Well, another holiday has come and gone and now it's time to sort through the toys, clothes and chocolate, and clean up our home after plenty of visitors. Perhaps unique to our family, it's also time to try and heal from the pain that the holidays bring up for our children. You see, we have 3 amazing, beautiful children whom we've adopted and all of these amazing, beautiful children – S, K and A - have different levels of openness with their birth families.
S has an openness order and we send 4 letters/pictures a year to birth mom, while K’s is a closed adoption. A has an openness agreement in which we have a great relationship with her birth family and see and speak to them regularly. If all of that isn’t complicated enough, S and K are full siblings. Now I know what you're thinking - How can one sibling have an openness order and the other have a closed adoption? Well that is something that we are still trying to get our heads around ourselves and do not have an answer to.
Because our three children are all still young, we have yet to have THAT discussion...you know that one all adoptive parents worry about doing right?? Well I have spent many sleepless nights thinking about this, and although I am sure we don't have all the right answers, we do have a few openness "rules" in our household that we hope will continue to help our children get through the holidays, mitigating negative feelings as much as possible. And so, I give you our top 5 rules for surviving the holidays with children who have different levels of openness:
This may sound simple, but I can assure you it’s very, very hard! In our home, we have made sure we have many books, discussions and information that is age appropriate about what adoption means, and why some people are adopted while others are not. Given our kids are still very young, we make sure to keep our answers to questions simple and in a way they can process. They know there are different reasons why children are adopted but we have yet to get into the specifics on their adoptions, that will come at a later time.
We make sure that no matter what we may be feeling or whether it’s at an inconvenient time, we remain open to talking about adoption. As an example, one morning while I was driving K to daycare seemingly out of nowhere he states, "mommy, I am adopted". My response was, "yes you are". Although in my mind I was hoping that would be the end of the conversation, it was not. K then asked "why didn't I come from your belly?” followed by "why weren't you and daddy adopted?", and "will I ever meet my Tummy Mummy?”. Despite my desire for an Adoption for Dummies book to magically appear in my hands, I knew it was important not to defer answering his questions. That day in the car we talked a lot about love, and what family means to us.
3. INCLUDE THEM
Everything that we do in regards to openness with our birth families, we make sure that all of our children are included. This includes birth family visits, writing letters, sending crafts, and selecting pictures to be sent. For example when we crafts with the kids, each child gets to choose a special person to send it to. Although K does not have access to his birth family, he has many other friends and family in his life, so he chooses one special person and sends them a letter.
I know what you're thinking - this is NO laughing matter - and you're right it's not. However, we have found that humor has helped us get through some of the dark times. Life is sometimes not fair and it breaks our hearts to know that our little children have already learned this hard lesson, so we make sure to teach them the power of humor. Random dance party at the post office while mailing letters? Why not?? Seeing who can make the silliest faces when we're trying to get pictures to send our birth families, go for it. We try and take a little power back from such a powerless situation and we have been able to create fun even in these moments!
5. MAKE YOUR OWN FAMILY TRADITION
Despite all the heartache and triggers that can occur with the holidays, we make sure that above anything else, there is more to look forward to than to dread. Despite the fact that until recently all 5 members in our family have different last names (perhaps an explanation for another blog), we are a family. In fact, we’re a pretty awesome family, and we do what any other awesome family does during the holidays, we have cheesy holiday traditions! Matching Pjs, visits from friends and family, and of course we can't forget the antics from Snowy, our Elf on the Shelf. These simple traditions are what makes the holidays special and memorable for all of us. Although we would never want to erase where our kids came from (yes...it took me a while to finally accept that!), we do want to make sure that the holidays are filled with love, laughter and perhaps wayyy too much chocolate.
Now that being said, this momma has three wired children to attend to! Wishing you all a very Happy New year!!!