Santa Claus; a jolly, rosy cheeked man, who brings wonder and magic to the holiday season. At least, this is how he is perceived by the millions of children throughout the world. When I was a child, the thought of Santa terrified me. A stranger was going to come into my house, unnoticed, in the middle of the night, while I was sound asleep. Nothing about that spoke magic to my five year old mind.
Instead of seeing the image of a happy old man, I identified Santa as a big and powerful person that could easily take me away from my new family. The thought of being snatched away from what I had just begun to adjust to was so real, that something that was supposed to be full of magic and wonder filled me with fear and trepidation.
Sometimes I feel like that part of my childhood was robbed, that I never felt that rush of excitement on Christmas morning; the thrill of seeing what had been placed under the tree during the previous night of magic. Instead I struggled to sleep, scared Santa was coming to take me way, regardless of my parents’ endless reassurance of his nonexistence.
When I was adopted, I was placed into a stable and safe environment, but the trauma due to the adoption process was inescapable. I struggled to feel secure and comfortable, fearing that anything out of the ordinary would result in me being taken away. I doubted permanency and lived in survival mode to reassure my placement with my adoptive family. Adoption stripped away the ease of childhood and replaced it with anxiety and uncertainty.
As a child, I didn’t have the vocabulary or capability to share how I felt. As an adult with the ability to do so, I hope the story of adoption will begin to display more truth that adoption is traumatic. Whether a child is able to express this or not, the behavior that they display is often a result of a profound sadness and an intense fear that adoption instills within them. Adoption’s complexities are vast, and the importance that adoptive parents are aware of these is vital to a child’s success and well being.
Adoptees, continue to speak and continue to share. Your words matter and they will continue to help shape and change the way adoption is perceived. One story, one struggle, one experience at a time.