Mother’s day toolbox

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.

The Preparation:

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!

Mother’s Day

Hold fast; Mother’s Day is coming.

Mother’s Day – a sea of yellow

Every high street, every store, every advert and bar of chocolate is awash in a sea of yellow; our entire world is rebranded to portray the simple gentleness and love of a mother.   Schoolrooms are filled with glue, glitter and ribbon for making tributes, and talk naturally turns to family.

CHT makes her card, but there is a troubled reluctance in her eyes; sure signs of the first wave of inner turmoil as she fights to decide just who she should be making it for.

As she gives up and just makes it anyway, a second wave tumbles her into a seething mass of rapids as she tries but fails to share in the easy, familial chatter of her peers.

The current has her now, and there is no escaping the third wave as it swamps her in a tempest of boiling resentment against a life story that does not fit their mould nor their expectation.  The fourth then sweeps over her; like a tidal wave crashing through every defense releasing the power of her anguish out into the open for all to see.

Then the fifth and final wave – like a rip tide – claims her; drawing her back into thick primal fathoms that shut out all else but the crushing pain, and she is lost in the deeps once again.

These days plunge her headlong into unmapped depths of pain and murky uncertainty; force her back into those dreaded layers of endless salted questions that make her raw wounds sting and bleed once again.   Drowning, not waving, her struggles go unnoticed.  Worse still, the guidance and empathy she needs to help her through is missing; replaced with the censure of a teacher.

There is a heaviness in my heart as she comes home and retells the story of yet another day cast on the rocks of misunderstanding.  The endless inner wrestling on these troubled oceans is hard enough without this battery that threatens and erodes our progress from the outside.

CHT’s life is what it is, and we cannot and should not protect her from the reality of its story.  We can only work steadily on together, help her find some shelter from the onslaught long enough to make sense of it, to find some peace within it, and seek the patches of calm that show her it is possible to sometimes simply set it aside.

So for now we are bobbing in the shallows, waiting with lifelines; ready for the next typhoon to lash down as she bravely steps out through the yellow shoals of her mother’s day.

For further reading: see our Mother’s day Toolkit.