My husband and I adopted our daughter when she was nine-years-old. She was abused and neglected her first four years and then bounced around foster care for the next five.
Amazingly, she was still willing to give trusting and loving us a shot.
It was -- and still is -- hard work for all three of us, but she’s attached. We’re a family. We love each other. We’re her parents and she’s our baby.
Birthdays are challenging for her. They remind her that she wasn’t always ours and make her think of all of the hard times she had before us. She often tells us that she wishes we were her first parents, in addition to her last.
She’s 12 now and in middle school. She doesn’t want to grow up. She wants to be a little girl. She isn’t seeking the same level of independence as her peers. She finally has a Mommy and Daddy who truly love her, take care of her, and keep her safe and she isn’t ready for this chapter of her life to close. She missed out on too much.
She was sobbing that she wished she was only six one morning and an idea popped into my head. We missed out on her first nine birthdays. Her tenth birthday was the first one we were part of and it was the first birthday party she’d ever had.
I decided to redo all of the others.
We started with her first birthday. I decorated with free printables I found online. I gave her a birthday crown to wear. We sang “Happy Birthday” and ate mini cupcakes. We talked about the milestones children usually hit at that age and what her first birthday would have been like if she had been with us then. We played “Ring Around the Rosie.” We even gave her gifts to unwrap! (They were possessions she already owned: a playground ball for her first birthday redo.)
We continued the celebrations over the next couple of weeks. Some of the celebrations were hard and filled with tears.
During her fifth birthday redo party, she shared that she was sad because she knew that must have been a really difficult birthday for her since it was the first one she spent in foster care.
Her ninth birthday redo was especially heavy because she was in the midst of a very traumatic situation that year.
I tell her all of the time that the only way to process the hard stuff is to deal with it. These birthday redo celebrations have helped her with that. She now as a file folder in her brain of good memories from these little family parties -- plus dozens of photos! Hopefully the positive memories will outweigh the negative in time.
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