Introducing Excitable Edgar… my adopted son

Excitable Edgar from this year's John Lewis ad reminds us of many of the children we are called to care for.

It’s not the first time I’ve wept at a John Lewis Christmas advert. (Who hasn’t?) But this time I wasn’t crying just because it was cute and festive. I was crying because that little dragon reminded me of the small boy I am privileged to parent, and so many others just like him.

In case you’ve not seen it yet, take the next 150 seconds to have a watch:


Oh, that little dragon, experiencing snow for the first time, bounding towards the almost-finished snowman, sliding onto the ice with glee, beaming at the Christmas tree…and yet, each attempt at joining in and having fun not quite going as planned because he just – can’t – fight – that feeling anymore.

He’s not trying to spoil things.
He didn’t mean it to turn out that way.
He doesn’t know his own strength.
He hadn’t realised that would happen.

I’ve said all these things and more on so many occasions in the three and a half years since this precious boy was entrusted to our care. What began as explanations for toddler hijinks are now a bit less well-received as he grows up, goes to school, tries to make friends. He’s doing so well. Sooo well! And yet, the image in the advert of those children stood with arms folded next to a melted snowman feels very real.

Children who’ve experienced trauma in their early months and years are wired very differently. Quite literally. For so many of them, things happened at crucial points of their development – huge things, painful things, things that no child should ever experience – and this affects the way they process their responses. It very often means that they struggle to regulate their emotions and behaviour and reactions to things.

Things are rarely just fun – they’re thrilling, momentous, overwhelmingly exciting!
A broken pencil or lost sticker isn’t just a bit sad – it’s a truly devastating loss.
Not winning the race isn’t just part of life – it’s reaffirming the ever-present feelings of shame and rejection and fear of being left behind.
Being told ‘no’ isn’t just a minor challenge to overcome – it’s something that threatens the very core of their world, which they feel a constant need to be in control of.

This is why children who have been or are in care might not do so well in new and different situations. (They don’t even always manage to do so well in normal and routine situations.)

Yet, just like excitable little Edgar, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be a part of things. For some of them, they too might have never had the chance to build a snowman or go ice skating or see a ginormous sparkly Christmas tree up close. Some may have never even had an average-sized Christmas tree in their own home.

And when the opportunity to experience those new and exciting things presents itself, they’re likely to tumble in at great speed, emotions unchecked, energy disregarded, focused only on getting right into the thick of it, totally and completely immersed in the experience. And it’s too much to process, too much to comprehend, too much to feel – too much of everything. Too exciting or too scary or too overwhelming or all of it tangled together.

And then the fire slips out unchecked. Sometimes great plumes of it erupt. Even when they’re trying so hard to be on their ‘best behaviour’ and keep it all wrapped up (much like a certain dragon with a scarf tied round his nostrils), it escapes through their ears.

They just can’t fight this feeling anymore.

Sadly, all those big feelings can scorch the people or the things around them. And all too often, they’re left even more sad and alone than they were to begin with, as confused villagers fold their arms and stare in anger or cower in fear.

But there is hope. There’s a little girl who cares. Who doesn’t give up. Who sets aside the risk that she might also get hurt and thinks carefully about how the dragon can be included, how his energy can be channelled well, how his skills can be affirmed. She shows him love and value by stepping into his world, seeking to understand the challenges he faces, and restoring his dignity.

My son is so blessed to have people around him who are seeking to do just that. We’re so grateful to our family and friends, his godparents and church group leaders. Everyone who looks past the fire and sees the gorgeous little bundle of dragon that he is.

Thank you to everyone who is journeying with a child or young person who’s experienced trauma. Thank you for looking beyond the behaviour to see their precious and infinite worth. Thank you for thinking creatively about how to engage them and for making small changes that have huge impact. Thank you for your love, acceptance and care.

Let’s all try to be more like that little girl who camped in the snow and took her fiery friend on new adventures and made sure that he was included and valued. What a difference we could make.

An adoptive parent



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