People are forever writing and asking about traditions this time of year. I didn’t always feel as strongly as I do now about creating family memories and traditions. In fact there was a time I would have scoffed out loud at that kind of talk. My traditions in my family of origin were sometimes fun and sometimes, as a child, they seemed painstaking. Many were aimed at pleasing adults and a lot were centred around eating and sitting around the Christmas tree. When I got married I made a choice to create my own type of marriage, my own style of doing things. That same philosophy extends to my family. Many families are conscious of creating lasting memories, holiday rituals that bind a family and nurture growth together. But adoptive families, I believe are even more keenly aware of this.
Our children come to us with various backgrounds, various layers of baggage and their own histories, which let’s face it are often extremely negative, abusive, scarring and sad. Children who were adopted or in foster care have often been apprehended or removed from their home of origin at holiday time. This is a fact sadly caused by extra stresses placed on families at this time of year. More babies come into care than ever at Christmas. It is not because more child protection workers are more aggressive during the holidays. It is simply that families break down more often when faced with the stress, the financial and physical drain of holidays, family and work obligations. For many this is not a happy time of year. Those with addictions and mental illness will often suffer more in November, December and January. We parents, who have chosen to build our families through adoption, will work hard not to erase but to build the happy stuff, the postive layers on top that will give our children scaffolding, resilience, a balm even that helps when the bad stuff or the sad stuff looms heavily on their minds. We work at this all throughout the year. We are more aware of our efforts now.
In our home, our adoptive family traditions are not sedentary. They may start in our home, but they often extend outdoors. We toboggan. We swim indoors. We build snowmen, snowwomen and snow toddlers. We shovel, build snow forts and slide down the climber in the yard when it ices over. We skate a lot at this time of year together as a family, all of us. We are all at various stages of mastering athletic skills. Some like myself are rediscovering skates after decades of not stepping out on the ice. Some, like my fiver Ainsley, are surely headed towards speed skating competitions some day. What matters in building adoptive family traditions is not ability or speed, but the fact that we do it together, growing happy and stronger families.