As we observe Memorial Day, we honor the sacrifices of those who served our country, we remember the fallen, and we celebrate the freedoms their efforts produced. Like a family, our nation honors its heroes who served and protected us. How does your family observe Memorial Day? If you adopted internationally, does your child’s birth country observe a similar holiday? If so, how do you blend the two traditions together?
Family celebrations and rituals weave a subtle network of connection, attachment, and identity. By establishing a pattern of behaviors and awareness of values, these traditions define the family. “We are Smiths; this is what we do and what we hold dear.”
Memorial Day focuses us on remembering what is most important for us as a country. Families mirror this commitment when they mark the important events of its members. Many adoptive families celebrate each child’s adoption. There are nearly as many names as there are adoptive families for this special observance: Homecoming Day, Family Day, Adoption Day, etc. The intent is to honor the child and highlight the joy their arrival brought the family.
Remember, however, for adoptees, birthdays, arrival days, placement days, etc. have a reverse emotional component. The day a child arrives in his adoptive family often is the day he was separated from his birth family, foster family, or orphanage mates. Obviously, loss is part of the equation and it may complicate their ability to be enthusiastic about celebrations. Take your cue from your child. Help him to understand that his mixed feelings are entirely normal, understandable, and acceptable. Reassure him that any ambivalent feeling he has does not offend you. You have the strength to validate their losses as well as treasure their presence in your family.