out her role in my daughter’s life. My sister is legally Juli’s
aunt but, biologically, is my daughter’s mother. We knew when I
adopted Juli over two years ago that our arrangement would be
constantly evolving. We’re now asking each other what obligations,
responsibilities, and duties does she have to her daughter? Does
she contribute to Juli’s college fund like me and my mom? Should
she call Juli every day? When she sees Juli, how much of the “daily
tasks” (medicine, bath, discipline, etc.) should she be expected to
handle? Technically, legally, she doesn’t have to do anything.
After all, she did sign the adoption papers. But that’s not what
either one of us wanted with this adoption.
When my sister and I came to an understanding 2 1/2 years ago about
the terms of Juli’s adoption, we both agreed to certain conditions.
Some of the language we used in Juli’s “open adoption” in regards
to those terms I took directly from Dan Savage’s great book,
The Kid. For example, we specified the number of minimum calls
and visits Juli and her mom will have each year. Of course, it
always go over the minimum, but because it was so painful for my
sister to sign the papers, it made her feel somewhat better to know
that, no matter what, she’d always be a part of her daughter’s
What the adoption papers don’t specify is how to make it work so
that there is minimal confusion and pain on all sides. It’s like my
sister asked me the other day on the phone, “Am I Juli’s aunt,
babysitter, friend. Who am I?” I don’t have an answer, but I do
have a feeling the more time they spend together, the more likely
we’ll all know.