I have always enjoyed New Years Eve and learning about traditions from all over the world, like the Italian tradition of breaking dishes. Discussing traditions with my Brainspotting friend in Spain, she mentioned how she was was going to spend New Years Even saying THANKS to 2020 because that is the best way for 2021 to enter feeling itself welcomed. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head all day.
Too often, at least in America, we think that December 31st closes a book, and we get to start a new chapter on January 1st of the new year. I have had too many years that seemed to bleed over into the next year (or sometimes two or three). We want to distance ourselves from what we found unpleasant and always seek new of what we enjoyed. We live in such a disposible mindset culture! Growth does not come from closing a book and putting it on a shelf to gather dust. Growth comes from learning from our mistakes, finding positives in the pain, striving despite setbacks, and recognizing opportunities missed. Growth comes from being in the arena, picking yourself up, the dust, and the sweat. Growth is often painful.
I write this in 2021, many people want to move past 2020, a year of grief and loss and fear and challenges. We want to hold on to hope that things will be better than they were in 2020. But 2020 wasn’t all bad; it also brought more family time, more sleep, provision, and protection. While I am eager for the health crisis of this pandemic to end, I am not anxious for things to get back to the way they were before, especially as a parent. While there are many things I found that I could be grateful for at the end of 2020, as an Adoption Therapist and single adoptive mom, I have seen the security our kids have gained through time together with immediate family.
When a child first joins a family through adoption, it is recommended that they spend intentional time together, as a family, at home. This “cocooning” period is meant to start establishing relationships, consistency, and neurobiological regulation for a child who has experienced inconsistency. The more disruptions a child has experienced, the more repetitions needed before trust can begin to be established. It does not matter how safe a child is in actuality, they must feel safe before they will be able to start attaching. And children must have a safe attachment relationship before they will be able to process traumas or manage their own behavior successfully.
Those of us who grew up in our biological families may have experienced the most stressful year you have ever known, full of unknowns and dangers and loss and grief. For many adoptees, 2020 was a walk in the park compared to the unknowns, dangers, loss, grief, and changes they have had to experience in their past. With little to no notice they have had to move homes without the parents that they know, often on their own. Some of them even had to move halfway around the world to live with people who speak a language they don’t know, eat food they aren’t familiar with, and don’t look like anyone they have ever seen before. Every holiday they are thinking about and missing people who are important to them. Our children have survived more than we have complained about this year.
Stay at Home orders have forced a second cocooning for many adoptive families that I know and work with. The emotional and behavioral changes in our children remind us that what they need most is a predictable schedule, more nurture, and more time with family – time for family board games, heart to heart conversations, cooking together, walks and bike rides, silliness and laughter, and mostly their parents’ focused attention. There is a lot of insecurity for a lot of people right now, but our children seem to be more secure than ever before.
I have a very active, athletic son (Rugby All-Star Championship team 2019, plus any other sport I will allow him to play), who also happens to be quite the extrovert; he loves to be on the go, doing things, and seeing people. He is at his absolute best when traveling, and we definitely hope he gets to add a few more stamps to his passport soon. And yet, perhaps all the going and doing and socializing, while important, are not the most important. Perhaps we let good somehow replace what is best. Perhaps this pandemic was exactly the reminder we needed of what our true priorities are, so we can purposefully shape our life and choose what things we add back in when the pandemic finally ends.
Reflecing on this and other blessings in 2020, I was able to celebrate New Years Eve with a grateful heart. I don’t know all that 2021 will bring, but I will be looking not just for the blessings, but also for the lessons. Thankfulness and reflection will be my new tradition for New Years every year.