This is our first round of fall/winter holidays with our daughter. If Halloween was any indicator at all, I know that the next two months are going to be filled with wondering…
• what should we do?
• how should we celebrate?
• how do I explain to others why we do or don’t do particular things?
• will I have any amount of sanity remaining to carry me through 2016?
I’m not much of a Halloween person. We never made a big deal out of the day when I was growing up. Now that we have our own little family of four cherubs, we do something different almost every year! This year was no different. As October approached with its blazing heat (because… Texans do not understand Anne of Green Gables and her love for October…) I started to think about what we would do this year. It became very clear that this year would be a year to have fun, but that our fun would be had as a family at home. For the sake of our newest who is easily thrown off by changes in routine, the craziness of going from house to house asking for candy was going to be too much.
So, we stayed home… and we had a blast!
We painted pumpkins, we dressed up and ran around the house. We handed out candy to doorbell ringers, we watched cartoons, we made a yummy snack and ate way too much of it. We even dressed our guinea pigs up in costume!
Leading up to Halloween, I fielded many questions about what we planned to do. I suppose most people were thinking of our daughter and the fun she would experience with her first Halloween.
“What is she dressing up as?”
“Are you taking her trick-or-treating?”
“Is she excited?”
I found myself trying to explain to people the logic behind our Halloween decision, and it was exhausting.
• How do I explain that trick-or-treating would not be wise right now?
• How do I tell them about indiscriminate affection, and how walking her around to random houses to ask strangers for candy might not be a good thing for her, that it might actually set her back as far as attachment and bonding is concerned?
• How do I respond when I know that other families take their adopted children out… is there something wrong with not wanting to?
• How do I communicate that every holiday, every event, every change in our normal schedule requires intentional planning and thought?
• How do I state that holiday “fun” often comes with a side of extra something leftover from years of being institutionalized?
• Maybe the class gift exchange will trigger traumatic experiences of not having anything, and so they will want everything (and meltdown when they can’t have it all).
• Maybe the holiday party will prove to be over-stimulating and require a day of recovery at home afterwards.
• Maybe the family dinner will result in casseroles being shoveled into chipmunk cheeks that still feel the emptiness of too many years with not enough food.
• Maybe it WON’T, but it’s still part of our reality.
These are things we HAVE to think about because for so many of us, there is no avoiding them. Sometimes, these things require that for at least a season, our celebrating look a little different from the norm.
If I could write all of us a prescription to get us through the holiday season without losing our sanity it might look a little like this:
1. Be flexible. Change up traditions and create new ones if it works better for your newly expanded family.
2. Be a voice. Advocate for your kiddos; it might mean keeping them home from an event and that’s okay.
3. Be strong. Skip the big family reunion this year, or leave early if you need to and don’t feel bad about it.
4. Be kind. Not everyone will get it. Be kind anyways.
I want to extend to you a little of the same grace I’ve had to extend to myself during the holidays. I don’t have to explain all of the nitty-gritty to everyone, and neither do you. We don’t have to justify every decision we make. We can. But we don’t have to. We don’t have to feel like going against the norm is weird. Guess what? If going against the norm makes a person weird, then we are already weird! We have adopted! We have loved another in a way that is CRAZY! We are already swimming against the tide!
Have you ever dropped a gumball on a hard surface? It hits hard, bounces a little, and then rolls away. Opinions and thoughts of others (helpful or not) are often like that. They drop on us, they can hit hard, bounce around in our brains for a while, but ultimately, they need to just roll away. We are free to let the opinions of others roll like a bucket full of gumballs dropped on a tile floor. That’s right. Let those opinions just hide under the couch for a season.
I know I want to exit the holiday season knowing that we not only did what was best for our family, but we did it in a way that honors those around us. Things might be a little crazy right now and for the next few weeks, but we don’t have to let the crazy become who we are.
– photos by Mint to Be Mine