Santa Claus is coming to town?

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and tomorrow the new term starts. Before we know it, Christmas will be here (yay!!!) and it’s looking quite likely that this Christmas could be very different for us with the possible arrival of our 2 children! This has got us thinking about how we want to celebrate Christmas as a family, what traditions we want to start and what ground rules we want to establish.

One thing we’ve both always felt strongly about is that we don’t want to encourage our children to believe in Father Christmas. Please don’t condemn me until I’ve explained why.

  1. We don’t want to ever lie to our children. It’s not just the untrue claim that Father Christmas exists, but it’s all of the pretence that goes with it. Sending letters, visiting a man in fancy dress, sprinkling reindeer food and leaving out a mince pie and carrot. Parents often have to work hard to convince their children that Father Christmas IS real! And that results in quite a lot of deception that we aren’t comfortable with. We want our children to know that they can always get an honest, frank answer from us. We want them to know that we have never misled them. As adoptive parents, we are going to have to work extra hard to gain our children’s trust, we don’t want to make it harder. And as Christians, we don’t want learning about our Heavenly Father to be overshadowed by or confused with stories of a mythical ‘Father’.
  2. We want to teach our children grace. Father Christmas expects boys and girls to earn their gifts, but that’s not what gifts are. Gifts are given freely without condition or clause. Gifts are abundant and loving. If our children think they need to earn their Christmas presents by making it onto the list, how do they know anything good we give them isn’t conditional? How do they know our love isn’t? How do they know God’s love isn’t? Now of course children need to learn the value of hard work and reward. But not in the context of gifts. At no other time in life are we expected to earn gifts. The shame that is often attached to adoption means our children may find it hard to accept that we love them unconditionally. They may often feel they need to earn it, or that they never can. We don’t want to reinforce this through scaremongering tactics.
  3. Parents should be their children’s main authority. It drives me mad when I hear parents say things like “if you keep making a noise, the policeman will come and get you,” “if you don’t go to sleep, Father Christmas won’t come.” First of all, neither of those things are true. Second of all, do we want our children to be afraid of policemen?! And thirdly, why can’t we say, “don’t do that because I said and I’m your parent?!” When did being a parent not be enough to expect obedience?!
  4. We think the truth is more exciting! Christmas is the time of year that Christians celebrate God becoming human in order to be a  sacrifice by which we could know Him. That’s really exciting! It means gifts beyond any Christmas List that Father Christmas could ever bring.  Furthermore, Saint Nicholas, on whom the myth of Father Christmas is based, was an excellent man! He fiercely defended the gospel and apparently even punched a heretic in the face(!?) We want to teach our children the truth about Saint Nicholas, and still enjoy the myths, but knowing that they are myths. Most of all, we want Christmas to be about celebrating the real hero of the season, the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ.

3120969316_6ecdb66f97_o.jpgAs we’ve talked about this recently, we’ve realised that it is very likely that our children’s foster carers won’t have felt the same, and so it is likely our children will already believe in Father Christmas. We don’t want to shatter their fantasies as soon as they walk in through the door, we equally don’t want to go against our principles in order to keep up the pretence. We will probably try and play down Father Christmas, whilst having a really great Christmas, and eventually fade him out until he is just a nice character in books and films.

I hope, if you are big Father Christmas fans, that you won’t be offended. I love Christmas, and I always love it when people are enjoying the season, I do also quite like Father Christmas as an idea and I especially love all the films about him (Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Claus: The Movie, The Santa Clause…)  This is what we have decided after a lot of thought and discussion, it doesn’t mean it’s right for all families.

If you have any experience of this in adoption, or if you have similar or different views on Father Christmas, I’d love to hear them and to know your tips in general for surviving Christmas with kids!

Image :kennedyrox (2008)

One year on…

Well, a year and a day ago was a very special day. That was the day we first met our social worker and our adoption journey officially began with Adoption Matters. A year and a day later (today) we met with another social worker and a family finder to discuss two children who will probably very soon be our children.

What a year!

At times it has been frustrating, exciting, exhausting, mostly all at the same time. Looking back I can see that the process has helped to prepare us for what is to come in lots of deliberate and undeliberate ways. Here are three big things I’ve learnt:

919395814_b86b34dee2_o.jpgFirstly we’ve had to practice patience. I am not a patient person, I hate having to wait for anything (especially Christmas). But the nature of the adoption process involves a lot of waiting – waiting for forms to process, waiting for appointments, waiting for letters, emails, phone calls, waiting for social workers to come home from (well deserved) holidays. There is a lot of waiting for other people to do things. Often it can be frustrating because to you, your case is the only thing that matters; but for a social worker, they must balance several cases, while making decisions based on experience and knowledge instead of emotion. Learning to let go and not need to be in control of everything will help us in the chaos of parenthood. Learning to be patient while people do things at a different pace than you would like will help us step back and allow our children to grow. Learning to trust God’s timing and plan will help us parent with joy instead of anxiety, knowing there is a loving heavenly Father in control.

