Tuesday, December 4, 2012

on why I showed my son his Christmas present on Dec 3...

and other dilemmas of adoptive parenting at holiday time...

Never throw a surprise party for an adoptee. 

I'm not sure if that is a saying, but even so, it's very true.  Adopted children, especially children adopted older than toddlerhood,  have had plenty of surprises, most of them nasty ones. Our son, who lost his mother at 4 and was adopted across an ocean at age five, HATES surprises. Even "mystery dinners" make him crazy.  He's had enough surprises, thank you very much. He would not like any more, ever.

This afternoon we got a bunch of holiday catalogs in the mail. As I was sorting through them all, Daniel picked one up and found a photo of a race track with remote! control! cars!  "I want this one," he said, "Can I have this for Christmas?" Followed quickly by, "Am I getting cool toys for Christmas? Did you buy me something for Christmas?..."

We've had this conversation before, since the first day it was even slightly chilly. We've also been getting lots of boxes in the mail (mommy and daddy love Amazon.com!)  So the anxiety about the when/what/ifs surrounding his holiday gifts has been mounting inside of him.

This afternoon I thought, what is the purpose of this secrecy and surprise? We don't do Santa. (gasp! shock! more on that in another post. Breathe.)  There really is no benefit to anyone to keep his Christmas morning present, which has been sitting in a box under my bed for two weeks now, a surprise.  So I followed the wise advice of one thankful mom, and showed him his Christmas present, 4 weeks early.

He was impressed. The brand new Hot Wheels super deluxe racetrack with fire pit of doom (or whatever it is), looks way cooler than the lame round racetrack in the catalog.  We examined the package, we looked at the cool! pictures!, and then we slid the box back under the bed until Christmas morning.  He solemnly promised he would not ask me about it until then. Then he gave me a hug. Spontaneously.

I think it was a good decision.  Holiday time is laden with emotional traps for our little ones. Special, different foods that we don't eat at any other time. Expectations to be cheerful and thankful, even when surrounded by different smells and people and lights. The feeling that this holiday is all about being with family, but that significant people in our family are very far away, and possibly hungry while we gorge on more cookies.  The presents, the music, the visitors... it can all be just too much. We strive towards harmony; we strive for simplicity and honesty.  It is enough.  Now he knows that there is a big box with a cool toy that he likes waiting for him. Phew. One less thing to worry about.

How do you do holidays?

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