We originally had hoped for some sort of openness with our children's family and thought it would include their parents. That changed when we discovered they had been sexually abusing them. We continued some level of openness with the extended family but really thought it would be an occasional thing. It's more than that. We have developed a wonderful relationship with their maternal aunt and uncle over the last 2 years that will some day include unsupervised visits for the kids. We are beginning to build a relationship with another of their maternal aunt and uncles, I am sure it will be quite a long time before we consider unsupervised but we will be planning visits and are now talking about a vacation together. Their gparents will always be highly supervised around the kids b/c I do not trust the Gma and both have habits of drinking to the point of passing out nightly. I adore Gpa, he is a real character and loves to talk to me at length about his new dentures or his last run.
We were invited to a family get together yesterday and I was a bit hesitant b/c I wasn't sure how comfortable I would be with tons of strangers around the kids. I have visited with every one separately but not all at once. It went beautifully, we had the best time. We were a few minutes late due to traffic (on a Sunday, who knew) and I was a bit frazzled but we made it. Lunch was ready and it was good. They insisted I bring nothing and do nothing. This is not me and I felt out of place about it. The kids loved serving themselves and drinking Coke. The Aunt's dogs had recently had 7 puppies so she teased me and told the kids they could each have one. My kids not "getting" the joke got excited and started trying to decide who got which one. All I had to do was look at them and they began to laugh realizing she had pulled one over on them.
We left and went to the river shortly after eating. Every one splashed around and slide down the rocks for hours. We never ran out of things to say and laughed so hard our bellies hurt. Every one has tried very hard not to step on toes and learn boundaries. I noticed each family member needed to have the time with me to explain why they didn't step up for the kids, I assured them they did the right thing b/c the kids are were they needed to be to heal. There is no way they could have parented these children even with the best of intentions, I have spent my entire adult life preparing and training for them and barely made it through the first year. The kids left feeling so proud of themselves for all the compliments they received on their manners and behavior.
It cemented for us that they really need to continue previous family relationships on some level. It has helped them understand where they came from and what happened in a realistic light. It would never have been the same just hearing it from us, they needed to hear it from the people that were there. It makes us all sad the parents are who they are and can't be a part of it. I did learn one very sad thing that explains why he was so willing to believe our kids, Patches had told him years ago and he thought she was not being honest and did nothing. He is carrying a lot of guilt for that, as he should.
When we left, their cousin asked me if she could call us Aunt R and Uncle M. It made our day, all of us. They fully accept us as the parents of their nieces and nephew w/o question. They believe my children. Most importantly, they love my children.