If you have read my blog post on our mother’s day experiences in adoption, you may be wondering how we navigate through the supercharged emotions – or more to the point how you are going to handle it!
Here is an insight into Mumdrah and CHT’s ‘tools for Mother’s Day’; we hope they help spark some ideas of your own.
Step 1: once I see the cards and the flowers and the adverts appear, I mentally prepare myself for a rough patch, and check myself over for any hidden expectations. I am lucky that Mother’s Day does not hold much meaning for me, but it is still wise to remind myself that the root of mother’s day is about not in truth about mothers, but children; and I am likely not to be the ‘mother’ she is thinking about right now.
Step 2: as the ‘sea of yellow’ approaches fever pitch in the stores, I warn her it is coming, and ask what she wants to talk about. We then plot out the emotional landscape together. We i) come up with ideas on what she may or may want to do about the day, ii) explore what to do when people are unawares, forget or don’t understand how hard and different it is for her, iii) think of ways we might help people understand better in advance, and iv) identify her toolbox for coping. We also remind ourselves that it is ok to v) feel conflicting emotions about people: I love you but I am angry too.
Step 3: we make a plan for the inevitable situation that school will not give her enough time to make more than one card if she wants to so (i.e. buying another or making others at home). This removes some pressure and anxiety.
The card/gifts: she makes cards for who ever she wants to. There are three main protagonists here – her Mother, her Foster Mum, and me – so be prepared for similar.
Making an active connection: once we have the cards and/or gifts, we are not always allowed (or she may not actually want) to send them. So we think of other ways to make a positive and active connection. Sometimes we burn letters to send them up the chimney; just like we do for Santa. We have also posted them with no address. We sometimes light a candle. She has a candleholder with ‘Mum’ written on it that she often uses to ‘feel close’ or even talk to her Mum.
Symbolic acts count emotionally, we find. She always has lots of great ideas about these little rituals.
Be flexible: what she wants can change minute by minute. I respond to her ebb and flow and changes of heart and mood and scrap plans for new ones. But there are times when she baulks last minute at doing anything, because her fear of opening herself to these hard emotions creates a barrier to doing what she really wants. If it feels appropriate, I may gently take the lead here, by asking if she minds me going into another room with a candle to think about her Mum by myself. Sometimes starting something this way helps her overcome whatever worries she had; she will usually join me and then I back off again.
Be Brave: yes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that this is one of the hardest days on the Adoption Calendar. I find – for us – hiding from it has a worse impact than facing it. It seems so important that she learns that whatever she is feeling is natural, and that I am always there and happy to help her navigate through. We always seem to come out the other side frazzled, but a little stronger.
If you have any more suggestions and ideas – please share!