Christmas is a time when families should be together, and we treasured those early Christmases when the children were small and we could share their excitement. We did learn pretty quickly that too much excitement is overwhelming, and that anticipation, having to wait for things, and surprises can be distressing rather than fun, but we do still look forward to celebrating the festival together.
Christmas is also one of the times that our adoption agreement stated we should have letterbox contact with certain birth family members. This was not particularly satisfactory for a number of reasons, a key one being the slowness and censorship exercised by the local authorities administering the contact, or often lack of it. We have thankfully moved beyond that point. I have booked train tickets for Billy and an overseas friend from his last school, who is coming back to stay with us after Christmas, to visit his birth mother and the half-siblings who live with her. It will be the first time he’s been on his own. He didn’t want to stay at her house, which would be quite a squash, so I have also booked him into the guesthouse we usually use on our annual summer visits. I thought he’d probably like to see his birth dad as well, who lives in the same area with his partner and her two boys. We have just exchanged texts to see if he is free to meet up before Billy and his friend return home. It’s risky, I wouldn’t want Billy to be stood up by him. When we saw them in the summer they invited Billy to a baby cousin’s Christening in October. His dad had been asked to be godfather, and he said he would meet Billy at the station and put him up. October came and went, and I didn’t hear anything. I emailed and texted, no response. Billy didn’t say anything but it was easy to sense his disappointment and feelings of rejection, which I’m sure hadn’t been intended. I was pleased to get a text just now from his dad saying that the Christening had been postponed until after Christmas, so Billy wasn’t excluded or forgotten after all. I know many families are wary of face-to-face contact, and some have very good reasons to avoid it. That hasn’t been our experience, thankfully. All the family members we have met, and its quite a few by now, are kind to Billy, care about him and are proud of him. They are also thankful to us, and it feels more like one big extended family than a painful rupture in relationships between his family of origin and adoptive family. There was a hiatus, certainly, and damage was done, but at least Billy won’t have to wait until he is 18 to do some surreptitious searching. I don’t think any of us would have handled a closed, secretive adoption very well.