Christmas! My favourite time of the year. I’ve always loved the lights, the celebrations, the family time. It’s just perfect. So, I had high expectations for Christmas with our newly adopted children. After all, Christmas is for the kids isn’t it? So adding two small people into the mix could surely only bring more joy and happiness! Even though I had been in conversations with a very wise person from Adoption UK, who tried to talk to me about how to manage Christmas as a newly adoptive parent – I didn’t really listen. She had suggested that:
- Christmas can be a very difficult time for adopted children. They might not have had a Christmas previously, or it may have been a very hard time of year for them (for all sorts of reasons), so they may not have the same excited feeling as we did.
- The idea of a strange man entering the house while we are sleeping might terrify the children – their idea of Santa may not be the same as ours.
- Our expectations of Christmas may cause unwanted behaviours to appear as the children try to fit in with what may be a very stressful occasion for them.
I did listen to all of this – I promise I did! She suggested that we keep Christmas low key, stay at home, don’t get out and about too much, and don’t have too high expectations. So this is what we did:
- Bought FAR too many presents – the children had more than any one child could need and were clearly overwhelmed. The worst part was that they didn’t even really want most of what we had bought – we were clearly (looking back now) trying to overcompensate for what we felt they might have missed out on.
- We didn’t spend the day at home – instead we opened presents in the morning then were up and out by 11am to spend the day with family, and stay the night. In fact we didn’t arrive back home until late on Boxing Day.
- We definitely spent ages building the day up into a huge deal! We talked about it constantly, did all Christmassy things (visiting Santa, watching Christmas films, Christmas Eve box, making gingerbread men, advent calendars and more!)
So, I had listened to the professionals and decided, subconsciously, to do my own thing. The fall out? Well the children coped incredibly well – they really enjoyed themselves the whole way through. Great? Nope – it was me that had the problem. Such a long time had been spent such building up to the perfect Christmas in my mind that, on the Big Day, I spent the whole morning sobbing in my room, trying to protect the kids from how I was feeling. I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t feel like a Mum. I didn’t feel the excitement I thought I should. I didn’t feel the way other people said I should. I just felt sad and depressed.
It was awful – and it was all my own creation.
So, onto this year. Well, the kids have been home for 16 months now. We know each other really well and we are a proper little family now. The children are really excited about Christmas! They have already got their Santa letters sorted (at their own request) and asked when we are going to visit Santa. We have plans to buy a tree and decorate it as a family and we’ve talked about where we are going on Christmas Day.
But there are some changes we have made this year.
- We have significantly scaled back on presents. This year the children will get a want, a need, a wear, a read and then a Santa present, as well as their stockings. This has taken the pressure off everyone. It means we can enjoy opening and playing with the presents, rather than rushing to open them all before we leave the house.
- We are spending more time this year enjoying the season rather than the day itself. So we have got lots of low key family time planned in. Just time to be together and enjoy the lights and the warm feeling Christmas gives us.
But the biggest thing of all? I’m letting go of what I think Christmas ‘should’ look like this year. My aim is to just enjoy being with each other and being thankful for each other. And I think that is what will make our Christmas just right this year!
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