We Are Family


Just Like In The Movies

Just Like In The Movies - Christmaspast

We haven’t heard much of the birth family lately. Although our Christmas was difficult (thank God it’s over), it felt pretty ‘normal’, unlike previous years where the ghosts of Christmases past have definitely been stalking our rooms, clanking their chains and scaring the bejeezus out of us.

So, not even thinking about ‘all that’, and in need of plonking down in front of the TV to diffuse the festive situation, we thought we’d catch up on some classic Christmas movies. Whoops.

‘Elf’ was an absolute peach. The misfit child who finds out, horror of horrors, that he is adopted! A freak who cannot stay because he’s realised that THAT’s why he’s so ‘different.’ The adoptive father who is left (owwch) as the child goes off in search of his ‘real dad’. The errant birth dad who turns out to be loving and perfectly capable of taking his prodigal son back in (and is also extremely wealthy and successful)… my partner shot daggers at me for choosing the film and I could only mouth, ‘Sorry’ with a sheepish grimace.

And much like ‘Home Alone’ which, conveniently for a family movie, focuses on the unreliability of parents, our life as an adoptive family is strewn with booby traps. Not much is to be done, after being smacked in the face with another well-meaning kids’ film about abandonment but to pick yourself up, check for injuries and keep on going.

I mentioned that Christmas was difficult above. Well, we arrived at the in-laws in pretty poor shape on Boxing Day, licking our wounds and telling tales of sulking, evil behaviour and brattishness. The olds noted that we looked rather battle-worn and sent us off for an afternoon of shopping and dinner. This was dressed up as a favour to us but, in retrospect, I think they felt that the kids could do with some time off from their miserable, whinging parents.

Somehow, this short period yielded a miraculous change. Just a little retail therapy and a good meal, and time to talk, was enough to make us realise how grumpy, demanding, unfair and generally Grinchish WE were being. In fact, had been, for ages. No wonder every weekend for the past few months had been a nightmare – we’d abandoned the routine of clubs, church and activities and let THEM decide what to do. No wonder the kids had been difficult since September – we’d been working really long hours. No wonder they were rude – we were judgemental and impatient.

So that night we promised to just be nicer. They have instantly responded to niceness, just as they were responding to nastiness before. A couple of time I’ve caught the grumpy, worn out voice coming out and realised with a shock how habitual it had become. I’d really lost myself, mostly due to over-work, and my children had borne the brunt of it.

I know that many adoptive families do not have that support network to call upon, where they will get the chance to step away and reboot while the children are entertained and nurtured by their grandparents. We are pretty blessed in that respect. A single mum I know tells me that whenever she struggles to cope with her two ‘lively’ boys, her parents say, ‘You knew it would be difficult; there’s no point moaning about it now.’ Grrr…

So, to come back to the Christmas film theme in this jumble of thoughts, as the new year dawns I feel a bit like Jimmy Stewart in Bedford Falls. The house may be falling down around us, but at least we’ve got some tolerant people to help us remember what matters.

People who care may be found in the most unexpected places, as seen in every cheesy movie ever, and I hope that all adoptive families find at least one in 2020.




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  • Films are a minefield. This website may have your bases covered for next time. It’s called Adoption at the Movies.

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