Christmas with the Walker* family

After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot of talk about celebrating a ‘normal’ Christmas this year. But is there really such a thing?

Across the UK, many families will be celebrating in December with their favourite food, their preferred time to share gifts and their own traditions. The chances are that no two households will celebrate in exactly the same way.

As we recognise that sometimes Christmas, New Year and other holidays need to look a little different for the families of care-experienced children, we want to celebrate the beauty and the joy in the fact that there’s really no such thing as a ‘normal’ Christmas.

Our daughter came home in the middle of December last year – just ten days before Christmas, when she was nearly one. We had been told, as most new adoptive families are, that we should ‘cocoon’ for the first month or so to help our attachment, so we knew well in advance that it was going to be a different kind of Christmas for our family. The lockdown restrictions in place at the time almost made things easier for us. Of course we would have loved to see our family and friends, but to figure out how to do that while prioritising what was best for our child would have been tricky, and the pandemic really took that decision right out of our hands.

So it was just the three of us last year, and it was very low-key. Our little girl was in a new place with new people, and had already been through so much. Lots of people had given us toys and gifts for her, many of which made noises or flashed lights, and others had given us clothes with different textures and materials, and I think it would have been very easy to overload her if we presented her with it all at once on Christmas Day! We decided to give her one gift each day, from the day we brought her home. We didn’t put them out under the tree, we just gave her one item a day and she’d play with it. When Christmas Day came around, it didn’t feel any different to the ‘normality’ we had been building for her.

We tried to stick as close to her normal routine as we could on Christmas Day; one of us got her up at her usual time and she had her usual breakfast. We did watch a church service online and have a video call with some of our family, but she was so little that she didn’t care about either! We had a Christmas meal, but we did it at her normal dinner time instead of lunch. We put her in a little Christmas dress, and we had our Christmas dinner – the three of us.

We kept things calm, and we stuck to our normal daily routine, so in a lot of ways it wasn’t very different to any other day. But it was such a special Christmas, because she was with us.

*names have been changed for anonymity

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