The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
Publish your response–linking back to this post so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.
I hadn’t really thought that much yet about how our Christmas traditions have been impacted by open adoption, or adoption at all–I didn’t get the chance to ponder it much but then something happened at our house this week that smacked me right in the eyes and speaks again to the losses that families (ours included) need to be able to recognize and walk through with our children, yes, even during our holiday season.
I love love love love love all the old Christmas shows that come on during the month of December, from Grinch to Frosty and all the Heat Miser/Rudolph/Santa Claus stop motion shows from the late 60’s and 70’s. I remember watching them all when I was Woob’s age and it was always an event at our house since it was pre-cable and pre-VHS where now we can watch what we want when we want and kids’ TV shows take top billing at our house now. I have wanted Woob to enjoy these shows too, and look forward to them each year, and then when he’s older, look back on them as a lovely part of his childhood.
So I’ve been introducing these shows to Woob each year. Sometimes he would watch halfway while he was playing, others he would watch, but not really “get” the subtext. He was a bit too young. But THIS year…THIS is the year we’ve been waiting for where Christmas is Exciting! Santa is Coming! It’s the Baby Jesus’ Birthday! There’s Christmas Shows on EVERY NIGHT (Thank you, ABC Family!)!! The other night I turned one on. A really poor computer animated spin off of Rudolph, called called “The Island of Misfit Toys”. Harmless, right? (WHY DIDN’T I PICK UP ON THE “MISFIT” THEME??)
A quick synopsis: The “Evil Toy Taker” has stolen all the toys from Santa, and the Island of Misfit Toys, and Rudolph needs to catch the Evil Toy Taker to save Christmas. Except when they catch and unmask the Toy Taker, it turns out it is an old, old sweet and worn out little teddy bear (Mr. Cuddles) who had been thrown out in the garbage when his boy outgrew him. He was only taking the toys to spare them the heartbreak of being rejected by their children. But the way Mr. Cuddles told his story was HEARTBREAKING. Watch the clip all the way to the end and you’ll see what I mean.
As we are watching this unfold, I see my little Woob on the couch next to me beginning to sob silently. He was so into the moment. He continued to watch as Santa told him that his boy didn’t mean to throw him away, that his boy loved him and had been looking for him and wanted to give Mr. Cuddles to his own little girl to love. He continued to watch as they took Cuddles to Queen someone-or-other to sew him up and make him just like new again. He continued to watch as Santa delivered sweet Mr. Cuddles into the arms of the little girl as she slept in her bed, and woke happily to snuggle on him while her father watched with satisfaction and love. Christmas was saved as all the stolen toys were delivered to their waiting children.
For the next hour, over and over again Woob asked (still occcasionally crying) “why did they throw that bear in the trash?,” “why didn’t that boy want him anymore?” “why did the ToyTaker steal all the toys?” “Why was he in the garbage?” “Why was Mr. Cuddles the Toy Taker?” He could not be consoled at the happy ending or the revelation that it was just an unfortunate accident that poor Mr. Cuddles got tossed into the landfill (which they showed, while Mr. Cuddles sang that he “felt ashamed.”) This, my friends, is not the Christmas warm fuzzies I was looking for that night! In my heart I believed that Woob was of course processing his adoption stuff, trying to make sense of his story and Mr. Cuddles’. Its at this point I think it would be a good idea to shoot the TV set and leave it for dead. I figured it was going to be a long night.
Well over an hour after the show was over and I was going through the bedtime routine with Woob, he panicked a little when he realized he had left his favorite Care Bear in his nap cubby at daycare (All Alone! In the Dark! He’ll be so Lonely!). After reassurances that Cear Bear was happy and warm, snuggling in the nap blanket, Woob dug out his “Bowtie Bear” from his blankets, caressed him, spoke sweetly to him, swaddled him in “Raggy” (Woob’s lovey), and held him close. Finally, I had the boy calm enough to try to sleep. He asked if his Daddy could come in, he had something to tell him.
When Papa2Roo came out (he hadn’t been around for the viewing of the program), sure enough, he said Woob was wanting to talk about his adoption. “Hey Dad, remember when I was a little baby and you met me at the hospital? Remember when I came home with you to live in this house? and on and on. I don’t know exactly how the conversation went on or finished or what Papa2Roo helped him remenisce about, but it seemed to be the right thing, because Woob managed a nice, seemingly calm night of sleep and though he was still focused on the love and nurtuing care of BowTie Bear (who is now affectionately named Mr. Cuddles, by the way), had a better handle on his emotions. The bear went with him to daycare, still swaddled and he told the whole story about the Toy Taker to his teacher, who I encouraged to allow him to nurture the little bear as much as he needed to that day.
Exhausting. Unexpected. But right there, in-your-face-grief over the fact that he was giventakenstolentossed away. How to combat that? I honestly don’t know. I DO know that his first mom loves him, and I know that he gets to experience that love first hand, even if not very often in person, thanks to Open Adoption. I don’t think I or she will be able to combat those feelings, really. It will be up to him to decide what his story means to him, how he perceives our actions and presence and words, and up to him to work out whether he thinks he was given, taken, stolen, or tossed away.
I do know this: adoption and open adoption continually remind us–we who were raised in our birth families–that there is much we take for granted and much we need to be contually alert and sensitive to when it comes to our children who were not. We don’t have the luxury now of simply saying, “that’s just pretend,” or “that never happens,” because in their eyes and hearts it has, right here in real life. Cheesy animated stories during the “happy” holidays are no different.
On a happier note, we did manage to watch the “Frosty the Snowman” special in which he takes a wife, and it was startlingly sweet and not too sad, and it made me happy that I decided on to shoot the TV after the Rudolph episode after all.