Birthdays. Celebrations. Adopted Children. Family Time. Stress.
They’ve had a few birthdays with us previously, each with a different approach to celebration and each with the same end result… extremely anxious children, emotional behaviour and low self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, from an outsider’s perspective, the celebrtations they have had have been a huge success – almost everyone has turned up, we have survived the duration of the party, the guests, on the most part, had fun (with the exception of bouncy castle injuries and the like).
But these two cannot handle it – the people, the chaos, the break in routine and structure, the gifts, the sugar – it’s all too much. So, added to some thinking that’s been built up here of things being a right and not a privilege, the idea of a birthday party happening at all was thrown out this year.
The jury is out on whether this is a benefit, or not, but Logan and Caitlin have birthdays within 10 days of one another (with me sandwiched in there too). As Caitlin’s is first, and Logan is yet to understand the wonderful independence of babies and their decision of “when is it time to be delivered”, Logan feels that Caitlin’s comes first because everyone loves her more. Last year we had the idea of doing us 4 having a small intimate birthday celebration (a special meal, a cake, their presents from us and a movie) on one of their birthdays and a wider celebration (like a party) on the other. This helped as we could stamp out the jealousy card, but still the wider celebration was an issue.
So this year, we asked for a few ideas of what they’d like to do – Logan “something at home” and Caitlin as if we needed to ask “TREASURE!!!!”. Excellent, they can be combined. We also asked if they could invite only one person, who would it be? They both gave names of children from their old school they haven’t seen in a while. So it was arranged.
We made shoeboxes into treasure chests, and the money we’d normally spend on the hall or entertainment we put into making sure the treasures were nice. So they had a nice little hoard to find each. And made some maps which showed areas of our house so that the children could have something visual to work with, which was accompanied by a riddle, so they could work out where to look. After each one they had to come back and place their treasure in their box. (Which was wrapped so they didn’t know what they were getting until the end).
Once all treasure was found and we had eaten our lunch (we also made sure the food was more wholesome so that the sugar element wasn’t an issue for them – jacket potatoes, cheese, beans, home made tomato and basil soup), the children were able to open their treasures and then they had free play until home time. They tore the place apart. They went mad. But all in fun, not in meltdown, or emotional behaviour mode. They loved it. And the children who came enjoyed it too… their treasures were appreciated.
At some point Caitlin’s birthday cake appeared, because it was actually arranged for her weekend, and not Logan’s (as that’s the way friend availability had worked out). Whether or not it’d be a treasure hunt next year is hard to foresee… but I think we can certainly say, this is the way we need to celebrate – one small intimate family thing and one where they have one, maybe two, friends each at our house to do something with a focus, followed by food followed by play. Let’s hope it sticks and continues to work!