Secondly we’ve developed persistence. We’ve heard stories of people who gave up on adoption because the process was too hard. Often people remark how this is a shame, but I’m not sure it is. Parenting will not be easy. It will certainly not be easier than the journey to get there! But I do believe that if it is something you really want and are committed to, you can get through much more than you know to get there. We’ve stuck at it because we want to be parents. And once we are, we will not be giving up, despite the challenges that will come. I think in this past year we have learnt that it is easier to give up, but not as rewarding. We’ve learnt that if something is worth having, it’s worth hurting for. We’ve learnt that a parent will sacrifice and suffer to protect their child, just as our heavenly Father gave His own Son to make us His children.

Thirdly, this year has been a great time to work on relationships. First and foremost our relationship with each other is stronger. We’ve been through quite a journey together this year and we are closer because of it. We’ve learnt to lean on and support one another; to talk more honestly about our feelings, our weaknesses and our fears; and to care for one another better. We’ve also begun to discover the importance of relationships with others. Before this year we had kept our struggle with childlessness quite private. But this year we’ve been able to open up and draw strength from the wonderful family and friends around us, growing relationships that we will no doubt need more as we become parents.

We are very thankful to God for this year of waiting, of trusting and of growing. We know that he has been preparing us for the wonderful job of being parents. We know He has been guarding our children, and preparing them to join our family too.

Most of all, we look forward to what this next year will bring!

Image: mat_n (2007)

Paper Pregnant?!

I do not like this phrase. I’ve read lots of objections, and none of them are the reason I don’t like it. I just don’t. If we have to have a label, I’d prefer ‘expecting’ or ‘parents in waiting’! But recently I have started to feel pregnant. Not paper pregnant, but actually physically pregnant. (Don’t panic, I’m not.)

We were approved as adopters earlier this month, and then on Friday we met with our social worker for the first time to discuss the next stage. She had already been working very hard to find us matches and showed us several profiles of children whom she was ‘pursuing’ on our behalf. It was a very exciting and stressful meeting. Exciting because we may have seen the faces of our children for the first time. Stressful because we don’t know! There was one profile in particular that we can’t stop talking about, and are praying might be the children God has chosen for us.oblivion16

Since Friday I have been overwhelmed with excitement and nerves at the same time. Years ago I went to Alton Towers and there was a rollercoaster called Oblivion. At the start you get to the very edge of a vertical drop and the car stops, you are left hanging over the edge for no longer than a couple of seconds before the car drops into ‘oblivion’. Those couple of seconds feel like hours, you hold your breath and brace yourself for what’s coming.

I feel like we’re hanging over that edge at the moment.

But when we have massive feelings in our hearts/heads, our bodies are affected too. And the effects of the excitement/nerves looks more and more like pregnancy! I’ve found myself needing to rush for a wee more and more, I think because my body is so tense. I find these big feelings sometimes leak out of my body in tears, so I seem to spontaneously cry for no reason. Sometimes I feel so nervous and excited I think I might be sick. I’m physically tired, not from growing a human but because I can’t switch off my brain at night to get enough sleep. I’m eating more to try and feed the butterflies in my tummy which often feel like hunger, and so now I’m starting to look pregnant as I grow my tummy with cake!

The difference is we don’t have a due date. I don’t know if this will last for weeks or months or years!

And just because my children aren’t physically in my tummy doesn’t mean I don’t carry them everywhere with me. They are constantly in my thoughts and my heart as I love them more each day without having met them.

There isn’t a word I like to describe what’s happening, and I hope and pray that it doesn’t last long enough for someone to come up with one!

In the meantime we are praying that God will be preparing us and our children to be a family; that He will help us to trust Him and His plan more each day and that we manage to get some sleep before they arrive!

How will we know?

In 11 days we go to panel to be (hopefully) approved as adoptive parents. Then comes the matching process. Our Social Worker seems confident that we will have profiles to look at straight away because our criteria is fairly open. Throughout the process we’ve tried not to think past panel day, we really wanted to take it one step at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. In fact, as someone who gets excited about Christmas in January, I have been incredibly self-controlled!

However, there is now very little to distract ourselves with, no forms or meetings or training days, and so inevitably our thoughts and conversation have turned to post July 5th. Aside from wondering when our children will finally be home, and desperately hoping they’ll be here for Christmas, our biggest question has really become ‘how will we know?’

DSCF4869We are very confident in our Social Worker, she knows us really well, she has so far worked really hard on our behalf, and she is genuinely concerned with the best interests of the children looking for families. And so when she starts to bring us profiles to look at, we’re confident that all of them will be sensible, good matches for us. And so now we’re wondering ‘how will we know?!’ And if all of them will be good, sensible matches, what would make us say no to the first one we see?

Should we be waiting for a fuzzy feeling? Or holding out for a child with less ‘issues’? Should we narrow our criteria? Should we look for profiles with cute photos?! How on earth will we know?!!!

When we were looking to ‘adopt’ our cats I looked at loads of websites with photos and descriptions. Both times I knew as soon as I saw the cats that we ended up adopting, and then did everything I could to make them ours.

