive a person crazy, so don’t just let your brain keep rewinding itself – find someone to talk to and let it out. It’s normal to feel a little anxious or upset after something happens that you weren’t anticipating, and depending upon how long it’s been since you made your adoption plan and how you’re doing emotionally at the time, it could bring up some feelings of grief and loss, so it’s important to have someone you can talk to, whether it’s your adoption counselor (hi there!) or a friend or family member.
Have you run into your child’s adoptive family at the grocery store or somewhere else? What was it like? How did you feel afterward?