Adoptive Families, Christmas Cards, and Conversations

by Camille on December 15, 2013

Last Christmas, we included Ian and Herdest on the family Christmas card. (Please excuse this terrible picture of a picture and take my word for it. We were cute, y’all.) 

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Due to crazy work and school schedules, we unfortunately didn’t manage to make it behind the camera lens together, but the idea of sending out a greeting without them felt incomplete. By December of last year, they’d both been living with us for almost a year, and we considered them our family.

Of course, the card apparently came as a surprise to some distant friends and relatives. One of Charlie’s Canadian cousins sent a message asking, “Who are those people on your Christmas card?!”

I’m expecting similar reactions this year.

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Charlie used to complain about my insistence upon sending out Christmas cards. (Okay, he might still complain. Occasionally.) With e-greetings, Facebook, Instagram, e-mail, blogs, and a host of other ways to share family photos, updates, and holiday well-wishes, Christmas cards do seem rather superfluous.

Nevertheless, it remains one of my favorite traditions, and with the expansion of our family over the past three years, I’m even more committed to sending out as many cards as possible because of the following:

1. I LOVE receiving cards, so I send them in hopes you feel the same. For just a moment at the end of the day, I get to feel five-years-old again as I run to the mail-box to see what special greetings await. In December, among the junk mail and bills and doctor’s appointment notices, cheerful red and green envelopes hold cheery reminders that someone thought of my family.

2. Christmas cards help me remember to pray for friends and family. While I may glance at a Facebook photo briefly, I’m probably not coming back to it again. I’ll forget the image approximately two seconds after I click “Like.” But when I display a Christmas card on my refrigerator or stocking-shaped card rack or kitchen cabinets (thanks Pinterest), then I’m going to see that card multiple times a day. Thus, while I’m pouring my coffee or making lunch or doing dishes, I look around and see the faces and well-wishes of those I love, and I remember to give thanks for those lives.

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But most importantly….

3. Other adopted kids get to see families that look like them. As we’ve made connections in the adoption world over the past three years, I’ve added lots of adoptive families to my list. I cherish receiving Christmas cards from them, and I’ve kept each one. Ellie loves looking at the pictures, pointing and naming the family members in each photo, and I think it’s important for her to have that added confirmation that families come in all shapes and sizes. At the moment, most of the families in our immediate circle are biologically related and all look the same. However, we’re always going to be the family that gets confused stares at restaurants and awkward questions on the family beach trip. Every time we receive a card from a more diverse family, it sends a reassuring message to my kids. “Okay. So we’re not the only ones. My family is okay. I’m okay. “ 

And of course….

4. I hope my Christmas card inspires conversations about foster care, adoption, race, and family. (I suggest ample hot cocoa and cookies before embarking on any of these discussions.) When I put my Christmas cards in the mail, I happily imagine them sitting on your mantle or stuck to your refrigerator. I then imagine your kids coming to stare curiously at our family, their little wheels turning. And then, I imagine them asking you a million questions.

“Mama, why aren’t they all same color? Don’t families have to look the same, mom? Mama? Mama!? What’s adopted mean anyway? Why do people do that Mama? What happened to their other parents? Are there a lot of kids that need a family mama?”

Optimistically, I imagine you explaining how families can be formed in many ways, and that one of those ways is adoption. You’ll tell them that sometimes, we choose to love people, and they become our family. You’ll tell them that family members certainly don’t have to look the same and maybe look at some more pictures of transracial families together. Possibly,  you’ll talk about foster care and introduce your children to the idea that there are many kids that don’t have loving families. Maybe your kids will grow quiet with concern and start wondering what can be done about that. Maybe you’ll read James 1:27 or a dozen other passages and discuss God’s calling to care for His children. There are a hundred complicated conversations that could begin with our Christmas card, and I’d be thrilled if you embark on even one.

But if at the end of this conversation, should your child say, “But mooooom! We have love in our hearts! We have room in our family! We want to serve God! We want to help mom! Why aren’t we adopting?”…..don’t blame me.

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Disclaimer: I fully recognize and support that adoption is not for everyone. While I advocate for education and awareness for all there are many OTHER WAYS to help children in need without adopting.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Duck Mommy January 7, 2014 at 8:11 am

I’ve gotten completely out of the habit of sending Christmas cards, but have debated sending them out next year after we (hopefully) get The Twins’ adoptions finalized. Your point about adopted children being able to see families that look like theirs has clinched it for me! Thank you so much for your post!!!

And your family is beautiful!
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Julie March 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I love the custom of sending Christmas cards and I think too many people give it up in place of emails or email greeting cards. It takes more time yet well worth the effort.

How about a Christmas card exchange for adoption families?
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Julie March 3, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Sorry, I meant for adoptive families.
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Camille March 4, 2014 at 9:32 am

Thanks for taking the time to comment Julie. :-) I think an exchange is a great idea! Now…how would one go about organizing that. Hmm….

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TCI March 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

Seeing these cards make my heart warm. Isn’t it great to put the cards around the fire place? These days people don’t send cards anymore. Actually, they don’t even send personalized Christmas messages. They write one message and send it to everybody in their e-mail list. Sometimes, they just publish their messages on their walls (Facebook wall, not a real one).

I also agree that since digital photos are available on our computers we lost the habit of printing pictures and putting on our walls (the real one in our rooms).
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