Calendars - A moving experience
As Twelfth Night approaches we've had our usual tussle over removing the Christmas Decorations, stripping the tree and generally de-cluttering the house of its seasonal adornments.
The children want to hold on to the gaudy, shiny, flashing decorations for as long as they can. We just want to get back to normal. Get the tree out of the sitting room before it dumps its entire load of pine needles over the carpet. Physically remove any reminder of the orgy of carbohydrate and alcohol heavy excess that has left us feeling bloated, unhealthy and uniquely content.
A compromise usually ensues, as it did this year. The tree and the decorations remain is situ for one more day, pending a joint effort at their removal the following morning.
Christmas for us starts on December 1st, then we begin the process of opening advent calendars. Plural. Generally a chocolate one for each of the children alongside the Lego calendars that have, thanks to twitter, taken on a life of their own.
Calendars have played a major part in our adoption journey. We adopted through a local authority who use an advent calendar type approach to help children prepare for their move from foster care to their 'forever' family.
Just before Christmas I was asked to comment on the usefulness of the calendars by a journalist writing a piece about them. Unsurprisingly, linked to the more traditional use of advent calendars.
Providing comment for the article made me reflect how useful the calendars had been for our children during their transition from foster care to our own home.
It’s a scary and confusing time for a child. They know their foster home is temporary, that their move to a ‘forever family’ will provide a permanent family but still, they are leaving a familiar environment to move to one that’s entirely alien.
For both children it provided a focus for them. Counting down to the time they would begin to get to know their new Dads and most importantly providing vital structure to the coming days. Structure and expectation management is so important during those vital first few days as the adoptive child gets to know their new parents and home.
The calendars were used in different ways for each of our children. Our son was older when we brought him home. He understood what was happening. He could comprehend the enormity of change. His life to that point had been full of uncertainty and fear.
His calendar was painstakingly created by the family support team at our adoption agency. Adorned with his favourite children's cartoon characters, it comprised 10 doors. Behind each door was an age appropriate message explaining what would be happening that day.
Day 1. Your Daddies will be coming to have tea with you today. Perhaps you can show them some of your toys?
Our son's social worker and foster parents therefore opened his calendar doors a few days ahead. They were able to prepare him for what to expect. Remind him about the route the journey into our care would take. He was prepared. There were no surprises. He knew exactly what the days leading up to the one which we brought him home would comprise.
Our daughter was much younger when we brought her home. Her comprehension therefore that much less.
Similarly adorned with her favourite tv characters, her calendar doors revealed pictures as well as text. Her foster parents opening the door each morning to show her what excitement her day would bring.
Day 3. This is your new home. You’ll be visiting today with your Daddies & brother, I wonder what your bedroom will be like.
Our daughter’s calendar provided a sense of occasion. Excitement. She was able to look forward to the following day’s calendar with anticipation of what that next day would bring. Her transition days were made special. Enjoyable.
More important during the process of bringing our daughter home was the calendar our adoption agency provided for our son. By that point he had been living with us for almost three years,
His calendar, entirely branded with Star Wars characters to match his then (and up to now ongoing) obsession with the film franchise, helped frame the transition experience for him perfectly.
It managed his expectation of when and how he would meet his new sister, explained why she would not be spending the whole day with us to begin with and set an end point at which he knew we would become a family of four.
During advent our children have two calendars in addition to those they already own.
The fact the children have chosen to keep their moving calendars and in the case of our son to still display his Star Wars one on his wall, is testament to not only their usefulness but also the stability they brought. They are a visual memoir of scary, uncertain days.
They are also a reminder that those days bring good things at their end.