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,
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.