Last Christmas was our first one as an adoptive family. The children had been home for about 6 months, which then felt like a lifetime. We were so excited to be finally having a Christmas with our children, and our hopes and expectations were sky high. Presents were bought, decorations hung early, Santa was visited and plans were made. I remember it all feeling a little stressful, but I figured that most people felt this way at Christmas. It wasn’t until, at about 8am on Christmas Day, I was sat in my bedroom sobbing on the phone to my mum, that I realised this wasn’t quite how I had expected it to look. So, a year later, what changed this year?
Well, Christmas this year was an absolute joy! I took a video of the children coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, just like we did a year ago, and what a change!
Last year they both looked so very confused. Presents were sat in front of them, but they didn’t know what to do, what to say or even if they could open them. You can hear me on the video trying to bring some excitement to them, but failing miserably. Everyone looked and sounded so overwhelmed! This year? Well, the same video at the same time coming down the same stairs and you would swear this was a different family!
The kids rushed down the stairs, jostling to be the first one to reach the bottom. Little Miss spotted her buggy and squealed with joy whilst Little Sir found his work bench and can be heard shouting his delight. This was followed by them grabbing their presents as quickly as they could, ripping the paper and squealing with absolute delight at every gift. As for me? You can’t really hear much except me laughing with pleasure at watching their joy.
I’ve since sat back and tried to figure out what we did differently!
- The biggest one was we lowered our expectations of the day. I had definitely tried to recreate my own childhood Christmas. But that was built organically over the years – you can’t force it!
- We’d also limited the number of presents. They each got the presents they wanted and that was it. No guesses or surprise presents meant no confusion or worry from the children!
- We also stopped trying to control the present opening. So what if they rip all their presents open within 10 minutes – isn’t that the joy of being a child? I promised myself I would just sit back, relax, enjoy watching and take my foot off the control pedal!
But really, the thing that occurred to me the most was, last year we really didn’t know our children. Although 6 months felt like a lifetime, it really wasn’t. They were still strangers to us in so many ways – and we were strangers to them. This year? Well, they are ours and we are theirs. We can tell what they are thinking from the expressions on their faces. We can feel when they are about to struggle with big emotions, or need some down time, or just need a big cuddle.
So, my advice if you are a newly adoptive family who has just had an odd, uncomfortable or sad Christmas – give it time! It will come eventually, but, as I discovered, you just can’t rush it!