Adopting children is quite a lot more complex and serious than adopting cats. I don’t think we can operate the same method.

When our Social Worker asked how we’d like to go about the matching process, we said we’d like her to do all of the searching, and bring us the profiles she thought were good matches. We knew if we started looking ourselves we’d fall in love with every face we saw, and we’d talk ourselves out of our original criteria that was decided with very sensible reason. We didn’t want to risk getting attached to photos of lots of other people’s children, and we didn’t want to risk pursuing matches that would ultimately not be approved because they weren’t at all sensible.

And so if we are only going to see profiles of children that fit our criteria, and that have been selected by a professional who knows us well, understands the system and cares for the children, why would we say no?

If you’ve adopted, I’d love to know your thoughts. How did you go about the matching process? How did you finally know? Or maybe you’re in the matching process now, has it been what you expected? Please leave a comment!

 

 

Lazy weekends, walks and wine.

During half term we decided to really knuckle down and get on with some of the decorating. In February we had a loft conversion done, adding another bathroom and bedroom to our 3 bedroomed terrace. We also plan to dig up the concrete yard, lay turf and plant flowers. We also have various cupboards to build, rooms to sort, things to fix. Half term seemed like a good time for some ‘nesting’, getting the house ready for the arrival of our little ones.

DSCF4837.JPGOn the first day we spent about an hour painting before we gave up. Now, that sounds kind of rubbish. But let me explain why. Preparing the house is really important, I had visions of a perfect haven for our children when they arrive, with a red front door and milk bottles on the step. In the real world, we’re realising that preparing ourselves is much more important.

Our children aren’t looking for a forever house. They’re looking for a forever family. Yes, of course, the better condition our house is in, the easier it may be to parent. Good storage, a safe outdoor space, carpeted stairs, it will all help. But what our children need even more is parents who are united, who love each other, who are a team.

And so instead of decorating, that afternoon we went back to our old university campus, where we first met, where we got engaged and had our wedding reception. We wandered around the library, sat in the sunshine, ate curly fries and ice cream and reminisced. It was a really wonderful afternoon. We didn’t write lists of jobs. We didn’t talk about paint colours or cupboard interiors. We just enjoyed one another. (And then went to the cinema to enjoy the new X-Men).

As committed as we are to making our house a safe, welcoming, comfortable home, we are also committed to spending time together, talking, laughing and relaxing. Remembering why we fell in love, and learning to love each other more deeply. Having fun together! Once our children arrive there might not be much opportunity for a long time to be just the two of us. But the basis of a strong family is a strong marriage. And so I will make no apologies for lazy Sunday afternoons spent in the pub, snuggly Saturday mornings watching DVDs or spontaneous trips out. We’re doing it for the kids!

What am I?!

Our road to adoption has been a rollercoaster of feelings so far. A lot of people have remarked how similar it is to pregnancy, I’ve never been pregnant but I sort of think they’re right.

Waiting. Nesting. Preparing. Worrying. Dreaming.

At first we weren’t sure if it would happen so we didn’t tell many people, the more sure it got the harder it was to hide and so we made ‘the announcement’. Friends and family have been so supportive, they want to know if there’s any news, anything they can do.

DSCF4734We started getting ready, nesting. We had a loft conversion built to add another bedroom and bathroom onto our house. We’re getting bedrooms ready, childproofing stuff, making  our concrete yard into a family garden. We have, in our weaker moments, bought a t-shirt and a dress that we keep in our wardrobe until we need them!

We’ve been reading all the books, going to the training, desperately trying to prepare now so we won’t be taken by surprise when it happens(!) We worry that we’ll let them down, that they won’t like us.

We often find ourselves saying things like “this will be so much better when our children are here,” “this time next year it could all be very different!” We find ourselves daydreaming about the things they’ll like, the places we’ll take them, the kind of parents we will be.

We are Expecting.

And yes, it is very different to pregnancy too. I haven’t had to give up my uterus for 9 months, and all the trauma that comes with that! But the emotional turbulence has taken it’s toll on me still. (I have found myself crying before at the sight of baby wipes in the supermarket.)

We won’t be getting a newborn baby screaming and covered in goo. But that doesn’t mean our children will come quietly! And the messiness they’ve been through on their way to us will stay with them much longer.

We don’t have much idea at all when our children will arrive. But we know that God does, and we trust His plan and His timing because He knows us and our children better than we ever will.

There is one big difference, that I think may make this harder than pregnancy. It isn’t the paperwork, or the long meetings or having to explain to people why you’re not having ‘your own’ children. When you are pregnant your child exists but you’ve never seen them. You love them unconditionally before you’ve ever met them. Our children exist, God has already chosen them for us and they are out there somewhere; we love them so much even though we’ve never met them. But unlike a pregnant mother I don’t know if my children are safe, and I can’t do anything to keep them safe. Pregnant mothers can obsessively watch what they eat, what they lift, wait to feel a kick. Every night they go to bed and they know their child is where they should be.

Every night I go to bed and I pray that my children are safe, because that’s all I can do until they are here, where they belong.