Laura does not have horns. This fact I established for myself.
There was a period, after CJ was placed with us and before his legal adoption, where it seemed social workers were still in regular attendance at our home. They would bring snippets of information about Laura, much of it negative. There was something in the way the information was delivered that got my back up. I remember feeling annoyed, and thinking, This is the mother of my child you’re speaking about.
The social workers seemed to be offering further evidence in support of CJ’s removal. Yet looked at dispassionately, these snippets still didn’t add up to her not being a ‘good enough’ parent, in fact they were at times completely irrelevant. I was baffled as to their motivation, especially as I was trying to capture an idea of her, for myself, as well as for sharing with CJ when he was older. I was trying to create an empathy capsule.
I remember learning that Laura’s favourite movie was High School Musical, and ordered the DVD and watched it to get a sense of her. I added it to a box we kept that included information about CJ’s life before us. The intention was to share this box with him when he became a young adult. It included things like the later life letters written by different members of his first family. I thought her love of this movie captured her youthfulness well. I imagined him as a young man watching this movie and thinking, She was just a bairn herself.
Then came news of a magazine article featuring a photo of Laura (as seen below), heavily pregnant with RJ, that cast her in a poor light. In the spirit of capturing a sense of her at the age she currently was, I printed the article and placed it in the box. Yet I had mixed feelings and dithered as to whether it was better that CJ got a fuller picture of her, or whether it was better to censor what went into the box. If I filtered out negative information was that dishonestly distorting his future idea of her? I left it in, after all, she had consented to the article, but I felt uneasy.
Then came the offer a recording of her on a television show. Again, the social workers seemed pleased to be sharing, what I presumed would be a negative presentation of Laura. Enough, I thought. Non-adoptive parents don’t share all their youthful indiscretions with their children when they come of age, so why should CJ have access to this recording? We declined the offer and never watched the show.
It then occurred to me why the social workers seemed hell bent on casting Laura in a negative light. Previously I’d heard that she was a likable person, now the spin was anti-clockwise. The only way I could make sense of this was to conclude that, because I’d been pokey about CJ having been removed from Laura’s care, they felt that they had to continue justifying that decision. Already they had shared more confidential information about Laura than would be the norm. Perhaps I had inadvertently caused this behaviour?
I believe a file is not a person. A file compiled by people with a position to support is even less of a person. I would hate to have the worst period of my life captured, and then spun negatively, with no right of reply. For this file to be an unchanging and unchangeable version of me, and for it to be shared with people and it be their only way of knowing me.
Meeting Laura was hugely important because, unlike the overstuffed file that may suggest otherwise, Laura turned out not to have horns. Just as I don’t have leprosy.