Adoptees and “Special” Days

Perhaps you can relate to this.

Casey Photos 1991-96_0038

Christmas and birthdays were events that my wife, Erika, and I came to dread and prayed we’d get through without a meltdown from our daughter Casey. How could that be on such joyous events? This was the time we could celebrate her very existence, shower her with presents and make her happy. What child wouldn’t be giddy with joy? I sure was when I was a kid.

With that special day approaching, Casey often couldn’t decide what she wanted or – in the case of a birthday – whether she wanted a party. She hated surprises but secretly wanted a surprise as long as it conformed to her strict guidelines, which we could never decipher. As she got older, she’d cynically inform us that she wanted no presents; a check would do so that she could purchase what she wanted. Of course I suspected that this often involve contraband, so no such check. Besides, the fun of Christmas and birthdays was the gift giving ritual. What kind of Christmas or birthday would it be if we simply gave Casey one check and washed our hands of the rest? We knew she’d be disappointed, to say the least.

122501 xmas 1

So we’d guess what kinds of things she might want – books, clothes, videos, DVDs, computer stuff. But if they weren’t on her last minute “wish” list – which had to followed precisely – there would be hell to pay. Any deviations were met with a long face and remarks like “I didn’t ask for this” or “Why didn’t you get me that” followed by trips back to the mall to exchange the offending item for cash. Not only had we failed to teach her the value of appreciation, but our attempts to make her happy on special occasions had come to nothing. Either we were utter failures as parents or our daughter was hopelessly spoiled. But as I was to learn after Casey died, there was another much more plausible explanation.

In the course of my research into attachment, I learned that special occasions, like birthdays and family holidays, can bring up complicated and painful emotions that adoptees may have about themselves.

The blog,, notes:

This can be the hardest time of year for adoptees and birth parents in search. The holidays bring families together and thus the missing member looms ever larger and heavier on wondering hearts.

IMG_0075Other adoption experts have written about the issues of abandonment and self-worth that can resurface at such times, exploding in rages, tantrums and infuriating indecision, behaviors that are too often misconstrued as the rants of a spoiled brat. You want but you’re not deserving. Your birth parents are probably having a merry old time with the children they didn’t abandonment. So you’re stuck with two well-meaning rubes who try their best to please but really don’t get you. Nobody does. So why not just a check because I’m not worth fussing over? (This is being a bit extreme but I think you get the idea.)

Happy Holidays.

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