I’ve been writing this post in my head ever since Ariel wrote about her son’s adoptive parents being late with their one year update. I didn’t write it sooner because: a) I don’t want to sound all adoptive-parent-expert-y, b) I’m actually working on my children’s birth parents’ updates, and c) I always feel guilty about my updates.
I never had the question of what to send in an update. The first year Jackson was born, every month, I sent S almost every picture I took. I sent every scrap of information I would want to know if I were a parent who wasn’t there to see my son. I figured that some of it would be painful for S to see and read. However, I didn’t think that holding information or photos back were going to decrease the pain she felt. She had placed her child for adoption. That’s huge. Ultimately, seeing him grow up was supposed to help her in the long term, even if it hurt her in the short term. At least, that’s what I think. I could be wrong. Even so, I sent everything.
In subsequent years, I sent updates less frequently. Part of this was due to changes in our lives, but part of it was due to S moving around so much. I even had one update returned to me because she hadn’t given me her new address. I started a rating system for photos, and only sent the ones that got 3 or more stars. I still typed everything I could remember, often using the photos as a starting point. I would also copy and paste my Live Journal and/or blog posts, because S didn’t have Internet access.
When we adopted Cassie, I realized that sending every photo was not economically feasible. When I had been ordering all of the photos for S, I had photo processing bills at or above $100 per month. Usually, that was just photos for S and for us, not for anyone else. I would order pictures for everyone else at Christmas time, resulting in a huge bill in the middle of the season of huge bills, as well as sorting and captioning photos from an entire year. Oh yeah. Did I mention that I at least write the date on the back of every photo? I usually write a caption too, explaining who the people are, or what’s going on, or why I chose that particular picture.
I also knew that sending updates whenever I felt like it wasn’t fair to Laine. I agreed to every two months for the first year. I thought I could handle that. I also figured that, as long as I was sending updates to Laine every two months, I should send updates to S every two months. In January, I added Cassie’s birth father to list of people getting updates. At that point, the people receiving regular updates included: S, S’s mom “Greta”, Laine, Harris, GG, and Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Clyde. I also ordered pictures to just give to Grandpa Bob and Great Grandma. I also started ordering the photos to be saved to send with Christmas cards to various relatives (Aunt Pam, Aunt Lolo, Auntie Ann, and so on).
I set myself a limit: up to 30 pictures per month per birth parent, no more, sometimes a few less. Sandy and Clyde asked for no more than 10 per month, and I try to adhere to that, though it’s been hard. For GG, I usually order about 5-10 per month. Grandpa Bob and Great Grandma get photos that they’re in, plus the very best photos. Greta gets the best photos of Jackson.
I believe I’ve mentioned that I am always late with updates. I think how I do them is a big part of the reason why.
I take about 300 pictures per month. I have to edit a lot of them (cropping, mostly) and decide which ones to send. Because I have so many people, I have a spreadsheet to track who gets which photos (listed by file name with a brief description of each, so I can tell what’s what) , how many each person is getting, and how many of each photo to order. After I order the photos and receive them, I write on the back of each one and sort them into piles of who gets what. From there, I write the letters.
Each person gets a letter. Laine’s and Harris’s have the same basic information in them, obviously, but I do ask questions about their families and try to call out things that I think each will like. S’s letter is heavy on Jackson, light on Cassie. Greta gets a shorter version of S’s letter. GG gets an amalgamation of the letters that I send to the birth parents, in larger type. Sandy and Clyde probably get the shortest letter, because we Skype with them weekly. The birth parent letters are always more than 5 pages long. Usually, they’re about 9-10.
At this point, I’m doing seasonal, or quarterly updates. I order about 300-400 pictures per quarter. Most of the time, I use Snapfish, but only if they have free shipping. If they don’t, then I use Costco. However, I still have to order some pics from Snapfish, or I have print out some pics, because they’re the digital camera size, not true 4 x 6. Blah. My monthly photo bill is only about $20-30.
So, why do I feel guilty about my updates? Because I’m always late. A number of commentators on Ariel’s blog post wrote about how rude adoptive parents are when they don’t send updates on time. And I get that. It is rude to say “I’ll send you updates every X months” and then have it be one or two months later by the time they actually get out the door. On the other hand, I know I try to do my best to update everyone in a timely fashion. I don’t do “quick updates.” I do serious, this is our child’s life updates. And I don’t just send a few pictures. I send practically one photo for every day. S once said that she has more photos of Jackson than she does of her three other kids combined.
Maybe I go overboard. I just don’t want to miss anything important. I’ve also said that they can call, text, or email me and ask for pictures whenever they want. Both Laine and Harris have taken me up on this. Harris once asked me to snap a pic right then and send it. So I did. I don’t know if it was a test or something, as it was a little odd, but it didn’t cost me anything.
I am supposed to have online albums for them to see. I was really good about putting them up monthly last year. I have not been so good about that this year. That is a problem, and I will try to be better about that, especially now that everyone has Internet access. (Yay S!)
So that, dear readers, is how I do updates. I’m not saying it’s the best way, but it is my way. If you’re an adoptive parent, how do you do updates? If you’re a birth parent or adoptee, what do you think of my way? If you’re someone else, what do you think of the situation in Syria? Because I don’t even understand what’s going on there.